How Productive Are You?

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 715101

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item How Productive Are You?

  • Sorin Petcu

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3115

    Hi there,

    I have days when I am overwhelmed with solving bussiness-like issues from technical point of view. But I have days when I have so much time, this time I am not wasting it. I am continuously learning about SQL Server, I read your articles, browse this site or other technical sites. I think we are both the same age.

    About efficiency or productivity in software environment, I think, this issue should not be as it is defined in other domains like building or transportation etc.

    In Theory, theory and practice are the same...In practice, they are not.
  • Stewart Joslyn

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6131

    Wrong metric ! It matters not how long you work but how much you produce - and of what quality. Tired people make mistakes. Increase your costs by paying overtime this week and then pay again next week to fix the bugs! A more relaxed atmosphere leads to improved morale and higher quality; and allows people time to think and innovate resulting in continuous improvement.

  • Sorin Petcu

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3115

    Same thing as I said (no wrong metric). 🙂

    In Theory, theory and practice are the same...In practice, they are not.
  • hodgy

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5685

    I will probably get somewhere between 4-5 hours of solid "work" out of an 8 hour day. However, the time when I am not heads-down coding, testing, documenting, etc, my brain is able to think about problems that I have been struggling with.

    I have lost count of the number of times that a beautiful, simple solution has popped into my head at the most bizarre of moments, because I have been able to let it tick away in the back of my head without much conscience thought to muddy the waters.

    Tom

    Life: it twists and turns like a twisty turny thing

  • AndrewMurphy

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5566

    This year.....< half a day a week.

    Am on a "business transformation project".....very poorly organised overall, with a severe lack of communication and flow of work.

    "Mushroom management" seems to be the order of the day....plenty of darkness, plenty of sh*t, output expected to occur magically. Loving it!;)

  • P Jones

    SSChampion

    Points: 12323

    Likewise about 5 hours and I'm probably one of the most productive in this office. Fridays are the most distractive as everyone is winding down for the weekend- right now there's a conversation behind me on boob jobs!

    Sometimes you beaver away trying to get something to work but spend a day or so just going round in circles. I had one of those this week with the .net2 objectdatasource and went back to my code way to get on with the job.

  • Andy Warren

    SSC Guru

    Points: 119675

    I disagree that it's the wrong metric. It just shouldn't be the only metric. There's a natural entropy that occurs in the workplace that seems to decrease the real work time that is available. It's made of up meetings that you don't really need (some you do), admin overhead, blog reading, SSC reading, water cooler talk, task switching, etc. From time to time it's useful to look at where you time goes and ask yourself (or your team) are those things in the right proportion? Are we doing enough 'real' work?

    As a manager I know that you can't get eight hours of real work in eight hours. My goal has been 6-7 hours a day, where 6.5 is the sweet spot and 7 is laser focus. That leaves an hour a day for some chat, a meeting or two, and all the other stuff that creeps in. Now in that 6.5 hours I might do one task or ten, write thirty lines of code or three hundred, but it's time when I am focused on whatever real task(s) I needed to be done.

    It's easy as an employee to say that you don't want to be measure on hours of productivity but only on tasks completed. The problem with that is that in general you're paid based on hours. Imagine hiring a plumber at $75/hour and watching them stop to answer a few instant messages, or knock out a blog post because they just learned something really cool while fixing your problem. Would you have a problemw with that? Yeah! On the other hand, if you were paying them a flat fee to fix it, you'd be a lot more tolerant of the time it took to get done, other than if it turned into all day and you had to sit there with them.

  • StarNamer

    SSCrazy Eights

    Points: 8633

    I use MS Project to plan most of my jobs (design/implement/maintain/document a database application with a web front end - about 800 objects in the db and 1200 files in the website) and have a set of 'rules-of-thumb' to estimate time to make changes:

    1. Estimate how long each task will take based on past experience. Double it. If uncertain, double it again.

    2. Change working time from 8 hours to 6 (my manager keeps reminidng me not to assume 8 hours!)

    3. Add in known meetings, etc.

    4. Look at the result and see if it look reasonable.

    5. Add in the minor tasks you forgot about the first time.

    6. Adjust as needed.

    Even with the above, it's still sometime hard to hit deadlines! 🙂

    I find that if I get 6 hours work done in a supposed 8 hour day, I've done well, typical is probably about 4 hours of real work.

    Derek

  • Infonote

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 211

    I agree especially when preparing an estimate, try to create a checklist of things involved.

    Example: In a software environment you might plan the coding.

    But before issuing a quote you should include:

    - Analysis/understanding of current system;

    - Coding;

    - Testing;

    - Peer review;

    - Bug fixing;

    - Implementation etc.

    Try to make checklists of things to be done before development, DB etc.

    Derek Dongray (11/14/2008)


    I use MS Project to plan most of my jobs (design/implement/maintain/document a database application with a web front end - about 800 objects in the db and 1200 files in the website) and have a set of 'rules-of-thumb' to estimate time to make changes:

    1. Estimate how long each task will take based on past experience. Double it. If uncertain, double it again.

    2. Change working time from 8 hours to 6 (my manager keeps reminidng me not to assume 8 hours!)

    3. Add in known meetings, etc.

    4. Look at the result and see if it look reasonable.

    5. Add in the minor tasks you forgot about the first time.

    6. Adjust as needed.

    Even with the above, it's still sometime hard to hit deadlines! 🙂

    I find that if I get 6 hours work done in a supposed 8 hour day, I've done well, typical is probably about 4 hours of real work.

    Visit:
    http://www.kaizenlog.com
    http://www.autocar-live.com
    http://www.yachting-live.com

  • D.Oc

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2855

    I would say about 6 hours top and that is accounting, taxes, financial stuff, meeting with the clients and when there is not so much work to do I'm on SSC, reading some SQL srv blogs, articles etc...

    It is Friday, work is done and to kill this boredom I'm installing RHEL and 11g for some performance testing only 😀

    I need a second job 😎

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    "It takes 15 minutes to learn the game and a lifetime to master"
    "Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality."

  • brightbillconsulting

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 104

    I worked as a retail service manager in a number of vehicle related industries in a previous life. This is a constant, and controversial topic as it the key to profitability. There are easily at least 4 measures to look at, the actual productivity per hour, the number of productive hours, the number of hours worked, and the billable hours. In most service industries, the goal is %100 efficiency, which is the ability to bill for every hour worked, which is not the same as every productive hour worked. Since the labor expense is usually based on the hours worked, that is a good financial measure of profitability for a single service employee. Some industries, such as the legal profession often bill considerably more hours than worked.

    The controversies occur over how to actually measure the value of the work. All measures indicate that most people are getting more productive per hour. This is from technology advancements, and the skill of the worker improving over time. Some people obviously get more work done per hour that others. The question as framed here looks just at the number of productive hours per day vs the number of hour worked. My experience it that it is all over the map. In one environment, we tracked that and found it varied - on average - from 30% to 60%. Yet we were running at "100% efficiency" because the billing method allowed us to bill for every worked hour. This is because some employees could beat all of the estimates by a fairly wide margin. Personally, there are some days I am productive for almost every hour, and others that are mostly wasted time that can't even be billed.

    Trying to get a single employee to be productive for every hour worked has proven to be a fine way to burn out people. Most industries require rest breaks (which are billed to someone), and people do need to some time to recharge. Most management and billing systems accept that fact, and estimate charges accordingly. Even slave labor needs to drink, eat, and go the the bathroom.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 715101

    Interesting. I agree it's not the only metric. Effectiveness is ultimately what matters, but for planning, you need to guess at some xx amount of work and hours is one way to do it.

    Anonymous post #1:

    Hello Steve,

    Let’s not forget that as “Knowledge Workers” – we carry our brains around (most of us anyways) 24-7.

    That means that, when we are commuting, in front of the TV during a muted commercial, walking the dog, or any other task that does not require much brain bandwidth, we are often pondering solutions for that project or issue that arose while we were at work! There have been many times that I came up with a solution to a nagging problem “after hours”.

    The reality is we don’t just work an 8 hour day like say, a factory worker, who’s productivity ceases the moment he clocks out. Our product is our innovations that come at anytime, day or night.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 715101

    Anonymous Post #2

    Hi there.

    I pretty much get 8 hours in per day. I think I work very efficiently. But I'm currently in a job where I can hide away in my office , away from people that won't to distract me all the time and from trivial stuff that goes arround.

    Previous job I was often helping more junior developers and that took some of my time.

    Developer C#.Net, SQL.

  • blandry

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4711

    Years ago one of the top mentors I ever worked for noticed that I would regularly be putting in 10 (or more) hours a day. I was young and enthralled with technology and I had gotten into a bad habit (yes, bad habit) of thinking that my efforts to improve things (software, hardware, databases) was "work". He asked me if I thought that the hours beyond 8 a day were really productive. My off-the-cuff answer was "Yes, of course", but talking further with him, and thinking about it, I realized that what I was doing was more often than not, simply creating more stress and conundrums for myself.

    This respected mentor taught me a great system which has been my work strategy for the last couple decades - prioritize my tasks into simple categories of A, B and C. "A" being the things I had to get done, "B" being the things I should get done, and "C" being the things I would like to get done. In adopting this strategy I learned something a bit astonishing - the "extra hours" I was putting in were not very productive and usually they were stressing me out over the "C" priorities - things I just would have liked to get done - they were not crucial, not business-critical.

    In the years since I have worked mainly 8 hour days. I have learned that problems I cannot solve in any given day are still there the next day, and if I dicipline myself and get rest, most often those solutions come easy the following day. Indeed, now that I manage young programmers and engineers, when I see them worn out fighting over some challenge, I tell them "Go home, it will still be here tomorrow, but you will be fresh." I think a few of them have learned that that is the key to productivity.

    It all got driven home solid a few years ago when one of my peer executives, a guy who stressed over everything and worked some 60-80 hours a week simply dropped dead. He was on a business trip, and one morning simply didnt wake up. A Heart attack killed him in his sleep, leaving his two kids fatherless and his lovely wife a widow.

    I work 8 solid hours a day - 8 productive hours a day - and day after day work gets done. No, the businesses are not perfect, but they are doing very well and I realize that extra when required are fine, but dont necessarily push anything more toward perfect. Business is never perfect.

    Bottom line? I've seen plenty of people work way too hard thinking that someday a retirement will come and they will have lots of money to "rest". Thats baloney. Few ever see it and those who do usually are stir-crazy in retirement. Do your 8 hours a day and work hard - but remember business is like a river and there is always a flow coming at you - sometimes heavy, sometimes light, most often something in-between. But killing yourself in technology, a business that is always changing, is not worth leaving your loved ones without you.

    There's no such thing as dumb questions, only poorly thought-out answers...

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