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I got my first full time job at the start of the year as a software developer. Previously I had been working casual at about 6 hours a day 5 days a week also in software development. Almost all of the issues I was facing moving up to a more serious software development job I have overcome but the one thing I just can't overcome is I just can't work an 8 hour day. Every day I get to about 30 minutes to 2 hours from the end of the day and I just feel so tired I can't get any work done. I spend an hour stuck on something and then get it done in 5 minutes the next morning.

The manager has noticed this and regularly reminds me to try to stay focused in the afternoon and put in more effort. The problem is I am already putting in my full effort. I'm not playing on my phone or reading reddit, I just can't get anything done in the last hour of the day.

Is this a normal thing to experience? Is there anything I can do about it?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Nov 29 '19 at 19:17
  • @Granite Do you have flexible work hours in this job, or is this strictly a 9-5 work environment? – njuffa Dec 1 '19 at 1:05

15 Answers 15

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I just can't work an 8 hour day

That is fine - especially if I read it as: "I cannot work non-stop 8 hours a day every day with maximum efficiency". That is not a good target, especially considering the negative impact on your health.

It is actually very recommended to take breaks from work, in order to avoid certain work-related health problems. The recommendations depend on the type of work.

For IT people, usually the rule is 10 minutes of break (away from any technology) after every 50 min of work. Of course, this cannot be implemented literally, but gives a good clue about the realities of life.

Please remember that even robots need downtime and maintenance. The very heart in your body (everybody's body, for that matter) rests after every beat.


I spend an hour stuck on something and then get it done in 5 minutes the next morning.

That is normal. When the brain is tired (possibly because of overload), it cannot work any more. A rested brain however, will find no issues in dealing with complex problems.

This thinking is at the base of the decisions taken by many companies to provide their employees with resting places. Even 5-10 min of passive rest (laying horizontally, maybe even napping) brings huge benefits compared to the employee being a zombie in front of the monitor. I know that from personal experience.


Is this a normal thing to experience?

It depends on many factors, but it is not unheard of. It differs from country to country, from company to company, from person to person.


Is there anything I can do about it?

Well, yes. Some ideas:

  • Take occasional breaks. Search the internet for details on what to do during those breaks, based on your workplace's specifics.
  • Try to spend a bigger part of your free time in green areas (parks, forests). Oxygen helps the brain work better (as well as it helps the entire body).
  • Increase the intake of fresh vegetables and fruits, especially the ones strongly colored. Consult a dietitian / nutritionist, if you are not sure how to do that. A deficit of vitamins and minerals can "help" you getting tired sooner.
  • Consult a doctor, ask for a "review" of your health, potentially finding the cause of the fatigue. Follow their recommendations.
  • Consult an ophthalmologist, you might need (new) glasses. This is a great factor, easily not understood, especially by people who did not wear glasses before.

The manager has noticed this and regularly reminds me to try to stay focused in the afternoon and put in more effort. The problem is I am already putting in my full effort. I'm not playing on my phone or reading reddit, I just can't get anything done in the last hour of the day.

Disclaimer: this is an occasional workaround. Do not use the following statements as a solution, it can (and probably will) hurt your job on the long term.

If one time you are tired and you cannot have a break, but you know that you can catch up easily later or during the next day, or if you are ahead with your work anyway, then pretend to work for one hour. Do not just look on the ceiling, do not use smartphone, don't chat with your colleagues, to keep them from doing their work. That will avoid you getting on bad terms with your boss.

Reminder: this is not a solution, do not do it often, to avoid penalties in the future.

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    Added to theses suggestions, when possible I leave the mechanical part of the work (documentation, summary of the day, burocracy, mails...) for the end, since it doesn't require much brain – Ripstein Nov 27 '19 at 10:18
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    @Ripstein: very good point, prioritize work to match brain abilities. +1 – virolino Nov 27 '19 at 10:21
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    There's some research around that I think has consistently shown that a software developer's productivity tops out around 30 hours a week. I don't remember the exact figure and can't find a source (though I did find a lot of things saying that more than 40 is worse than 40). – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Nov 27 '19 at 18:36
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    In an old job I configured an IRC client to look like my IDE's debug console. OP could join the Freenode channel of their programming language of choice and spend the last couple of hours learning or helping others, which can feel satisfying when you can't get any work done. – Aaron F Nov 27 '19 at 19:31
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    "Try to spend a bigger part of your free time in green areas (parks, forests). Oxygen helps the brain work better (as well as it helps the entire body)." This is not physiologically accurate: your blood oxygen saturation will not be substantially affected by going to a green area. That being said, it may help your mental health to disconnect. – TemporalWolf Nov 27 '19 at 22:24
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The average employee does about 3 hours of work a day

If you are not playing on your phone or reading Reddit in those 8 hours, you are either astonishingly productive relative to your peers, insufficiently experienced for your assigned work (not blaming you here), or working for a company like Amazon.

I have had software developer friends watch an entire season of TV at work, earn their masters, run side businesses, do consulting, write their own code for proprietary trading, and achieve all manner of things during work hours while still piling up good performance reviews and winning awards.

I spend an hour stuck on something and then get it done in 5 minutes the next morning. The manager has noticed this and regularly reminds me to try to stay focused in the afternoon and put in more effort.

What kind of work environment are you in where you are managed this closely? Sure that constant pressure isn't causing you stress? As being checked on hourly sounds like micromanagement.

How would you measure your productivity relative to the other developers on your team? This is a more useful metric than hours spent for software development. As the chances are low that they are working 8 full hours of actual work.

Bottom line:

Is it normal to not be able to work 8 hours a day? The problem is I am already putting in my full effort. I'm not playing on my phone or reading reddit, I just can't get anything done in the last hour of the day.

I don't have a study on whether people are typically capable of doing it. But it is perfectly normal to not actually work anywhere near 8 hours a day. Working 7 hours (of actual work) and still seemingly being below management standard is unusual.

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    This actually does answer the question and raises some important issues of how the OP framed their time. – teego1967 Nov 27 '19 at 12:04
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    @teego1967: this actually only hints at very interesting topics related to the question, but fails to actually explain them. People with (a lot of) experience are definitely able to make good use of the riddles presented, but less experienced people (most likely, the OP), will have trouble understanding what is meant. The answer definitely has hidden merits, but they need to be made public explicitly. – virolino Nov 27 '19 at 12:50
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    This begs the question, why are we still forced to sit in a chair for 8+ hours a day? Clearly no one is actually getting anything done for that long, so why haven't we shortened the workday to 6 hours yet?! – Hugo Zink Nov 29 '19 at 11:03
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    @HugoZink: you are right, I made the statement a bit too strong, as you say. At a previous job there was an arrangement, so people actually left the office on Fridays two hours earlier. Even if the benefit was not obvious while working there, it became obvious to everybody who left the company for other jobs. So yes, a reduction of work time is (at least sometimes) welcome. – virolino Nov 29 '19 at 12:19
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    The link provides a top 10 of most popular non work related activities. It adds up to 4.3 hours. It then continues to assume that all employees perform all the top 10 activities, and concludes that everyone works for 3.7 hours. Not some top notch research. I never assume my employees are 8 hours a day effective. I'm guestimating an average of around 6 hours (excluding lunch break) in an 8 working hour day. But 3.7 is just plain bollocks. The site linked to is just click bait. – Willem van Rumpt Nov 29 '19 at 17:39
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Most IT jobs have some routine work that needs to be done, such as organizing mail folders, tidying a physical desk, responding to non-urgent e-mails, watering the office plants, improving the documentation on the code you are currently working on, improving test cases, reviewing your calendar for the next day to check that you are prepared for any meetings...

Rather than scattering them throughout the day, save those tasks up for the end of the day. When you get stuck on your main task, don't spend two hours staring at it. Put it aside and do easy stuff for a bit.

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    This is very good advice. I'm not at peak productivity all the time I'm working for various reasons, so I try to do the hardest work when I'm feeling fresh and focused and save a lot of the less difficult work for times when I'm tired or just not making progress on the hard stuff. – David Schwartz Nov 27 '19 at 13:34
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    Improving documentation or improving test cases can be difficult and is in any case very intellectual. I'm not convinced fits with watering the plants or looking at the calendar. – gerrit Nov 27 '19 at 17:38
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    Work is still work. Most people do something really different, like answering stackexchange questions.. – knallfrosch Nov 28 '19 at 7:48
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    @knallfrosch - Or writing comments! – Battle Nov 28 '19 at 8:02
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    @gerrit I reckon you're right, but pondering the scope of the documentation and noting down a structure that might meet that scope gives you something to hang that difficult/intellectual work on. I've found when doing a lot of technical writing that after a point this roughing out, or diagramming (when diagram or even photos of hardware are need) is a good afternoon fallback – Chris H Nov 28 '19 at 15:28
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All the answers above are great. I have been working in software now for about 25 years professionally and I can say many things on this topic:

  • The idea of working 8 hours per day on software regularly and with consistent productivity is a bizarre one, unrelated to reality in any way. I have never worked in all those 25 years in any group of people who have ever seriously tried to execute this idea.
  • In a corporate setting, it's often the case that you have management whose very existence depends on presenting the impression that a flock of warm bodies around them in an open space office are abiding by office hours and regulations. This, unfortunately for many, is the only real reason that this kind of situation exists. Both the manager and the staff know that in the majority of cases developers can work equally well irrespective of time and location.
  • There are some types of IT work where it is essential that the staff are present for a shift, such as being present for critical maintenance of production systems. This does not mean the staff are expected to work full time for 8 hours though, nor should it.
  • Software development does not equal IT work, but if development is what you are doing, then it's a creative job. You cannot put a team of Da Vincis in a room and ask them to make two paintings a day. It just does not work like that.
  • The level of intensity and productivity depends on the phase of the project. For exciting and creative projects like coming up with a video game, or launching a startup based on new tech, you can find yourself in a situation where you can't even sleep for weeks on end you are so keen to get things done. Things plateau and eventually you find for days you are better off lying on the beach than touching the keyboard. Prior to delivery deadlines you might find you are slogging away until midnight munching tranquilisers while your blood pressure is reducing your lifespan.
  • You have to learn to listen to your own body and mind. If you know that for the next two hours you are going to be creating more bugs than you fix, just take a break and wait until the morning. If the manager doesn't dig this, s/he shouldn't be managing devs (end of story).
  • The list goes on. You get the point.
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    35-year veteran checking in. @Frank is right. – Kit Nov 28 '19 at 14:27
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    On the subject of intensity... I've been in all of those examples. So stressed my hands were shaking on the weekends (preventing me from painting, which was my primary stress-relief outlet...) and situations like now, where I have negligible work-pressure and can spend my time on stackexchange.. – Ruadhan2300 Nov 29 '19 at 9:37
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    I agree with @Kit. Something which a lot of people ignore and are brainwashed into not noticing is SLEEP. I'd like to especially highlight the need to recognize sleep loss early on. This is the primary productivity-killer: nrecursions.blogspot.com/2019/11/sleep.html – Nav Nov 30 '19 at 8:24
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I am not a doctor or human nature scientist. Just want to share my experience.

Nobody in my environment works all 8 hours at 100% power and I would say it is not possible on the long run for most of the people. You have pointed out that after 6 hours you feel yourself tired and so am I and many my collegues as well. It is ok to be tired when you solve complex problems and your brain activity is very high.

In many companies there are rest areas with games, some snacks or even spots to nap. It was made to let employers to have a break and switch to another activity. After a short 10-15 min break you will see the "difference".

What to do in your situation:

  1. visit a doctor. Only professional can give you the "right" advice in your particular case
  2. take a small break lets say every 2 hours for 15 min
  3. schedule your work so that most difficult tasks could be solved in the morning time and most routine(manual simple tasks) job after lunch
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    In many companies there are rest areas with games, some snacks or even spots to nap You work in Silicon Valley, don't you – Mars Nov 28 '19 at 7:34
  • Those areas technically exist here but they never get used. – Granite Nov 28 '19 at 9:15
  • @Granite why they never get used? It is waste of money. – Andrei Suvorkov Nov 28 '19 at 10:31
  • @Mars no, I am in Germany – Andrei Suvorkov Nov 28 '19 at 10:32
  • @AndreiSuvorkov They are kind of awkwardly placed in the middle of an open plan office – Granite Nov 28 '19 at 10:40
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There are lots of excellent answers already, but one thing I haven't seen mentioned is hydration.

If you don't have sufficient fluid intake during the day then you will get progressively more dehydrated. One of the symptoms of dehydration is lethargy and an inability to focus.

I find that if I'm having a busy day I sometimes forget to take on enough water. The result are the symptoms you describe, feeling tired and struggling to focus at the end of the day.

I recommend having a water bottle by your desk and taking regular sips throughout the day. Clear water bottles are particularly useful as you can see the amount of fluid you have consumed, so you can tell if you have drunk enough.

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    Also bear in mind coffee is a mild diuretic! I've never met a software developer who didn't drink lots of coffee. I have an (almost empty) mug of coffee and a (full) glass of water on my desk right now. – nigel222 Nov 28 '19 at 10:41
  • While it may work for you, you might be surprised if you look into where any particular measure of “enough” comes from. Excluding extreme conditions, simply drinking when thirsty is all that’s required - anything more specific seems to come down to reports sponsored by potentially biased industry sources. – Gwyn Evans Nov 30 '19 at 16:58
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I haven't seen this idea suggested yet: when you face such a block, take a pen and paper, and make a list of the things you accomplished over the workday. Then make a list of the next items you have to do. It's an easy enough activity that you should be able to do it, even if your mind is sluggish.

  • By doing something with pen and paper rather than on a screen, you give your eyes some rest and shift your posture.
  • By listing the things you got done over the previous six or seven hours, you can give yourself a motivation boost ("I got a bunch of things done. Go me!"). You can also use these lists you make for future reference.
  • By making a list of the next actions you have to take out, you might figure one of these items is easy enough that you can do it right away. And if you don't, then you still can use that list the next morning to know where you left off and what to do next.

It also makes you look more busy than staring at something you can't figure out because you're too tired.

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    I can confirm that this is my typical end-of-day "make-work" to get me past the last 45 minutes. It works well, it looks busy and it makes it easy to decide what to do tomorrow. – Ruadhan2300 Nov 29 '19 at 9:32
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What you're experiencing is normal. Software development is difficult; writing good code that's maintainable and won't need significant later rework is hard. Generally people can't do eight hours of this per day.

I learned this through direct experience; back in the 2000s I had the opportunity to do full-on pair programming all day (which really makes you focus fully on the work, without getting too distracted by other things) on a small high-frequency trading system, where getting the code right was a top priority. (Small errors can manifest as the irretrievable loss of tens of thousands of dollars in a minute or less.) I found that my partner and I could do about six hours of effective development work before we were burned out for the day, though the six hours were more productive than ten-hour days working more traditionally and alone.

Your manager unfortunately doesn't seem to understand this and is being typically counterproductive: rather than looking at the code you produce over a day he's looking at how much work you put in. Telling someone to "stay focused" and "put in more effort" is pointless, even counterproductive. (I'd imagine this sort of manager would have tried to solve the 747 MAX crisis by sending a note out to all pilots saying "please be more careful when you fly.")

There are three basic approaches I can think of to placating this manager. More or less in order of best to worst, from the point of view of doing good software development:

  1. Guide him toward looking at the results of your work, rather than the number of hours you're putting in, explaining to him what you've explained to us in your question. In an ideal world, if your current "six-hour day" is producing good code he'll let you work that and then go home, or at least do something else, after that.

  2. If you have easier non-programming tasks (meetings, filling in timesheets and other administrivia, doing your email), see if you can't shift those into a couple of hours in the middle of the to give you a rest between three hours of intense programming at the beginning and the end of the day. This may or may not help; I found that my partner and I worked better in a straight six-hour run with only a short break in the middle, myself.

  3. Move easier programming work toward the end of the day. For example, if you have a chunk of code that needs writing or refactoring, you've figured out your strategy to do it, but it requires a fair amount of more mechanical work that doesn't require so much thinking, see if you can't set that aside to do in the last hour or two of the day rather than right away.

  4. Just grind away at the end of the day in order to placate your manager, even if it's not really productive in the long run.

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  • Reading it as "Your manager doesn't understand this" is one way--it's also possible that OP is just abnormally unproductive the last 2 hours. I think that's more likely than OP being the only employee that can't work at 100% for 8 hours – Mars Nov 28 '19 at 7:38
  • @Mars So your personal experience actually doing software development is that you're just as efficient throughout an eight hour day as throughout a six hour one? Were you ensuring that you removed repetitive code? Have you tried pair-programming, where you can't "slack off" the way you do when programming alone, and still seen the same level of productivity? – cjs Nov 28 '19 at 7:43
  • No, I'm probably not. And I usually work much longer than 8 hours, and notice declines in productivity. More declines by-the-day than during-the-day, but that's a different story and nothing related to what I was trying to say – Mars Nov 28 '19 at 7:45
  • Since it sounds like only OP was told something by this manager, it's more likely an issue with OP than with the manager. Maybe OP naps during the last hour and got a warning, I don't know. It's really hard to imagine what you could do that would warrant a comment from your manager, other than phone/reddit/napping – Mars Nov 28 '19 at 7:47
  • @Mars From statements like, "I spend an hour stuck on something and then get it done in 5 minutes the next morning" it seems to me unlikely that the OP is napping during the last couple hours of the day. I see no reason to assume the OP is in the wrong and the manager is right, and experience tells me that often the managers are more often than not less effective developers than the developers who are doing the work daily. – cjs Nov 28 '19 at 7:49
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As everyone has said, nobody can normally work flat-out for eight hours per day. It sometimes happens even 12-16 hours in some sort of emergency, but the people who do it will be high on stress hormones and will "crash out" afterwards. (Crash, like sleep for 12+ hours and not be fit for any heavy-duty thinking for a couple of days).

Most people alternate between the serious thinking stuff that is hard, and the trivia of life in the office that is not. If you have none of this easy stuff, then you have a superb manager feeding the easy stuff to the less skilled (less well paid?) staff, but either he or you must realize that you cannot work at maximum productivity for eight hours without breaks.

And picking up on one thing: "I spend an hour stuck on something and then get it done in 5 minutes the next morning" Congratulations! You are a natural software developer. Your subconscious is working on the problems, even while you are relaxing or sleeping, and is finding good solutions. I personally sometimes leverage this, by running the unsolved problem of the day through my head last thing before going to sleep. And when I next consciously think about it (at work the next morning) a solution has formed. Don't do this if it causes you insomnia or stress. Don't do it always, or you may find you "burn out". Don't assume it will always work. But it's a neat trick when it does.

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    To add, I have actually commented on this phenomenon in my end-of-week progress-reports to my manager, things like "X is still proving thorny to fix, but I suspect it'll be a 5 minute job on monday". A good manager understands this is a common situation to end up in and appreciates my candor about it. – Ruadhan2300 Nov 29 '19 at 9:28
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A few more points I haven't seen mentioned yet:

  • Know yourself: know the times at which you usually have less energy. Know your work: some things need a lot of energy, some don't. And then try to plan accordingly. For instance, I try to move all my meetings to the second half of the afternoon, because they don't need as much focus as programming does.

  • Your brain works during a good night's sleep. Yes you can solve the problem you were working on easily the next morning, but it's not a given that you would have been able to if you hadn't tried unsuccessfully the day before.

  • In fact, many programmers say that they do their best work while sleeping, while taking a shower or when walking the dog in the weekend. Your brain needs time to reflect on things, it's not a machine that just produces answers whenever. You don't get paid for those burst of inspiration on your time off, so it's only fair you also have time during work when you don't seem to be able to think any useful thought. It's all part of the job.

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  • I wish I could upvote every bulet point. – Crowley Nov 29 '19 at 11:57
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I think the other answers cover most of the bases, but I would like to explicitly highlight two activities that I think would help:

  • Afternoon coffee

This was a sacred tradition for me for more than a decade. Note this does not mean walking to the break room to fill up a cup of drip. It means walking several blocks to the nearest "good" espresso shop for a latte or mocha. It's not only a chance to let your brain cool down and reset, it's also a good time to network and catch up with work buddies or even people you don't see as often. Maintaining a diverse social network yields all kinds of benefits, from gaining perspectives outside your social bubble to giving you contacts when you decide you might want to switch teams. If you clock in at 9 and leave by 5, then a 30-45m afternoon coffee break might not sound like your cup of tea. But I think it's worth spending a little extra time at the office for the benefits it brings (and plenty of people simply go home at 5 anyway, even with the extra break).

Of course, not everyone can drink fully-leaded in the afternoon and get a good night's rest. Plenty of times I would drink a decaf or even a split shot so as not to mess up my sleep schedule. The point is that knowledge work is draining on the brain, physiologically speaking. A weightlifter does not continue to do sets after their muscles have reached the fatigue point, nor should you attempt to keep "lifting" after your brain has run out of useful energy.

  • Afternoon run

This works basically the same as the coffee break: gives your brain a chance to recharge. In some ways it is better, because running increases your heart rate, which improves blood flow, alertness, cerebral perfusion, etc. It also helps counter-act the highly poisonous effects of sitting in a chair for many hours. It can be hard to stay motivated on this, so you will meet with much more success if you can find a running buddy or five to help keep you accountable. This is another great networking opportunity, especially if there is an informal runners group at your company (which you could, of course, start yourself). Also, the health benefits of running will extend well past the afternoon into your whole life.

Note that these strategies are not mutually exclusive. You can do either or both on different days. If you don't have shower facilities at the office, running might seem unattractive. If so, you can still take a 30m walk outside when it's nice. That should let you cover 1-1.5 miles (about 16-24 blocks) depending on traffic, block size, etc.

Finally, I should mention:

  • Power nap

Not everyone can get away with this. But, a 10-20m nap can do wonders for your brain. At one point, my office actually had a secluded area with chaise lounges which were perfect for this. Those were eventually removed, but I could still do a power nap in my chair by just leaning back, propping my feet up, and closing my eyes. Obviously, your ability to engage in this powerful technique depends entirely on your office environment, and how well-informed they are.

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  • The “unfair” thing about your proposed solutions is that you can’t do them during office hours (i.e. without clocking out). I think OP should simply take breaks in the office, on the clock. Chatting 15 minutes with colleagues over a cup of coffee is totally acceptable in most places. If you have a big enough building, try to collaborate and meet with people in person and walk there. Again on the clock. – Michael Nov 28 '19 at 11:07
  • Don’t forget Meetings ,) – eckes Nov 28 '19 at 15:52
  • I used to go for an afternoon run, and it did wonders for me! But I solved the important afternoon nap by resting in my car (and later, by working at home in my own business). The need for a nap was the #1 reason why I quit and started my own small business. – Mike Waters Nov 28 '19 at 19:57
  • @Michael Software engineering jobs at small companies may be concerned with time clocks, but I dare say the top 50% or more of SE positions do not. Finding yourself in a company that does care about the clock should be a good motivation to upgrade your employer, because I can guarantee that the level of work being demanded and produced is not...top-tier. – Lawnmower Man Nov 28 '19 at 20:21
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    I think as corollary to @Michael's comment I would also add that if you possibly can, get away from the whole concept of 'office' and 'office hours' . It took me over a decade to realise that office regulations should not apply to IT staff not on operational tech support. A software development team is an art studio, not an assembly line. – Frank Nov 29 '19 at 8:31
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"Normal" is vague term. Everyone has different levels of stamina. Various things influence it such as genetics, personality, diet, exercise, stress, illness and so on. It is completely valid for someone to not have the stamina for a full time job when they "put in their full effort." A small number of people are sharp and focussed all day (startup founders tend to be this type of person) but you shouldn't compare yourself to them.

Changing things such as diet, lifestyle, or stress can have a bigger impact than you think. OTOH maybe a part-time job or a different line of work is what is right for you. But if you push yourself past your limits for too long you will burn out.

If you feel there is "something more" to this, you may have an underlying medical problem. I had an undiagnosed condition for 6 years that allowed me to work around 2 hours a day. Now, when my treatment is working well (and sometimes it doesn't), I can do 8-hour days without a problem.

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I believe it is normal, and what sucks is that people are not flexible when it comes to doing work within different spheres.

I am currently having an intenrship in mobile development, and I have noticed that out of the 8 hour-long work day I have maximum 4-5 productive hours. Though I am lucky enough to be in an Agile company, where the owner is also a tech guy, rather than the administrative-office-supervisor guy that only works with documents. Or in other words, having a boss that has experience in your field of work helps a lot.

Is your boss knowledgeable in IT, or is he just an owner that expects equal to slavery non-stop work? I would advice you to have a talk with him and just explain that being productive for the whole duration is not possible AND NORMAL. You don't want to get fired, but are you fine with less money? Maybe he can just decrease your salary and work hours. Explain to him that he receives the same amount of work done in either case.

As I said I am in a similar situation, but the flexibility of the company I am in handles this very well. Don't seek a mistake in yourself for not being able to fit someone else's standarts, when they were not created with a lot of thought and research to begin with. Bad standards are not something rare.

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  • I don't think that paper-crunchers can stay focused all the time. I think anyone, no matter whether coder, designer, composer, engineer,... have 4-5 productive hours a day on average. – Crowley Nov 29 '19 at 11:08
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I'm going to wrap up the advice in other answers and add something that I do.

If you have any meeting or scheduling app installed on your office machine, schedule yourself enough meetings during the work day to break up the work day into one-hour segments.

The meeting is titled, "Refresh."

When the meeting comes, get up and walk around for five minutes. If you're the least bit thirsty, drink water until you're no longer thirsty. Then drink another glass.

If you want, have a snack, but make sure it isn't something with a lot of sugar; the boost from the sugar will wear off in twenty minutes or so and you'll crash.

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Do you mean working 8 hours straight? 8 hours of actual working? Or 8 hours within the office?

Working 8 hours straight is almost impossible. Noone can concentrate that long on one task. Trying to focus is more and more exhausting and you will end spending all your mind just to concentrate. Therefore nobody can even think of expecting you work that way.

Working in shorter bursts with time off is not only mandatory for us to work but it is beneficial. If you stop and pause you have "reload" everything and you have to rethink. That's why you were able to stare at the problem for hours and solve it in five minutes the other day - you have just looked at it from slightly different perspective! Lucky you. I was often stuck with some problem for months and solved it within days. Usually I got the idea in the bathroom or watching little things.

8 hours a day of actual work is nonsense too. Say you can focus for an hour straight and then you need 15 minutes to unfocus and relax. This would lead to almost 10 hours a day in the office! You are expected to do some ammount of work a day and it was estimated that you should be able to do it within 8 hours with all the pauses mentioned above.

Your actual concern should be whether you can deliver all results you are asked for. Is it done two hours before clock? Perfect! Relax. Have a pause and spend the rest of the time preparing for the other day - get the resources needed, shetch some ideas, whatever. Was it tight? Think what was the bottleneck and try to anticipate it. Are you actually behind? Find when you are most effective (usually in the morning) and when you aren't. Do code in the one "timeslot" and organize the "other stuff" the other "timeslot".

If you are obliged to stay 8 hours in the cubicle and code and code, leave. It is not your failure, this sort of work does not fit to you. Go find a job that actually fits. If you stay you will at best suffer from burnout only. Also, you can ask the manager how they personally manage to stay focused all the time.

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