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Eight Hour Day Update

Since Denver in early May I've been running a timer to limit my work day to eight hours. I've stuck to it pretty well, long enough that I have a few observations.

Some of the expected positive outcomes are there: I have more time to attend to non-work tasks like feeding myself, getting a bit more exercise, and making plans and actions for things around my home.

But there are some negatives which suggest further effort is required.

The one that is on my mind today is that with only eight hours of continuous work in a day, it's been difficult to get anything of substance done. Not that I'm getting nothing done. Rather, the time I have available is mostly consumed by reputedly urgent requests—that are initially small but turn out not to be—from co-workers both internal to $EMPLOYER and in the OpenStack community.

In the past I would attend to these requests, clear them off the plate, and then do what I felt to be "the real work" (which could be defined, vaguely, as "improving OpenStack for the long term").

Now that I have a time limit, I rarely get to the point where I have a clean plate. If I do there's not enough time to gain the focus and flow required to do "the real work". As a result, my day to day satisfaction is poor.

I can think of a few strategies for resolving this, but both will be difficult to integrate with social mores in my daily environments:

  • Reserve entire days without attention to IRC, Slack and perhaps even email. That is, avoid interruption by being unreachable. This will be hard to do. The majority of the population in these environments is addicted to 24 hour synchronous communication and expects the same from others. People get used to it in some kind of bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome and synchronous becomes the only reliable way to reach them.

    24 hours, seven days a week contact is not how work is supposed to work. If you are a member of a team and you work this way, you are effectively encouraging, and in some cases requiring, other members of your team to work the same way.

  • Enforce a queuing mechanism. Don't let other people turn me into a stack on which they can put themselves.

These are both hard because there is always a perceived urgency. Sometimes real, sometimes not. Denying or resisting that is easily perceived as rude or unhelpful.

One of the reasons I write the placement updates is to make it clear there is a queue of placement-related work for people who either cannot or do not want to be a part of the synchronous flow of information.

I need more tools like that.

I'm not going to go back to greater than eight hour days. Until I find some better ways to manage tasks and inputs my apologies (to me and to you) for not getting the good stuff done.

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