A lot of people have been talking recently about keeping a healthy pace at work (some links below).  This is something that has really been hitting home (pun intended) for me.  Those that know me know that I work long, long hours, all the time.

Back when I was self-employed 100%, and I was single, I was averaging 70-80 hours per week.  This lasted for a couple of years.  We had spells where 100+ hour weeks occurred.  One of our best/worst weeks was when we deployed a new point of sale system for a stored owned by P&G and 30 minutes after Go-Live, they called and asked, "how do we void the test order we put in?"  My response was, "how do you what?"  Voids were nowhere in the requirements, none of us ever thought of it!  That led to a 120+ hour week for me and a 110 hour week for my partner.  Collecting that check was fun, and it all ended up just fine.

Since being at BIG, my hours have dropped significantly; but I still work a lot.  Sure, I've had some weeks in the 40s, but I've had more weeks in the 50s, many in the 60s, and some beyond that.  Over the past year, I've had more weeks with 50-55 hours than weeks less than 45.

I want to be clear about something though... most folks at BIG work 40 hours per week, virtually every week.  We have almost 40 developers now, and I only work closely with about a dozen of them, so I don't know specifics about everyone.  But I know that my hours are extreme, so don't let that give you a bad impression of BIG.  In fact, my boss recently met with me to talk about why it is that I work so many hours, and he's helping me make some changes so that I can work less.

Something that I've been stuck on though, reading everyone else's posts about working less, is discussion about quality as well as overall satisfaction or happiness.  See, my problem is that working is my favorite hobby.  I simply love what I do, and I can't get enough of it.  Historically, some of my best work comes during my busiest times, and at the end of those weeks, I am often on cloud 9.  Missing out on time with my beautiful wife and wonderful children is really the only thing that keeps that in check.

One of my recent episodes of long hours spanned two weeks.  During those weeks, I was splitting time across three projects, with lots of management tasks, as well as creating 2 new AJAX screens for DASL.  The screens were estimated to take 120 hours.  I completed them in less than 50, with over 4600 lines of new code involved.  This was over 1500 lines of JavaScript, around 1800 lines of VB, 600 lines of SQL and the rest was HTML/ASPX--none of it was generated.  These screens had only a couple of minor bugs that were fixed as part of the 50 hours.  The quality was awesome and at the end of those two weeks, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl because of my accomplishments.

Now, thinking back, I've been addicted to my work for as long as I've been doing it.  I can remember times in high school when I would pull all-nighters working on my coding projects, and then go to school the next day.  That was long before any deadlines or bosses; heck I was writing TSR screen savers to run in DOS on my 8088 for crying out loud; trust me, those didn't need to get done any time soon!

So why is it that I'm so hooked?  Why have I chosen to park my butt behind my computer for tens of thousands of hours during my 20s?  What is it about software development that I love so much?

The best I've done is come up with a line from a movie, a Tom Cruise movie at that.  (I'm not much of a Tom Cruise fan).  In Days of Thunder, there's a scene where Cruise's character talks about driving a race car and describes it as, "To know that I can control something that's out of control."  But as Nicole Kidman's character points out later on, "Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody controls anything."  I think "control" over the computer is what lights my fire though.  Smacking a bunch of keys for hours and in the end watching the computer do really cool stuff is very exhilarating, at least for me.

But even though I enjoy my work as much as I do, there's no reason for me to spend 60 hours a week doing it.  My project doesn't require it, and my employer certainly doesn't either.  My family on the other hand, does need me.  My sons need to see me every day.  My wife needs to be able to rely on it.  And I need them.  So, I'm working very hard to cut back my hours and get home at reasonable times.

For the time being, my schedule is to be home at 6pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but work as late as I want/need on Tuesday and Thursday.  This has been working pretty well for a few weeks now, but hopefully it can get to where I'm home at 6pm virtually everyday.  When I reach that goal, I think I'll realize that my workload can be completed in 40-45 hours, almost every week, and my family and I will be much happier.