Start developing smarter and stop yourself working late

Let me start off by saying if you’re proud of being a workaholic, have no goal for a life and/or are simply “building up your business” then this article probably isn’t for you. This is (in part) how I stopped myself from working 10am to 2am every day of the week and actually went outside for a change after being in exactly the same position.

I’m the first to admit I’m a self-confessed workaholic but I’m also the first to admit that being workaholic to the point of work being the only thing in your life is a boring when you look back at it. Work is great and it sometimes leads to fantastic rewards but it shouldn’t never become the basis of your life.

The things in this article are all things that led to me becoming a significantly better programmer and lead developer. They also made me become a significantly better freelance developer whilst I was freelancing.


Start out by actually forcing yourself to work between 9am and 5pm. Get all early morning browsing in between 8:30am and 9am and make sure you’re ready to immediately start. When you’re forced to work within a time period that “isn’t enough time” you’ll find ingenious ways of cutting time out of your day and solving regular issues so you can do more in less time.

You will be able to reflect on parts of your work life during this time that you’ve never thought about. Are you charging enough? Do you need help to get the work done? Are people taking advantage of your time?

Know when to apply the breaks

Set out when and for how long for your breaks are going to be. Your lunch needs to be at a regular time and two other 15-20 minute breaks can be scheduled either side of your lunch. This breaks things up and allows you to remove yourself from problems that can be fixed with a few minutes of simply thinking about it.

The same applies here for time that isn’t spent working. Don’t go out on a three hour break because you’re not in an office and work from home “because you can”, it just doesn’t get you anywhere.

Inbox nirvana

Cut out all of your e-mails as soon as they’re coming in. Make sure you reply to the e-mails that are asking you questions and for help within a suitable amount of time. Either set a certain time period aside for this or break it down into 10-15 minute periods throughout the day so you can spend the rest of your time focusing on the job at hand.

I find Gmail’s built in labelling feature is great for this, I can simply scan an e-mail and mark is as “quote to do” or “reply needed” and make sure those labels are completely cleared out by the end of each time slot so that everyone receives their responses.

Trim the fat, throw out what isn’t working

Simply enough you need to trim out all those activities that take minutes here and there but add up to an hour, maybe more, over the period of your work day (outside of the standard breaks) that stop you getting what you need to get done. Rescue Time is perfect for this as it allows you to see exactly what is distracting you from working properly and shows you how you can be more efficient.

Determined enough to get work done, you may even consider installing parental controls to stop yourself accessing these applications during your scheduled work hours. It sounds funny now, but if you’re a World of Warcraft addict or love your RSS Feeds, you know how much that will cut from your day.

Make some plans, don’t expect them to just happen

Arrange weekly events you would have look like a complete idiot to pull out of, plan things a few days or week(s) in advance so that it’s definite that it will happen. Make sure to get out and experience something else other than the computer once and a while.

Thought of something else?

If there’s anything else you’d like to suggest to others facing this problem or you would like to share how you’ve got over the same issue then feel free to leave a comment or post it up on your own blog with a link to this post so that others can find your suggestion.

4 Responses

  1. Rayhan Chowdhury

    I have some problem you mentioned here, thanks I will try to follow your suggestion.

  2. Herve

    I like some of it. I believe work is like sport.. there is the warm up, there is the intense period of the workout and there is all the hygiene business to keep the gear clean.

    Also, every day is a challenge. Some day can be ultra marathon. some other can be speed work to work on technic. Overall, it is a nice variety of all sort of inputs to produce the best output. All this happen in a competitive environement but everybody fight sometime hard and we can relax later having a beer

    The live day is not a competition but often, it is a nice feel of adrenaline coming!

  3. Darren

    I spent the best part of last year working 16-18 hour days. This was partly to do with workload i.e. taking too much on, partly because I was completely disorganised, and partly because I spent all day juggling balls then the evenings and weekends catching up. Quite frankly it was starting to break me.

    Then towards the end of 2009, someone said to me “I don’t recall anyone about to die saying ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work'”.

    2010, and I’m making an effort to change things.

  4. Jamie Huskisson

    I agree wholeheartedly Darren. 2010 is going to be the same for myself too.

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