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How to destroy Programmer Productivity (georgestocker.com)
54 points by chenster on July 4, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments

I seem to be having less trouble with bouts of unproductiveness ever since I started sleeping 9 hours (at least) almost every night. This practice was discussed just the other day here on HN [0]. I've been doing it for a year or so.

I'm not saying that my periods of reduced productivity are completely gone, but they seem to be shorter and less severe.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7965065

Interesting. I used to be 8-9 hours a night before I moved in with my girlfriend, but she has less flexible work hours than me, so wakes me up earlier. I am now average 7-8 hours I would say.

I put a lot of the productiveness down to other factors at work. I'll see if I feel more productive next time she is at a conference and I get the chance to sleep more.

Some other things that I've personally noticed massively effect my productivity:

* Not being hydrated enough. Seriously, its a big problem - I don't pay enough attention to how much I'm drinking every day. A single cup of coffee in the morning, and maybe one after lunch does not a properly hydrated body make.

* Drinking too much coffee. Its cool to have an Italian espresso machine in the office and everything, but man does that stuff wire me up. I've had days where I'm getting a refresher every hour - those bumps are not productive. Goodbye next-2-days productivity, after a day like that... I've learned to treat coffee as a recreational drug, and only do it when I'm not at work. Helps immensely.

* Fights/arguments/stress: from anyone. Sure, its important to have 'normal' human interaction, but rude people suck. Discourteous people suck. They suck all motivation to be productive - even worse when they're a cubicle neighbor or other work associate. Manners in the workplace are important: they simply make you more productive. I wish more people minded their manners.

* Unexplainable terminology. Look, if I have to wade through hours of documentation-reading or grep'ing or what have you, just to discover your newly invented acronym actually means what last years fad was, then its a waste of time. I'm looking at you, new-language-fad guys. Reinventing technology is one thing. Reinventing terminology is another thing entirely, and frankly I'm sick of all the kids (GOML!) coming up with new-fangled sparkly words just because they didn't take the time to learn the old-fangled, perfectly workable, phrases for the same darn thing.

.. just to add my 2c to the flow ..

I started tracking my water intake with the fitbit app which helped a lot. Before that I was drinking 8oz of water while eating which is hardly enough even if you count the water that comes along in the food itself.

Look in to L-Theanine (pills) to use in combination with the caffeine at times, tends to balance out the effects and for some people it can help a lot.

And the other 2 points I agree on completely.

>My wife asking, “Hey, when you have a minute could you do X?”

This line got me thinking it would be cool with an app where you can ask this kind of things, and the message will only be announced when the user is unlikely to be busy. (Triggered by events such as the phone going from stationary to being moved.) Anybody knows if such an app exists?

Setting the phone to silent and no vibration, face down on the desk, out of sight but not out of hand.

Check the phone when you take a break, like getting a coffe, a glass of water or going to the bathroom.

Email, set to not auto check for new messages?

Choose your wifes carefully.

The "red dots" are fantastic. One of the reasons I've always preferred to work at night is that my achievements for a given work period are judged all at once as a lump sum the next morning vs how hard I "appear to be working" when observed at random intervals during a day shift.

I used to be that way. In fact I was a night owl for 12 years. 10 years ago I slowly started switching that on its head. In bed by 10pm, and working productively by 6am. Ok maybe 6:15am because coffee. Until lunch time, when I go to work and do all the unproductive stuff like meetings, email and telephone calls.

I have been a developer for a little more than a month now and what I have discovered is that although the office is open, whenever someone passes you, they treat you like you are in some kind of a no-distraction bubble, even if you get along really well. I have become to respect that culture.

I work in an open office and while I don't get too many interruptions with people coming up and distracting me, the office tends to be very noisy on times and it does interfere with concentration.

I've seen suggestions for good noise cancelling headphones but I don't feel very comfortable wearing headphones for long periods of time.

It's the exact opposite at my work place...

Right. Some of them being hilariously correct. To solve/correct most of the reasons, I believe the one thing is to stop all notifications.

Here is my shameless plug from an article I wrote - http://brajeshwar.com/2014/missing-step-productivity-activit...

I've been working on a tiny little project for 3 weeks now. Because of crushing technical debt that management doesn't support refactoring, it will take me a whole morning to load the project into my brain. Too bad I haven't had a quiet morning in that time. Things being on fire, people asking about the status of a project or bug...

Programmer productivity is also very hard to measure. Just this afternoon I finally nailed a tough problem that I 'd banged my head against for weeks and then set aside while I was watching an episode of The Glades, when I should have been "working". Goofing off can be highly productive.

I was thinking about this yesterday, as I was trying to get started on an new project, and I was reminded of the cliché scene from many movies of the writer, architect, or what have you, writing something on a piece of paper, crumpling it up and tossing it in the waste basket. You know, then the camera cuts to a pile of crumpled up papers cascading out of a filled up waste basket and onto the floor.

A good part of programming is design, and design can't be measured by lines of code per day or anything like that. I think we all need to come to grips with that. Some days we code; some days we crumple paper.

"some days we code, some days we crumple paper." perfect analogy, I now have something to tell upper management when I'm asked why I look like I'm dreaming into space...

sure it is hard to measure objectively, but I can tell I am significantly less productive than 3 years ago when I started my job. There were just two of us in the office, so either we were talking with each other or concentrating. Now there are 4 and constant interruptions.

I suppose it is because the in house database I have been building and maintaining is used more heavily and as such I am a source of knowledge for a lot of stuff that goes on in the organisation as a result. I am personally less productive, but the organisation is more productive. Now if only I could persuade the users to read the error messages and think for a minute ("there is no sample in the database with the name blah" ), rather than come straight to me and ask me to fix it, then we would all be a lot more efficient.

Push back a little. "Did you read the error message? What did it say? Did you do what it said to do?"

When I hit a wall - shower or gym.

Besides the 'Constant parade of people going past my desk', people constantly looking at your screen, checking out what you're doing and trying to get in on a discussion or talk about it directly when they see something... So annoying.

Great list! Agree with almost all of them!

That is so true! Also i discovered i'm way more productive in winter, than in this summer period. Just last few days ago i was thinking how to make me more productive, so now i decided to change a little bit my workspace, it should bring back my productivness i guess.

I work in an office but I felt the productivity graph is still pretty accurate for me as well. WFH does wonders for me as it avoids most of the randomization I get from coworkers.

I really am unproductive in an open-floor office.

The noise and the visual distractions are too much for me.

I currently work in an open-floor environment. There is an unmarked divide: One half is quiet and somber, one half is full of energy. I've worked on both sides, and even with everything else the same - the building, the general layouts, the people (even down to who I'm sitting next to because they moved sides with me) - the difference in distractions is staggering.

Noise cancelling headphones are a must for me at this point. I was a bit more productive even without them on the other side. Extrapolating, I wager I'd be even more productive in a proper office.

yes, noise from other office friends make me very unproductive. They are usually singing or laugh out loud

It's not just programmers. It's every kind of knowledge work.

Programming often involves "loading up" your brain with a lot more information than other types of task.

Even within programming, the context can make a big difference. I can fix most small bugs in minutes on my current database, yet I never get the chance to focus on anything that involves more than a couple of hours of coding (mainly due to fixing the stupid errors we are getting from not implementing a proper data import solution. Catch 22)

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