The Diminishing Returns of Long Hours

Posted by on Jan 12, 2010 in Blog | Tags: , | No Comments

A lesson I learned during my years in university and had to re-learn once or twice while working in Silicon Valley is that working long hours is beneficial, but only for a very short period of time. One or two 60 hour weeks is enough, as is even a single all-nighter. When you’re sleep deprived, you don’t make good decisions, and software development is all about good decisions. There is never one solution to a problem. A good engineer picks one of the best solutions through creativity and experience. Sleep deprivation dulls the ability to do either well.

In Don’t be a Hero, Alex Payne makes the additional argument that an individual working these long hours is a sign that your culture has a problem.

Work/life balance is important. These days, I only work long hours if it’s because I made a mistake. Everything I do is, in part, an effort to avoid this: fair and realistic estimates, regular communication with my customers, and not slacking off early in a project.