I have a strong opinion:
Programmers should work 5 hours a day.
Without knowing you or the kind of projects you’re working on, I can guarantee that 80% of what you deliver in a given day comes from the first 5 hours of your day. In fact, most likely within the first 3 – 4 hours, before your lunch break.
If I had a software development company and I was to employ you, I’d pay you the same salary as someone working 8 hours a day, but you’d work only 5 hours a day. I’d let you go home and enjoy whatever you like!
Unfortunately, despite living in the modern era, our workplace is still following a traditional system: the typical 9 to 5 working hours. While this may work for many industries, I don’t find it optimum programmers.
You’re at risk for RSI
There was a time I used to code for 12 hours a day, sometimes including weekends! Guess what happened? I started to feel pain in my wrists. Many know this as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which falls under Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) umbrella term.
My pain started in my wrists, and then travelled to my palms and forearms. At some point, I was in so much pain that some days I could only code for 1 or 2 hours and then I had to leave work. I used to be a contractor, so leaving work meant I was not getting paid! You can imagine how stressful this was, which made my pain even worse. Plus, coding has been one of my passions and thinking that I could not code like before was very depressing.
A lot of programmers develop this kind of pain at some point in their life. Some (like me) manage to recover (not 100% though), but for others, this remains a challenge for the rest of their life.
Many others develop pain in their forearms, neck, shoulders or lower back. All this can be due to stress, bad posture and working long hours without having regular breaks.
A simple solution
So, now you know that as a coder, you’re at risk for pain in your wrists, forearms, neck, shoulders and lower back. And you also know that most (if not all) companies out there still follow the traditional 9 to 5 system. So, what can you do to keep a healthy body?
Code for 45 minutes and then have a 5 – 10 minute break
Not only will this prevent you from developing all sorts of pains due to excessive use of keyboard, but it’ll also help you increase your productivity significantly.
Now, this formula sounds pretty simple but there are exceptionally few programmers who actually practice it. I personally think perhaps 1 out of 100 programmers take regular breaks when coding, maybe even fewer! But why?
I’m going to list a few “excuses” that most programmers give for not taking regular breaks. Read and see if you can relate to them.
Excuse 1: My employer thinks I’m wasting time
If your employer has problem with you taking a 10-minute break every 45 minutes, you need to look for a different job. I’m dead serious! Do you care about yourself and your body? If you’re reading this post up to this point, you certainly do.
You either need to educate your employer or leave them. Taking regular breaks not only helps you maintain a healthy body, but it also increases your productivity significantly. All this means, as an employee, you’ll perform better for that employer. You’ll write better code in less time. So, your employer should in fact encourage you to take frequent breaks.
Send this blog post to your manager and peer programmers and try to establish this culture in your company so everybody get up and have a 5 – 10 minute together. Make it fun. You can start work at 9am and have a break at 9:45am. Everybody gets up, do a few stretches or go for a short work.
Remember, break means detox from technology. If you’re still sitting at your desk but browsing Facebook on your PC or mobile, you’re not on a break. Get up and go for a short walk around the block. You’ll feel 10 times better when you get back.
Excuse 2: I’ll lose focus if I have a break
You won’t! It’s all in your head. When you leave your desk and go for a short walk or something else, your subconscious mind is still working on the problem even if you’re not actively thinking about it. When you get back to your desk, you’ll be fresh and ready to do another 45 minutes of ninja coding.
Also, just before leaving your desk, you can write down the stuff you want to remember. That helps too.
Excuse 3: I forget to have a break!
I can totally relate to you on this. It’s quite easy to lose track of time when you’re coding. The simplest solution is to set a timer on your phone.
You should discipline yourself, so as soon as you hear the alarm, you get up and leave your desk. Do NOT say to yourself: “No, I’m going to finish this in a minute and then I’ll go”. That one minute becomes five minutes and then eventually becomes hours.
So, one more time: discipline yourself so the moment you hear the alarm, you get up and leave your desk.
Share your thoughts
What are your excuses for not taking regular breaks? Share them in the comments section and I’ll see if I can help you with them.
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