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I often find myself exhausted after work hours (8 hours of work plus commuting [and meal] times). When I get home, I am unable to be productive on my personal projects, even if I have the motivation to do so.

Is there something during the work day that I can do to increase off-work productivity?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Masked Man, gnat, Michael Grubey, scaaahu, Mister Positive May 22 '17 at 11:25

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    What are you doing at work and what do you want to do after work? I am working as software developer and often find myself too tired to do some programming when I am at home after work. What helps me most is... simply getting started. The hardest step is to turn on my virtual machine and start the IDE, when I then start to write some simple lines of code I don't stop until I am done. – Philipp May 22 '17 at 6:45
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    Does this help? – angarg12 May 22 '17 at 8:46
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    Another solution is to do "less" at work. This does not mean stop being productive but try to change up things by talking to people about current subjects rather then staring at the screen for 8 hours. Help your support desk solve some issues for instance. Do some documentation (ieuw...). Or learn something new. – Totumus Maximus May 22 '17 at 9:32
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    For future reference, there is also a StackExchange site related to personal productivity. Your question would be a perfect fit there. – Søren D. Ptæus May 22 '17 at 10:54
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    Give up sugar, exercise (I do it in the morning at 7 am), eat healthy, meditate (use something like "Headspace app"), use a productivity app that helps getting things done (like "Step Up Productivity" app), and don't forget to take a break at work ( I usually go to lunch at 12 pm until 2 pm out in town, far away from work place) – Adrian Nov 12 '18 at 19:40
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So I have experienced the same. The way I look at it, it's hard to do something for 8 hours, and then continue doing the same (developing software) when you get home. Once your hobby becomes your work, it hurts your hobby.

What you are asking is how can you increase your productivity once you get home from a long day at work, and the answer is actually quite dull, but it helped me and should definitely also help everyone else.

When you get home, then don't start on your personal project right away. You want to do something else for at least 20-30 minutes. I really recommend using this time for exercising, and maybe some daily tasks – don't turn on the TV. Furthermore, start eating healthy and stay away from sugar specifically. Good nutrition and exercise are really the key. Another trap you shouldn't fall into is the whole idea of caffeine helping you. It won't, especially not in the long run. Drinking a lot of caffeine can actually have a negative effect on your energy level, and you start to depend on small sugar/caffeine rushes to be productive. One cup of coffee doesn't hurt, but be aware of your intake.

Doing these things will optimize your energy level during the day, and also give you better mental and physical health. If you are already doing this, then try to look into stuff like

  • your sleep schedule

  • your mental motivation towards the project

  • distractions at home

I can say from personal experience that this will have a greater effect than one might think.

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    Also be wary of doing your personal project late into the night and not getting enough sleep. It can be easy to fall into that habit when you get on a roll. It might work well for a while but eventually you'll tire yourself out and then your performance will be worse both at work and after hours. – rooby May 22 '17 at 9:53
  • +1 for the food tip, decreasing my daily sugar intake and focussing on products with a low GI really increased my productivity and overall energy level. – Summer May 22 '17 at 11:26
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Apart from the sleep schedule regulations that has been already mentioned, here are a few things that I do at work and at home to have a bit more energy for my off-work related activities:

  • Meditate at least 15 minutes every day. This helps me to calm my mind and take away the work related stress.
  • Take a stroll to divert your mind (sometimes during office hours, I take a walk to get away from the problems and find better solutions, works with life as well).
  • Drink lots of water at work. Water keeps the most common headaches caused due to dehydration away.

Personally, these are the things that have worked for me (things which I've consciously put efforts into).

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    Taking a stroll is actually a great idea, I will definitely try it – Klangen May 22 '17 at 9:26
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Couple things to consider:

  • Have a stable sleeping schedule and stick to it no matter what. Getting enough rest as well as having your circadian rhythm be stable will make you feel very energized and in sync when your body adapts to it in case your current sleeping patterns are random.
  • Use some nootropics for the days you really dont feel like you can pull through, I suggest this as you can regulate exactly the amount of caffeine intake(unlike coffees) as well as ingredients that enhance your reaction to it.
  • Leave enough time for relaxation outside your work hours. I know its very tempting to try to solely work as much as possible when you re not sleeping but its a trap and you can easily get to a point you feel burned out and keep pushing yourself for diminishing returns.
  • Thank you for your answer. Nootropics do sound interesting. However, SPRINT is unfortunately not available in my country... Do you know any alternatives that can be bought in mainland Europe? – Klangen May 22 '17 at 7:57
  • I wouldn't recommend caffeine to a personal lacking motivation. It will have an negative effect in the long run – Jonas Praem May 22 '17 at 8:15
  • @JonasPraem while I agree this isnt the case: "I often find myself exhausted" "I am unable to be productive on my personal projects, even if I have the motivation to do so." – Leon May 22 '17 at 8:22
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    @Pickle you re welcome, I just gave this as a starting point of something that I personally would take. I just saw they only ship to specific countries within the EU but you should be able to find something similar that is available in your country or be shipped to your country! – Leon May 22 '17 at 8:25
  • Well that is exactly my point. Giving caffeine to an exhausted person is not an answer - it might even be the root of the problem. Drinking 5-8 cups of coffee doing work will exhaust you heavily when you get home. And no, more caffeine will only make it worse – Jonas Praem May 22 '17 at 8:25
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I struggled with a similar problem to yours, so I'll share my experience on how I was able to overcome it.

  1. More time spent in front of the computer DOES NOT EQUAL more work being achieved.

This is not technically "during the work day," but I think it's worth mentioning here. After getting home from work, I used to think "Ok, it's 6:00PM now, and I want to sleep around midnight. That gives me 6 hours to complete work on a personal project. I can do anything!"

This of course didn't work, because like you, I would be tired from the 8-hour work day. I started doing some sports to remove myself from programming for a few hours after work, and then when I got back home, I felt much more refreshed and energized when I sat in front of the computer. Sure, the amount of time spent was less, but I got more work done.

  1. When you're working during the day, be a conscious learner

It might be tempting to think that the programming you do during the day is separate from the stuff you do at home. But at work, you write code, you debug it, you break down real-world problems into smaller, more composable parts and build them into a larger more cohesive solution, among many other things. These are skills that prove to be very useful when you work on your personal projects.

  1. Sleep

Again, this is not technically "during the work day," and @Leon mentioned it in their answer, but it can't be stressed enough. When you come to the end of the day, don't try to squeeze in an extra hour or two of work, at the expense of your sleep. You'll be stuck in a viscious cycle of fatigue, and you will be tired at your job as well, not just when developing once you get home. Drop everything an hour or so before going to bed and read, cook, prepare for the next day, anything.

  1. Don't make "Crunch mode" a regular thing

Read this article

Note

There are many points that could be added here, such as diet and exercise (yes, really!), distractions in your personal life and so on, but these are farther removed from "during the work day", so I'll leave those out for this question.

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