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Coders: How do you stay sharp in the everyday?

category: offtopic [glöplog]
nic0: so true. You should write a self-help book... The Zen of Sandra's Perky Titties or something...
added on the 2012-11-21 09:14:36 by bloodnok bloodnok
my shrink taught me that trick. To be honest, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about her tits too but as I said the exact subject of pondering is unimportant :)
added on the 2012-11-21 09:17:25 by nic0 nic0
I think "ability to deal with long hours / crunch" depends heavily on what the work is, how well it's going and how much you're enjoying it. I'm in a pretty different situation (working for myself and alone, and setting my own hours / deadlines) so I guess I get a different perspective on this, which probably won't be all that applicable but still.

For me at least, there are times when the work is interesting, i love doing it, and things just start to 'flow'. When that happens I can easily work all day, then late into the night, sleep 4-5 hours and repeat - sometimes for several weeks. I don't feel it's doing me major harm, although by the end i tend to get desperate for fresh air and exercise (working at home = no walking to work). I eat fairly healthily though (varied diet with just occasional junk food).

At other times the work is really hard and stressful, progress is really slow, and I spend most of the day looking for distractions or something else that needs doing, and I probably only get 3 hours actual work done per day. Working crunch hours when it's like that would be complete horror, a fast ticket to stress and burn out.

I guess if I was working in a team with a deadline and crunch period, the lesson there would be to get the stressful part done early so the crunch work is enjoyable and goes easy. That's not always possible in a team though, and often the last part of the project is mostly hunting down the hardest bugs, which is often the worst of the work :/

On the general health stuff:

- Take up running (or biking - hiking is ok, but when you're busy a 3 hour hike is hard to justify compared to a 20 minute run :) If you've never been into running, it's very hard to start. If so, just take it easy, it gets a lot better. In general, the first 5 minutes are always bad, even when you're pretty fit you suddenly feel like you're not going to make it, you've suddenly become old and tired.. but then you get past it :)

- Give up the vitamins and supplements. You get all of those from a balanced diet, and if you're taking a load of extra stuff you're simply getting too much - which can be harmful instead of helpful. Supplements are for people with a health issue that means they need more than normal. And if you're not getting a balanced diet (meaning a mix of foods instead of pizza 3 times a day ;) that's a problem you need to sort out - go for the cause, not the effect.
added on the 2012-11-21 10:27:44 by psonice psonice
This thread is damn good.

Quote:

- limit caffeine, tobacco, sleep debt, and exciters (vitamins won't really help you and you know it)

&
Quote:

Stay away from short-term performance enhancers outside those magical moments where you need superhuman performance.

Totally yes. _BUT_ I'm currently in "superhuman mode" since several days (Can only sleep ~6 hours (no alarm), high dosages of pure caffeine, maximum stress level, feels like defcon1 mode) - because sometimes you just have to get your shit done in time. Any (bad) recommendations (no cocaine or other illegal drugs please.) to increase performance further? Up to now no fear to get burned out - I have a month off after that (\o/ demoscene coding \o/). I'm kind of used to switch to that mode from demoparty experiences - the days before the deadline - damn demoscene what did you do to me!
Back to work - let's get this done.
added on the 2012-11-21 10:28:43 by las las
las: exercise. A short run gets the blood moving and sharpens you up plenty. I always try to run before taking on a particularly tough challenge.
added on the 2012-11-21 10:30:52 by psonice psonice
gargaj: now that was a good read. so accurate. never lose track of the shallowness and pointlessness of what you're working on in the grand scheme of things. :)

crunch is so rough because you eat like shit, dont sleep and dont have time for regular life. takeaways every night is a horrible way to live, and i remember being sucked into going for a quick couple of beers at the end of the night to wind down - which isnt something healthy for a nightly basis either.

i dont believe in crunch in any kind of long term fashion because all that happens is the day shifts later and people work slower. all those things you dont have time to do in the evening when you are working late, like doing your washing or sending personal emails, selling stuff on ebay or going to the supermarket, still have to get done. people know they are going to be working late so they just do them during the day or come in to work late. everyone has to stop to eat in the evening. you might be at work 4, 5 hours later but i bet the extra work you get to do only adds up to an extra hour or two.
(demo crunch on the other hand is a necessary evil and completely different)

i find doing democoding on the train home after a day's work strangely relaxing because it's a context switch and it releases the frustrations you get at work - being limited to what you have to be doing, particularly in the ugly end of the project when youre spending all day fixing bugs. in a way democoding has kept me sharp because its a huge relief to be able to do exactly what you want however you want to do it. never underestimate coding, or indeed doing anything creative, just for fun, especially if you are doing that thing professionally too.

there's been times where work was supposed to be just like making a demo. indeed the actual task list could look pretty similar. the difference though is always that making demos is something you do purely for yourself, with complete control, noone who has to approve it, no clients, and with a deadline only set by yourself. work will pretty much never feel like that because by definition it has to produce something for others to be approved by others.




added on the 2012-11-21 10:45:46 by smash smash
oh and btw - sunlight is underrated. always try and go out at lunchtime and walk around a bit especially if you're crunching
added on the 2012-11-21 11:16:56 by smash smash
* Do sport. No it does not takes time, no you don't need special gear or places. Put a short on and run 30 mn for real. Running have that "mental reset button" effect.
* If crunches are the way to run the shop, quit.
* Don't cheat your body. 8 hours of sleep. Regular, well-balanced meals. No shortcuts to this, payback time will hit you in the face.
* If stuck on a problem, lateral thinking powa : do something unrelated. Do you laundry, read a book on the parthogenesis of the squids in middly acid waters, learn tagalog, etc. It's ok to be stuck, just move on something else and come back later. Tends to save your nerves.
Quote:
i find doing democoding on the train home after a day's work strangely relaxing because it's a context switch and it releases the frustrations you get at work - being limited to what you have to be doing, particularly in the ugly end of the project when youre spending all day fixing bugs. in a way democoding has kept me sharp because its a huge relief to be able to do exactly what you want however you want to do it. never underestimate coding, or indeed doing anything creative, just for fun, especially if you are doing that thing professionally too.


Totally agreed on that. I don't get time on a train, and can't really justify the time to work on a demo as i'm working for myself and have to pay the bills, but still as a 'stress break' from serious coding I often code something quick and entirely for fun.

Spending 15 minutes doing a quick + dirty experiment on glsl.heroku.com can be more effective than spending the time staring at the screen in frustration because you just can't see where the bug is :)
added on the 2012-11-21 11:22:06 by psonice psonice
Ah, I never had the experience of how it is to work on game developing with their crunch times. I have heard the stories and I have the dream that I would like to try this at least once in my life to experience it. I am thinking about total madness, staying there with crazy game geeks, sleeping there, eating junk food, yes I would like to try this but only once and see how I will or not like it. But I am thinking about crazy people I can relate to and maybe it would make me like to work together (else it gets crazy). So Garga, is the environment/people at least bearable? Do you have to spent every moment coding something or are there moments of fun too?
added on the 2012-11-21 11:22:15 by Optimonk Optimonk
I mean, and if I totally don't like it I might never do it again, but I just want to experience it once.

Anyway, there is that other thing. I can't even understand the strict 8 hour works for programmer. I can live through it, but usually my productivity is 2-4 hours (counted with some tracker programmer I have in my laptop). I finally have some short of a job, not hired, but coding a C# database application along my brother and his friend for a contract job they took. That's better than nothing till I get hired, but we agree to be 9-7 (though flexible between us if we have to do other jobs) maybe because my brother is scared we won't make it. That's fine and there are two people I know a lot and we have some good times. I survive the 10 hours surprisingly, but productivity is much less. You can't squeeze n-hours of productivity from n-hours of presence at work.

And then I come back home and I feel like there are very few hours for myself and I have this coding and demo passion, but at least I am a little more motivated than when I was unemployed (that's the strange thing) but maybe work 1-2 hours progressively and then do other stuff (sometimes I wake up in the morning to work 1 hour on my demo project before going to work). I couldn't stop coding at home because I am coding at job, however new simple stuff in between are relaxing. I recently bought some binoculars and watching the stars, so easy, relaxing like zen. But exercise, someone mentioned exercise, and I should drop my pounds-off but it feels like a chore and waste from my precious time especially now :(
added on the 2012-11-21 11:31:16 by Optimonk Optimonk
I do daily planning on a 2 hour scale - sort of like pomodoro. Keeps med focused and let me prioritise. I put family and sports in the loop to clear my mind.
Las: also try a cold face wash, or holding your wrists under the cold water tap for a short time (no idea why this works - it's supposed to cool your blood or something). Both help me now and then - the wrists thing is much the same as the face wash but more potent.

One other thing I've just thought about: My best coding is done when sharp and *relaxed*, not sharp and hyper. Some chilled out music is more helpful than strong coffee :)
added on the 2012-11-21 11:37:01 by psonice psonice
Quote:
* If stuck on a problem, lateral thinking powa : do something unrelated. Do you laundry, read a book on the parthogenesis of the squids in middly acid waters, learn tagalog, etc. It's ok to be stuck, just move on something else and come back later. Tends to save your nerves.


Yes. One of the major important lessons I've learned at school was occasionally taking short break and leave the building. Not just the room, or the floor, leaving the walls of the building is crucial. It will always lead to a fresh perspective when stuck. In the rare case it didn't it will show you that your mind was running in circles so the whole thought train needs to be abandoned in favor of something new. Just go out for a walk, grab some food or visit a supermarket if you need an excuse.

"When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep." is a rule I try to live by, but this might not be possible during crunchtime. I always wondered why office building and schools don't have sleeping areas, it wil lead to so much higher quality output. They do all have kitchens so did did understand half of it.
added on the 2012-11-21 11:56:33 by numtek numtek
@nic0 I've been trying mindfulness training recently, its just a bunch of meditations etc that help you think about nothing, but they sort of effect you afterwards too. After 2 months I am unbelievably relaxed 95% of the time, and I don't think about my worries/projects/etc when I can do nothing about them. Really recommend it for extending the benefits of pondering tits :)

(also the trainer had the best singing bowl I've heard, probably what kept me going at the beginning waiting to hear it :)
Quote:
I've started coding quite a lot recently on an intense full time game development team that I am part of through my university. ... And we will enter crunch mode soon, too.

I'd seriously take this up with your course organiser. Crunch is not normal, it's a symptom of a systemic failure in project management. The odd weekend or evening here or there is fine. If it's more than that, the project was badly planned to start with.

Universities should be teaching people how to do things properly, not just emulating the failures of businesses out in the real world.

If the problem was that you were given plenty of time to complete the project and your team wasted time or you picked an overly ambitious project then the key lesson you need to learn is DESCOPE.
added on the 2012-11-21 14:16:18 by doz doz
personnally, I was motivated by my own project to create technologies and code. But then when I've got fired, I used to loose my motivation because of odds here that were not able to imagine such a genius I am. I've made the first full 3D Pinball of the world in years that was difficult to create, and then board games with AI code to provides best games in their categories. In middle of 2009, my physics was running better than my informatics so I start to write books explaining what I was doing (earning more than 1.000.000.000 or euros at lottery and finances) and how I was doing it. My idea was to code a little thing to adapt myself in recode something in middle 2012 and finalize my project, but it was involved by volunty of others not mine and I've produced the last version of the engine of Dead Deer after coding Chevrolet. but it was painfull and depressive fight to code.
added on the 2012-11-21 17:50:50 by Bartoshe Bartoshe
Obsessively sharpening pencils is good stress relief for some people yeah, just be aware that the noise might annoy your colleagues after a while ;)
added on the 2012-11-21 17:51:48 by psonice psonice
I'm getting stress from reading this thread.
added on the 2012-11-21 17:59:28 by cruzer cruzer
Quote:

Obsessively sharpening pencils is good stress relief for some people yeah, just be aware that the noise might annoy your colleagues after a while ;)


This is one of the many ways to move your stress to other people.
@doz: You're right - it's a project management fault, but I'm kind of stuck with it anyway! We are 16 people working on the same project, all university level students without much prior experience, so things were a little chaotic in the start.

@skrebbel: Here is our first game - it was a short 5 day production and it turned out super great. I made the AI and movement for the big monster slug.
@lord graga : your game is almost totally frozing chrome my 2009 laptop (the graphic card is not top notch but fast enough to run some games). i dont go further than menu, i hear sound but everything is super slow (take something like 10 seconds to scroll the page when game is running). took same amount of time to close the tab.
added on the 2012-11-21 21:09:25 by Tigrou Tigrou
@tigrou: That's weird! It's probably because we didn't have any time at all to test it on different setups. I noticed some bugs here and there when running it on my machine too - it's what happens when you have 5 days.

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