Today, I had a 1:1 with my skip manager. At the end, I asked what I could do better. His main response was:
Currently you’re working 11 hour days. That means you’re spreading yourself too thin.
Currently, my official responsibilities are:
- Tech lead of Portal App
- Intern Manager for our new intern
- Facebook University Intern Director (this is my favorite part of FB. Sophomore + Junior interns from underrepresented backgrounds join us for 8 weeks)
- Leading onboarding for our new teammates
- Fill in as PM + TPM for several months until we get new ones
It was painful to hear, but I think that’s because he’s right. Right now I’m averaging 55 hours a week which isn’t a ton, but they’re very focused high output hours.
The problem is that I’m focusing on a high volume of low complexity problems. That is fine, but that means I’m replaceable. You could hire 1.5 people to get the same output as me.
If I move to more complex problems, I’m less replaceable. A great programmer can solve problems that no amount of mediocre programmers can.
Supporting Evidence From Other Sources
It doesn’t matter how fast you move if it’s in a worthless direction. Picking the right thing to work on is the most important element of productivity and usually almost ignored. So think about it more! Independent thought is hard but it’s something you can get better at with practice.
Laura Deming has a similar post that I can’t find right now.
- Elon Musk works 80 hours a week
- Bill Gates worked 16 hour days at the beginning of Microsoft
- Zuck works up to 60 hours a week
- I personally have seen the most growth when I work a lot
I’m concerned with reducing my workload, because it seems to make me more likely to slow my personal growth. I have tried “working smarter, not harder” a few times before, and I’ve just ended up fucking around more, every time.
I’ve asked my manager and skip to make sure I’m working on more and more complex problems. I’m going to check in on this every week.
I’m capping my work at 8 hours each day. My hope is that it will result in:
- Spending time working on more impactful things
- I’m more focused during those 8 hours
- Have time left to focus on important but non-urgent things, like learning Computer Science. I’m taking Computer Architecture and the Hardware/Software Interface in July.
I’m most excited about #3. It prevents me from falling in the trap of working so hard that you don’t progress, like teachers who are forced to take multiple jobs, so they can’t gain skills to get out of their rut.