Take a moment to think about what time it is. In today's episode, we're going to talk about how time matters to the work you do.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I want you to take a moment and think about what time it is. We are really talking about the hours on the clock. More accurately, at least from a scientific perspective, we're talking about the relationship between where you are on Earth's surface and where the sun is. And that sounds crazy to talk about on a developer podcast, but we've talked about crazy things. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose and to do better work so they could have a positive influence on the people around them. And in today's episode, we're talking about time and how time matters to the work that you do, how you spend your time. And we set this episode up in the last episode. We talked about how organizing your tasks, for example, shouldn't just be done in terms of productivity and in terms of some strict version of priority because we are human. And humans, we carry things like momentum. We carry things like trailing thoughts. Our previous thought has an effect on our next thought. And so we're such imprecise beings and we can't treat ourselves like machines. That's really what we covered in the last episode. And in this episode, we're going to talk about a more specific way in which we are uniquely human, the way that humans experience time and how we work at a given time in the day. And so this is actually a very powerful message if you are trying to figure out the best way to structure your day. Because a lot of us, we really don't look at time as special. We look at time, really most people look at it in a binary way or perhaps in a three-part way. The binary way would be to look at it as time that I am awake and time that I am asleep, day and night. This is the most common way to look at time. A secondary way might be to look at it as work time. So this is your awake time is split into two parts. Your work time, your working time, your nod working time or your leisure or free time, and then sleeping time, resting time. And very often, we'll just simply put whatever looks like it fits in those buckets into those buckets. And then we rearrange it within the bucket and we kind of go through our day based on whatever is in those buckets. And for the most part, this is not a terrible idea. The idea that we operate in different modes is certainly true because we certainly do sleep. We do have awake time and we do have sleeping time where we're not really conscious and where we're not really up and active. So it doesn't really make sense to assume that we're going to get our task list done when we're asleep. So of course, the only logical place to put that task list is when you're awake. This is no groundbreaking information to you, hopefully. But what we're really talking about is taking that one step further because we're not just talking about being functional. We're talking about maximizing the time that we have in a way that is uniquely human. We're not trying to squeeze more awake moments out of your day. Certainly, there are ways to do that. If you want to go and look up, you know, ways to hack your sleep, you know, you're kind of on your own, that's not what this podcast is about. We're not trying to find ways to sleep less and to work more, but instead to work a little bit more intentionally, work smarter, work with your humanity rather than against it. Or what most people do is ignoring it. We ignore our humanity. And instead, we try to work in ways that are forced or at the best ignorant. So we've established why it makes sense to pay attention to these human parts and what part of being human changes the way that we work. And we're going to go into some specifics about how time is structured and what you should do with your time if you're going to kind of follow the patterns and the rhythms that research shows is most conducive to those human rhythms. But first, I want to talk about today's awesome sponsor, BitRise. BitRise provides mobile, continuous integration and delivery for your whole team with dozens of integrations for your favorite services. These services are, of course, all of your favorite services, your app-related services, the major app stores, for example, are supported. But of course, there's also deep support for other stuff, like running Gradle or running a Linter or getting your GitLab status or the recently purchased by Microsoft, Git Hub status. And then there's so much more. For you as a developer, the tools that BitRise provides are kind of a playground for creating incredible build processes that increase the quality of your code and ultimately are going to make it much more compliant across your team. Now, once you build out this process, which is done in a beautiful interface, you're going to build this workflow and then you can actually download a YAML file and share it with your team. And then you can run everything that BitRise does on the remote service. You can run it locally as well. So it's not just this remote service. It's also something that you can do locally. Go and check it out. BitRise.io. And remember, you can sign up for free head over to bitRise.io. Thank you again to BitRise for sponsoring today's episode. If you want to give us a little bit of credit, use the spec link for BitRise. The spec that FM slash bitRise, thank you again to BitRise. So we're talking about time and how we can utilize the human kind of rhythms, how we work as it relates to the time of the day. And you've probably felt some of these rhythms before without really being able to measure it or articulate it. But enough research has been gathered to give us some meaningful guidance about how to treat time. There's a lot of research out there. An excellent book on the subject was written by Daniel Pink and released this year. It's called When I Encourage You to Pick Up the Book if you're interested in diving a little bit deeper on this topic. But the book itself is gathering a lot of research together. So even beyond Daniel's book, there's tons of other information that you can go and find. And it's been going on for quite a while now. So some of the things that we can learn about how to treat our time better, I'm going to summarize some of these things. It starts by knowing which type you are, which type you are. And specifically which type of bird are you? No that's not a Facebook quiz that you're going to take to figure out what your spirit animal is. What type of bird are you? This is talking about when, what is your rhythm? Your rhythm as it relates to time. Are you a night owl? Are you a morning lark? Or are you a third bird? And I'm taking these terms directly from Daniel Pink's book. But these three types of people, they all have different peaks in their time. And we'll talk about peaks in just a moment. Only speaking, the average person is going to be either a third bird or a lark, a morning lark. And the non-average people are the, you guessed it, the night owls. And so this is why you're going to see most working scenarios have actually accidentally taken advantage of this without necessarily measuring it. So our work hours are typically reflective of this reality that people tend to work better, somewhat early or late morning. But to talk about these rhythms, we need to talk about the peaks, the valleys or the troughs and the recovery periods. During your peak hours, you are going to be best at doing analytical work. So if you have some really difficult algorithm, for example, to get through and you are either a third bird or a lark, then it's most likely that you will do best at that task early in the morning. And of course, this assumes that you had sufficient sleep and that you're not feeling sick and all things being equal on the average day, you're going to be better at analytical tasks that require some level of deep and intentional thinking in the morning. And more specifically, later in the morning on average. As a rule of thumb, you can imagine that the 9 o'clock hour is going to be your peak output hour. Now as we move forward into the day, you're going to start seeing that peak dip down. And the sleepiest part of the day happens to align with this trough, this low point, this kind of slouching in the middle of the day. And it happens from around 2 o'clock until around 4 o'clock or 5 o'clock. On this point of the day, you are most likely to be distracted, unable to focus, unable to process difficult information. And ultimately, this is the time that is best for you to do something other than important work. Finally, the recovery period, which for the average person happens in the evening or late afternoon, this period is when you're going to be best at creative thinking, thinking that requires alternative theories out of the box, thinking, and imagination. And these three periods of the day are very important to understand because they're quite well researched. They've been tested against multiple different backdrops. For example, a relatively large-scale sentiment analysis effort was run on tweets and tweets seem to follow the same structure of a peak trough and then a recovery period. So we have to look at this in terms of how it applies to us. If you are a night owl, you have the weirdest kind of curve. Your peak actually happens later in the evening. Around the same time that the other population, the third birds in the lark, are experiencing their recovery periods, your peak period is beginning. So your analytical tasks, decision-making tasks, these need to happen later at night for night owl. For everyone else, those decisions and those peak work hours are going to be in the morning. So how do we take advantage of this? There's a few things that you can do. First of all, I highly recommend the focus morning strategy. If you are a leader, this could revolutionize the way you think about leading your team. Try as best as you possibly can to protect the focus of the early morning. Allow people to think very deeply and very intentionally in a single focused direction. Try to limit the number of meetings that you take in the morning to as low as low of a number as possible, including zero. If you can take no meetings in the morning, that would be even better. So the whole idea here is not to be anti-social and not to be a grumpy developer and avoid people. That's not the point. The point is that your brain is going to be firing on all cylinders in the morning, and it's important that you take advantage of that brain power. If you have the flexibility and the opportunity to do so, I recommend trying to take afternoon naps. This can happen around two o'clock. And it sounds strange, especially if you are a part of American culture. In other countries, it's not quite as strange. But taking a nap in the afternoon is actually not a very bad idea. It can help stave off some of the cognitive decline that you would otherwise experience as a result of your sleepiness, your tiredness, and naps are incredibly effective studies show that you're much more alert when you wake up after a nap. However, if you are a part of that American culture that doesn't really accommodate for a napping period in the afternoon, then there are other things that you can do to kind of relax and not try to stressfully force your brain to do a ton of work at that low point. Typically this happens after lunch, by the way. You're going to be most tired right after lunch, and this is shown in so many different arenas, not just for software developers. But in general, making decisions before and after a meal is a very bad idea. So try to keep your decision-making processes to be early in the morning, assuming that you are a lark or a third bird. If you're a night owl, try to keep those decision-making processes late at night. But if you are unable to take a nap, then you can do a couple of other things. One, you could take a relaxing walk. This is not intended to be an aerobic exercise kind of walk, but instead a kind of a stroll. Take a very relaxed stroll around the block, try to get into some level of nature if you can, walk through a yard or a park or around some trees. These are all things that are beneficial and research-backed beneficial to your mindset in the afternoons. If you have not tried meditating in the afternoons, or meditating at all for that matter, this is a good time to try it. This gives you those few moments of pure relaxation and not thinking, not stressing, not having to tax your brain or your body for just a few minutes in the middle of that low period. So what kind of work can you do in the afternoons? If we're really bad at doing work, then shouldn't we all just kind of go home and then come back to work for the evenings? Scientifically, that may not be a terrible idea, but generally speaking, people's don't live, don't really support that kind of rhythm. So it's totally up to you how you structure your life, how your workplace will allow you to structure your life and still be productive with other people and with other businesses that are still running on that kind of nine to five framework. However, most of the time there is still some level of work that you can do to a sufficient level in the afternoon, work like clearing out your inbox, cleaning is a good task to do in the afternoon, work that doesn't take a heavy amount of cognitive energy. If you have administrative meetings, for example, are a really good thing to fill that space with. Take those administrative meetings that you normally are doing in the mornings and move them to the afternoon. And finally, if you can get exercise in the afternoon, your peak physical ability actually turns out to line up pretty close with your trough hours, peak physical ability and activity. Happens around two to six in the afternoon. So if you can align those hours together with your trough period, then your least likely productive period is also the time that you're taking a quick jog to the gym. There's a lot more to say about the science of time. This is only an overview that relates to cognitive ability and tasks that are related to cognitive ability and the different types of tasks that we have are very important. In the evenings, we're much more likely to be open-minded. Part of the reason for this is because our energy levels are starting to go down. However, our mindset feels freed up because most of the workday is behind us. And so there's a lot that goes into why these times are what they are. Some of this stuff is less about a reasonable explanation and more about an underlying physiology that we've adapted to over the entire existence of humanity. There's not a perfect explanation or a perfect scientific model that will explain why some people are larks while others are night owls. What is important to understand is that while we can't necessarily explain it perfectly, we do know that some of these models are present and that it's probably in your best interest to figure out how they affect you. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. This is the second episode where we've been talking about productivity. We're going to go away from this subject to bring on a guest on Monday. If you don't want to miss out on that awesome guest interview, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use. Thank you again to Bitrise for sponsoring today's episode. Mobile continuous integration and delivery for your teams. Go and check it out. Spec.fm slash bitrise. Thank you again for listening to the show. This week we had our biggest number of downloads in a single day. This is a huge, huge accomplishment that I can only thank you for and thank you so much for continuing to listen to this show. Until next time, enjoy your tea.