Hitchhiker's Guide to Software Architecture and Everything Else - by Michael Stal

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Work Life Balance

This time I like to address a completely different topic which seems to be completely unrelated to software architecture and software engineering, at least if you only scratch the surface. People like you and me working in a software engineering company or department tend to spend a lot of time for their job. When I started my career, project work was so exciting that I often continued to work in my spare time. Guess, what I did during vacation? If someone asked me for assistance or provided me an additional challenge, I kept saying yes to every offer. After some years I experienced total work overload and even got some health problems. I was forced to spend more time for other activities such as sports, arranging music, photography, or literature to recover from these overload situations. At the beginning, I thought and feared, spending more time for such leisure activities would significantly reduce my productivity. But to my surprise I made exactly the opposite experience. Spending more time for non-work related activities, significantly increased my productivity. That is also the reason why extreme programming suggests to limit work time to 40 hours per week. If you ever admired those colleagues who stayed in office for more than 10 hours day by day, you should consider the fact that after a specific amount of work time bug rates increase dramatically and work results tend to reach lowest levels. Thus, working too hard for a long period of time could even have a negative effect. Reminds me of Dilbert's boss who always keeps saying "work smarter not harder". I really enjoy running or biking after work and during weekends. My favourite place is the Isar river in Munich which offers beautiful trails and helps me first forgetting and then successfully addressing all those work-related troubles and worries. If you ever had to cope with a complex problem in a project and couldn't find an appropriate solution despite of your hard efforts, just stop working and go running, biking or what else you prefer. In many cases, this will also help finding an appropriate solution for your project later on. Over the years, I spoke to many famous friends in our software engineering industry and they made exactly the same experience. Most of these well-known experts spend significant time for additional non-work related activities.
If you want to become am accepted expert in your field, take care of an appropriate work-life-balance, or in terms of work activities: sometimes, less is more.


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