I work at an open style workplace. Like many other people at startups, I wear many hats at work, which forces me to collaborate with other workers a lot. I am also often distracted by meetings and emails throughout the day. This means I must code at night because I need to have quiet and focus. Doing this over a long period of time makes me frustrated.

Is this normal? Can you give me some suggestions?

  • In what country do you work? The answer might change depending on culture.
    – Jeroen
    Jan 10, 2017 at 12:02
  • When you're working for a start-up, it's common to take up more work than what you'll be rewarded for in the short time. How long have you been in this position?
    – Littletee
    Jan 10, 2017 at 13:07
  • 2
    Happens all the time. Jan 10, 2017 at 17:25

5 Answers 5


Being distracted by e-mail is a problem you can easily solve: don't respond to an e-mail unless it needs a response now. Just put it on a TODO list and respond to it when you come to a convenient break in your coding.

Meetings can be trickier, but you can still try to reduce the load:

  • Only attend meetings where your input is actively required. If you're just at the meeting to find out what other people discussed, ensure the meeting is properly minuted and you're told the results.
  • Actively work to shorten meetings. If people start getting off-topic, politely but firmly bring the meeting back on topic. To do this you need to ensure every meeting has an agenda so that everybody knows what is on topic.

If that doesn't reduce your load acceptably, start talking to your boss about what your role is - are you an "individual contributor" whose primary role is to actually write the code, or are you a "leader" whose primary role is to ensure that other people write the right code. Make it clear that you can't do both of these at once. If there are bits of your current role you can give to others, do that.

Of course, it may just be that your boss is expecting you to work longer hours than you are happy with (what your contract says are your weekly hours is largely irrelevant here). That's a very different problem, and one that means you may need to re-evaluate whether your current job is the right one for you.

  • 9
    don't respond to an e-mail unless it needs a response now. I sometimes just close my email client when I need to focus and find it troublesome. And in the off chance anyone still has email desktop notifications turn those off!!
    – enderland
    Jan 10, 2017 at 14:01

Have you spoken about this with your line manager? If you're getting the work done they might not realise you feel there is a problem. Are your colleagues also programmers? People often don't realise how difficult it is to code with so many distractions and you need to air this out with them.

Having said that, what have you tried already? These suggestions might not all be practical but it's a start.

  • Take lunch early/late and work while the office is quieter.
  • Try to have meetings organised in a block.
  • If certain people tend to come and ask you things, be proactive and ask them if they need support before you settle in to code.
  • Ask your colleagues to only distract you with important problems and send other queries by email.
  • If some of the distraction is social chit chat, then the suggestion of headphones is a good idea. However you could try also to not get drawn in to the discussion.
  • Moving desk in the office.

Is working at night normal ? No.

You have probably not been employed to work at night, and it seems working from home is out of the question due to the collaborative part of your work. How good are you at working with music ? A lot of people use their earphones and music to focus on their work.

You could also get a anti-noise headset in the ~100USD range.


I have had a similar situation and came up with "The Headphones System".

I bought a set of headphones. If I had them on, I could only be disturbed if something is important. This means though, that you need to have times where the headphones aren't on, and the less important tasks that need your attention are attended to.

Play some spotify, code away and you should only be disturbed for the important things that need your input. There may be the odd daft request, but politely saying "I can look at this after lunch" or something helps with that.


If being scheduled for meetings is a problem you can also possibly build some 'dummy' meetings in your day - just block off a couple of hours on your calendar. This should help prevent you from being scheduled for real meetings during those times.

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