Weekly review: Week ending November 11, 2011; thinking about the temptation to work

I realized that I was feeling conflicted about tracking my time because I treated the numbers as prescriptive statistics instead of descriptive ones. “I should work around 40 hours a week, or I might be letting it tempt me away from other things in life.” “I should sleep around 8 hours a day.” It meant that I spent a little bit of extra mental energy keeping things in check, particularly in resisting the urge to work just a little bit more.

This week, I tried not thinking about time and just working on whatever felt like the most valuable thing at the moment. By suspending value judgement, I could see what it’s like to work without that friction – to track time as a way of describing my day, without feeling odd about how I actually spend it.

I ended up working 54.4 hours last week. I slept 6.9 hours a day. With the brakes off, I still managed to spend 35.9 hours on discretionary pursuits (close to another week’s total of 37, but not as high as a total of 45.4 hours during one of my late-night weeks).

I can’t cut out the value judgment, though. Even when I’m not comparing it with some arbitrary number like 40 hours of work, I can tell something’s a little bit off.

I’m not under any strong pressures at work, but coding is just so much fun and I keep wanting to fix just one more thing. It’s easy to focus on work because there’s a good pay-off for doing things earlier rather than later: more functionality to demonstrate to clients, more things to get feedback on, more awesomeness.

I’m happy, but I’m a little fuzzy and I had an out-of-sync moment last Thursday (forgot that W- was planning steamed buns for breakfast, and delayed my lunch so much that it interfered with supper plans). My lunch times have been moving later, and my wake-up times have been doing so as well. Those are probably good clues that I can be misled by what I feel like working on, and that the brakes are worth the mental energy.

There’s a little bit of that “just one more thing!” frustration I have to learn how to deal with, and some awkwardness with scheduling, and it’s better to fix that now before it develops into the full-fledged kind of work addiction that many people have. Over time, it might get easier, particularly as other skills and interests develop.

But work is fun! And it’s a great way to develop my skills! Awesome clients and coworkers, fascinating projects that help make a difference… I’m growing so much as a developer. My next goal is 100% test coverage, now that I’ve figured out how to use rcov, rspec, and Cucumber. I want to pack as much learning as I can into each project, because it’s so good to be able to learn with this kind of scaffolding.

But I should also focus on learning how to build things myself, and imagining new things, and investing in strategic delegation or elimination of tasks, and building relationships…

It’s okay. I’ll eventually get the hang of this. This is just something many people go through, and some people even figure it out. Burnout is a danger for many people in my profession – interests usually break down before fingers do. So while it’s frustrating to not scratch a mental itch until the next week, and it’s embarrassing to have outstanding bugs, and it’s far too much fun to check things off a list, I’m going to keep working on slowing down.

From last week’s plans

  • Work
    • [X] Work on project O: write more tests
    • [X] Project O: get e-mail templates finally sorted out
    • [X] Get project T closer to launching – chased down a few more bugs
    • [X] Prototype flashcards
    • [-] Work on Lotus Connections Toolkit migration – some more work needed
  • Relationships
    • [X] Have Maira and Scott over for board games?
    • [X] Help out with home renovation planning
    • [X] Follow up on things Mom was interested in
  • Life
    • [X] Make lots of food
    • [X] Continue tracking stuff

Plans for next week

  • Work
    • [ ] Give a presentation on automated testing
    • [ ] Get project T closer to launch
    • [ ] Finish applying the theme for project O
    • [ ] Set up production environment for project O
    • [ ] File expenses
  • Relationships
    • [ ] Host another study group
    • [ ] Help out with home renovations planning
  • Self
    • [ ] Add contexts to stuff-tracking
    • [ ] Get system ready for Quantified Self demo

Time analysis

Activity Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Total Average Weekday average Weekend average
Sleep 6.6 6.8 7.2 5.7 8.0 7.4 6.4 48.1 6.9 7.0 6.7
Work 0.0 5.8 10.3 11.6 8.7 10.6 7.3 54.4 7.8 9.7 2.9
Discretionary 6.7 7.1 4.3 5.3 2.6 1.5 8.2 35.9 5.1 4.4 6.9
Unpaid work 9.2 1.8 0.3 0.0 2.1 0.9 0.5 14.8 2.1 0.8 5.5
Personal care 1.5 2.5 1.8 1.3 2.6 3.6 1.5 14.8 2.1 2.2 2.0
Activity This week Last week Delta Notes
! Discretionary 35.9 32.4 3.5
! Personal care 14.8 22.2 -7.5
! Unpaid work 14.8 16.2 -1.4
A – Sleep 48.1 50.7 -2.6
A – Work 54.4 46.5 7.9 Time came from not biking
D – Drawing 0.1 0.1 0.0
D – Other 12.4 9.4 3.0 Work on quantifiedawesome.com
D – Personal 0.1 0.6 -0.5
D – Reading 2.5 4.9 -2.4
D – Shopping 2.1 -2.1
D – Social 16.1 4.3 11.8 help with homework and study group; board games with Maira and Scott
D – Writing 4.6 11.1 -6.4
P – Eating 1.8 1.9 -0.1
P – Exercise 3.7 11.3 -7.7 used Metropass, but started walking from one station away
P – Routines 9.2 8.9 0.3
UW – Cooking 6.1 9.0 -3.0 beef bulgogi experiment
UW – Tidying 6.9 4.6 2.3
UW – Travel 1.8 2.6 -0.8 Worked at home 2 days this week

Next week, I want to sleep more, work less, and channel some of that extra time back into discretionary work.