I am a programmer and work 8-hour workdays. I have found it nearly impossible to sit and be concentrated on my work for the whole 8 hours - I do things like hang on Stack Exchange, go for a walk, eat something, read something unrelated to work, etc. I notice others do this as well.

What percentage of the time is it acceptable to do these kinds of things? I define acceptable as fulfilling the requirement to generate quality work in reasonable time. Does resting often improve the quality of work, or does it decrease it because of the interruptions?

  • 4
    Are you really slacking off? These "other things" that you do are quite normal. It gives the brain some chance to rest and gain clarity.
    – tehnyit
    Jun 14, 2012 at 8:06
  • Hi Vorac - I've closed your question because as written it won't produce a single answer; there's no set percentage of time, and beyond that there's not a clear definition of "slacking off" (for instance, I'd not consider any of your examples as slacking off). You might also look at this question, also closed, for examples of just how broad your question can become. If you are having issues communicating with your employer about this, that could be a specific, openable question.
    – jcmeloni
    Jun 14, 2012 at 11:48
  • You are right that my question is not concrete enough. Also, it seems to be a duplicate of the one you linked to. However, I am happy to say that I found plenty food for thought in the answers of both questions.
    – Vorac
    Jun 14, 2012 at 12:15
  • 1
    Is your time being billed hourly to a client? That makes a big difference.
    – user8365
    Jun 14, 2012 at 14:29
  • @Vorac Well, that's good, then! :)
    – jcmeloni
    Jun 14, 2012 at 16:28

2 Answers 2


The effects of multiple breaks on productivity depends on the individual.

I run a decent sized team and it's not an issue for me as long as the person consistently delivers at the end of the week. In fact, as long as they are delivering what we agreed on promptly, I pretty much leave them to their devices. Heck, I've even been known to pay for movie tickets during office hours.

That said, a lot depends on your environment.

  1. If you have no clear scheduling or delivery guidelines you really can't say if you are ahead or behind on the workload. In these cases, little will be acceptable.

  2. If your actions are proving to be a distraction to your colleagues, little will be acceptable as well.

  3. If the project is way behind schedule, even if it's not your fault, little will be acceptable.

Sure I'm missing some but I'm sure the others will pitch in.


Any distraction you get will break your train of thoughts on the problem on which you're working. This means that when you get back to the problem later, it'll be harder for you to "reload" all the thoughts you had on how the system should work, what you wanted to add as a feature etc...

Getting a pause between two tasks is natural, as long as it's not too often. I can't give figures because it can vary from one work to another and one people to another. The most important is to have a deadline fixed for each of your tasks, and as long as you deliver on schedule, you can organize yourself as you wish.

  • 4
    I gotta say I disagree with this. I'm often struggling with problems that I simply can just come back to and solve like nobodies business after a short mental vacation. I simply could not sit in front of a computer if I wasn't being mentally stimulated by entertainment as well as problem solving, which is why I need music & this website amongst several other avenues of enjoyment
    – Jacob
    Jun 14, 2012 at 15:06
  • Sometimes sitting down and working on the same problem for hours on end is no better than working on it for a shorter period of time. I find that when I stop working on something for a short period of time, it helps me generate new ideas as to how to tackle a particularly formidable problem. When I sit there for too long, I end up keep trying more or less similar things and it gets frustrating. Frustration == poor productivity usually. Jun 16, 2012 at 0:53

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