Workday management

Programming can be a tough job both for the body and the brain, and spending the whole workday in front of a keyboard and a monitor should be faced accordingly.

I have first-hard experience of the stress induced by continuously bashing keys and moving a mouse for many hours each day, and I regret having ignored some of the early warning signs that would have spared me a lot of trouble later, the most obvious of those being pain. There are many references out there that deal with working correctly on a computer in order to avoid problems such as backaches, tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, headackes and more. Sometimes even the workplace may be the cause of other problems, such as pain to the muscles, conjunctivitis and other eye-related conditions (due for example to the air conditioning flow) and allergy. I went to the doctor once because of a strong and persistent pain in my left shoulder and eventually it was caused by the roof fan we had in the center of the room: I would have never connected the two.

(I sometime feel like we programmers of the "old days" run the risk of becoming the guinea pigs for a whole new array of occupational diseases, which are only being discovered or properly attributed now and that will manifest more clearly as the years pass by and we get older. Anyway, this is only a thought of mine. Back to the main topic...)

It's beyond the scope of this document to deal with the above but please let me remind you once again to look around for information and guidelines on working safely. This is useful for anybody, and particularly for someone that wants to or has to spend more than a couple of hours each day in front of a computer. Keeping yourself in good health is the basis for all the rest.

Let's now take a look at the other important problem we face daily, that is how to keep concentration and maximize productivity.

I find it difficult to spend more than a few consecutive hours coding, particularly when making a conscious attempt at writing good code. In my experience, after three or four hours of intensive hacking, code quality begins to decrease and bugs start to creep in. Unfortunately the work day is maybe eight hours or more, so what to do in the rest of the time? My answer is: something else, of which there is plenty. Documenting source code, for instance, is a lot less tiring than writing source code. If done after the coding session it also offers you a further chance to review your program code and interfaces. Even coding itself does not always demand full attention, for example writing access methods is certainly

In general, different tasks use different mental resources and you'll probably be able to be more productive by choosing the task that better suits the moment. I don't have a a universal recipe to give, because everyone is different from everyone else. So, you'll have to find your own rhythms and "patterns". Fortunately you don't have to be a zen master to do that, all it takes is the awareness that feeling tired, bored, sleepy, absent and so on are signs that you don't necessarily have to fight at all costs. It sometimes helps to just take a break and spend a few minutes far from the keyboard, but you should also consider putting aside what you're doing at the moment and switching to a different task altogether.

Top: Table of content  |  Previous: Rule #1: keep things simple and clear  |  Next: Good habits

Copyright (c) 2003 Alessandro Scotti. All rights reserved.