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Burning the Midnight Oil?

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Mid-Level Data Engineer at Taro Community4 days ago

Other than for a very specific, time-critical reason, e.g. an upcoming launch or being on-call, is there ever a good reason to "burn the midnight oil" by deviating from one's normal life routine to put in more work hours?

Here's what I see this deviation looking like:

  • taking fewer breaks in the day - so instead of going for a walk after 2 hours, doing it after 3
  • within a work-bloc, having longer time spent at your desk - so sitting interrupted at your desk for over an hour, for example. If you're following the health gurus, you should be standing up often, and the Pomodoro technique is classically 25-minute focus blocks, but I don't know how practical this is
  • cutting out gym time to get more work done - for me, exercise is generally 1 - 1.5 hours of time which I do 3 or 4 times a week, so I can get more keyboard time in if I cut it.
  • working later into the night and either cutting into sleep time or just waking up later the next day

These are all examples of trying to eke out more productivity. The last 2 in general are frowned upon from a health-standpoint.

In my case, I'm onboarding and think I'm behind on my first ticket, hence the motivation for my question.

I know quality (spending my time in the right way) is a lot more important than quantity, but quantity is easier to add as so many people have pointed out on this site.

Yesterday, I had a new coworker, someone I had never spoken with before spend 4 hours on the phone with me and that was both practically helpful and psychologically helpful. Getting help like that in general is a lot more productive than just throwing more time alone at a problem. Just trying to add more context.

Thanks!

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Discussion

(4 comments)
  • 1
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    Eng @ Taro
    3 days ago

    within a work-bloc, having longer time spent at your desk - so sitting interrupted at your desk for over an hour, for example. If you're following the health gurus, you should be standing up often, and the Pomodoro technique is classically 25-minute focus blocks, but I don't know how practical this is

    I usually only use this method when there's a task that I keep procrastinating on. If you are completely focused and locked in to what you are doing, I think it's better to ride that focus as much as you can until you finish the task. I mainly use the technique to force myself to get started on something because I always have a realization that a lot of the anxiety I have from starting a task is because I artificially inflate how difficult a task will be in my head (or I artificially inflate how boring the task will be). When you can take the feelings out of a task, it's a lot easier to complete.

    cutting out gym time to get more work done - for me, exercise is generally 1 - 1.5 hours of time which I do 3 or 4 times a week, so I can get more keyboard time in if I cut it.

    working later into the night and either cutting into sleep time or just waking up later the next day

    I would be careful with these two, because once you start missing a workout or change your sleep schedule, you can continue to let them slip, and then you'll have another issue on your hand.

    In my case, I'm onboarding and think I'm behind on my first ticket, hence the motivation for my question.

    Can you reflect on why you are or feel like you are behind on your first ticket? I will say that sometimes it is worth it to make a sacrifice, especially if you are onboarding with a new team or company because that first impression is very important. Is it because of procrastination, mismanaged time, or the ticket wasn't scoped well. If the ticket wasn't scoped well, I would communicate with the team what your initial expectations for the ticket were, and how the scope creeped up, so you need to take more time to solve the ticket.

    • 0
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      Mid-Level Data Engineer [OP]
      Taro Community
      2 days ago

      thanks Charie! I've taken what you said to heart and found I can actually sit pretty well for long periods of time! I'm also making an effort to go into the office more

  • 2
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    3 days ago

    My rule of thumb: work until you feel satisfied.

    • If you feel excited about a problem, keep working on it.
    • If you feel nervous about falling behind, keep working on it (as long as you are making progress)

    Alex made a very relevant course about this just now! Maximize Your Productivity As A Software Engineer

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a day ago

    Momentum is incredibly valuable, so if you have it, preserve it. If you're behind on a task but are making good progress on it at 6PM or something (like due to a focus block), then keep the train going until you've caught up or are ahead.

    What I will recommend against though is literally burning the midnight oil as good sleep is critical for productivity. I would rather work through a weekend than work until 2AM or something.