38

Details:

Recently I've joined a fintech company as a software engineer. I find working there challenging for myself because there is a lot of new stuff in terms of domain and technical stack. I really like working there but almost each day I'm learning or investigating sources about it at home. Almost each day while at work I'm shifting some tasks (for example: Check this document link or Read that stuff link) to the evening and doing something more important during work hours. So, when I come home I know that I need to read a bunch of sources because I think that it's very important too.

I found myself struggling with this because my life is so full of reminders and todo lists. I end my working day at 11 pm and wake up at 7 am. At 8 am I'm at work. I find time for hobbies only on the weekends and three times per week I'm going to the gym.

I think this could become a habit: postponing some task that I'll need to do after work, which might continue to happen even after a year or so in the company.

I'm 23 years old, I'm 3 years in the software industry and it's my second workplace.

Questions:

Is this okay to manage tasks in such a way?

Is this a productive way to increase knowledge and become more confident at the new job?

13

I would like to disagree with the common theme in all of the answers so far and respond to the question:

Is it a bad habit to take work home almost each day?

With a resounding Yes, it is a bad habit!

You have described yourself at a very early stage in your career (being just 3 years in) so I do not think it is too far off to suggest that you are developing patterns now which will likely persist through much of your adult life.

The pace with which you are currently managing your routine is simply not sustainable... I don't care what anyone else tells you. At your young age, you will certainly be able to keep it up for a longer period of time than say someone who is in their 40s or 50s but at a certain point that stress is going to build up and it's going to burn you out.

Any work is a barter scenario.. at the end of the day, you are selling your time for as much money as you can. Would you keep showing up if they stopped paying you? Probably (hopefully) not. You've got to ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish by pulling a 60+ hour work week? (And trust me that's what you are doing if you are continuing to do work-related research at night). The answer is most likely: trying to increase your expertise so that you can increase that per hour rate. Hourly and salaried positions in most Western countries are measured by an expected 2080 (40 hrs/wk) hour per year. When you change those base hours to 3120 (60 hrs/wk) you are effectively reducing your per hour rate substantially.

More importantly, you need to think of the longer term effect of burnout: What is the point of trying to maximize your per hour rate if in trying to increase that per hour rate you effectively drop it down to $0/hr?

When dealing with a troublesome work/life balance, there are a couple of tough truths you need to realize:

  • You will never know everything - We all see these movies or books with some "Sherlockian" genius who can recite back the facts verbatim and knows everything about certain subjects. Simply put... that guy doesn't exist in real life. Brains forget, memory fades. As you learn new skills and start coding in different languages, you will forget much of the info you previously knew. Putting unrealistic expectations on your memory and skillset only wastes your times so don't try to be a master of everything.
  • No employee is indispensable - Apple didn't crash when Jobs died, Microsoft didn't go under when Gates retired... really no one person is so important that a business can't recover. The excuse often used by workaholics is "but I have to do this otherwise [some disaster]...". No really, the business will survive without you killing yourself. If it honest to god can't... then it deserves to die.
  • The perfect is the enemy of the good - This has always been my problem. How important is it for your output to be absolutely perfect. Are you working OT on something that really matters, or are you trying to perfect something that works okay already? "Gold-plating" is nice but in business it is rarely cost-effective. You do your team no favors by killing yourself trying to create the perfect product. Losing you to exhaustion is likely much more costly to them than that perfect addition to your project is worth.
  • There will always be more work to do - At one point last year, I put together a to do list and assigned LOEs to each item and realized that it would take me conservatively 3 years to get all my current tasks cleared out (and that assumes no new items would ever be added). Part of management of your workload is realizing that work never stops. There is always new stuff coming down the pipeline and never enough time to do it all. You have to get comfortable with the idea that nothing will ever be 100% complete. It frankly shouldn't because you should always be growing. So shake off any OCD tendencies, set realistic goals for yourself and don't sweat the small stuff that you don't have time for.

So what's the answer?

It's a wonderful thing to have a desire to grow personally and professionally which is largely why I think many answers are encouraging you with this rapid pace. But reading between the lines of your question, I see what could already be indication of burnout:

I found myself struggling with this [...] I end my working day at 11 pm and wake up at 7 am. [...] I find time for hobbies only on the weekends and three times per week I'm going to the gym.

Burnout is catastrophic to your goals. What good is all this learning and career development if you end up throwing it all away in the end? Simply put, a break-necking pace is a positive short term solution with long-term negative repercussions. Occasionally, it's permissible in order to finish up a short-term goal but it cannot become routine. So how do you take a step back without losing the momentum you've already established? It's actually not that complicated:

  • Prioritize the important things - Your health is unequivocally the most important thing in your life and I know far too many workaholics who have made sacrifices in that area for career. That can't happen... no money, power or reputation is worth your health. You have to budget time for eating right and exercise. In the long run it will actually enhance your career not hurt it. Likewise, family and social relationships are a part of your mental health and cannot be neglected for your career. Prioritize accordingly.
  • Align your hobbies with your interests - Just because you are off-work hours doesn't mean you can't grow personally. Find hobbies that allow you to relax mentally but also align to areas where you want to develop yourself. Put together some personal projects that you find fun but that also strengthen your technical skills. Maybe you could code a video game? Build your own hardware/ home network? Participate in some open-source collaborative development? Whatever it is, make sure it doesn't cause stress... your goal is to unwind with these extra-curricular activities and take your brain away from work.
  • Realize that time off makes you a better worker - This is a hard one but it really is true: stepping away from your job at the end of the day actually helps your work. Have you ever approached one of your coding tasks on 4 hours of sleep and at the end of a 12 hour day? If you are like me you will end up having to recode much (if not all) of that work the next day. No brain can run at full speed, all of the time. You have to have some downtime otherwise you stop thinking rationally. One of the best solutions to solving a tough problem is to walk away from it for some time so you can re-approach with a fresh outlook. That's why you go home at night. Getting some away-from-work time actually makes you more productive.
38

Is it a bad habit to take work home almost every day?

Yes.

When you start a new job, it's expected that it will take you some time to be as proficient as others. Depending on the domain or complexity of the industry, that could be weeks, months, or even years.

Most people will give you the benefit of the doubt because you are new, and because you are learning lessons that others have come to know over a longer time.

So give yourself a break. If you still find that you are overwhelmed, ask others for help. Your work is your work, but only a part of your life.

Is this a productive way to increase knowledge and become more confident at the new job?

Taking some reasonable extra time after work to learn more about a new job, business domain, or technology stack is an excellent way to ramp up and be productive more quickly. It is possible, however, to put off work too long -- research is good, but it does have diminishing returns. You'll need to find a good balance.

Is this okay to manage tasks in such a way at the beginning?

In the beginning, yes, you'll likely often need to postpone work on a task until you've learned more about exactly what the task entails, and what the larger context of the work is.

While some additional work may be OK to take on for starting a new job, as you become more familiar with your role, you'll want to make sure you establish and maintain a good work/life balance by leaving your work -- at work -- as much as possible.

  • 21
    The OP specifically asked about taking work home "almost each day" and stated that his working day is working from 7am to 11pm. I would say that neither is healthy or useful. Learning about how to do a job is a very different thing to taking work home. After the first few occasions it is highly unlikely you will learn much new stuff from work brought home, particularly if it is work you do during the day anyway. – Vince O'Sullivan Jul 27 '17 at 8:57
  • @VinceO'Sullivan I have significantly edited my answer so hopefully it now better addresses the current question. – mcknz Jul 27 '17 at 16:41
7

Is this okay to manage tasks in such a way at the beginning?

In the beginning yes, as one usually has to handle many learning curves and to get used to the company. Postponing some tasks in favor of others with more relevance is something that happens often, specially in software development (some unexpected bug comes out and is high priority, for example). However, I consider it is always better to try to stick to a schedule.

What I do every morning I come to work is write down a list of to do things, which are the ones I must complete by the end of the day. I try to include a fair amount of things to do so I don't overwork myself, but not too few so that I feel like I should postpone them. This helps me move on with my work while giving some spare time for unexpected things that come out that are priority.

Is this productive way to increase knowledge and become more confident at the new job?

Reading and investigating about work at home is ok... however be careful not to use all your home/family time doing that, as you could fall into burndown easily.

To say it in a raw way, you are being paid for working a specific amount of hours, the rest of the hours are yours entirely. Be careful not to postpone important tasks so you can read more about some subjects of interest. If reading or investigating is completely necessary to the task you are doing then you should think of doing that as part of your task, and not something that you should do in your spare time.

Anyways, reading and learning new things is not only beneficial for your company but also for your personal and professional education. If those subjects interest you in a way more profound that just for work then you should definitely dedicate some time to it. But again, be careful not to make you job your life.

Hope this helps.

Edit: as suggested by a @gazzz0x2z 's comment, take a look at this question... you do not want to end up like that.

6

I'll answer anecdotally.

Age 20-30 is an important time to advance your career. I did the same thing during this time frame leaving very little extra room for any social life. When it became too much stress and not enough recreation, I had to back off my responsibilities greatly. I communicated all the while with my direct supervisor and was fortunate he was empathetic and understanding. It took a month to find help to fill in where I stepped down and I agreed to continue overworking myself during this time.

In the end, I feel I advanced my lot in life and held onto a competitive position in the market place. Ultimately I took all my gained experience and some good references and found a more balanced lifestyle and a better job.

I look back at the last 10 years and am grateful I spent my youth in such a way. It has made all the difference.

The fact you are able to work basically 7am to 11pm without burning out in just a few days tells me you have found a good career match. It's important to continue to develop yourself but general happiness is really the absolute most important aspect of your overall health. You need a healthy mind, body, and spirit. So keep up the exercise, try to find more recreational balance but certainly continue also to develop your mind - it's the most powerful weapon you've got!

  • 29
    Working from 7am till 11pm is not normal, and people do get burned out, regardless how good match the position is – BЈовић Jul 27 '17 at 6:53
  • 3
    Well, I would argue that the fact that this question is asked here, as well as the phrasing, is a strong indicator that OP is indeed already burning out, so the time to change is now, not when it's more opportune, career-wise. – xLeitix Jul 27 '17 at 8:07
  • 11
    Age 20-30 is an important time to live your life as well. I should point out that there are more ways to develop your mind than work (indeed given you already spend 8 hours there I imagine the extra benefit is minimal). Personal projects or courses/research on things that interest you can help as well without running the risk of burnout so close. – Christy Jul 27 '17 at 8:22
  • I'll offer another way to look at this - I did all I could to be the best developer for my job during my early twenties. Now that I'm almost 30, I regret a lot of the extra work I put in and miss the time I could've used with my family. Advancing your professional career doesn't mean much when you end up with a poor "personal" career in return. – T. Sar Jul 27 '17 at 13:31
  • Your whole life is an important time to live your life. There are things we can do while young that make life easier when we're older (like college). Balance is key. Work hard, play later... but do be sure to find some play time (recreation, as-in re-create yourself). Nowhere did I say 7am-11pm is normal or that giving up relationships for a career is a good idea. I do emphasize hard work at the expense of some leisure - it's just how I was raised. If I could have my perfect life, it wouldn't be this way. I too have my regrets but also my stability. – ThisClark Jul 27 '17 at 13:46
3

It is great that you are so passionate about your work and willing to learn more than the required minimum. Having this ever-growing personal TODO list is not a problem if you stick to these rules:

  • If something is absolutely needed for work, then do it at work. If you MUST check a particular specification document in order to complete your current work project (and your boss wants you to check it), then do it at work. Only add to your personal TODO list things that are not absolutely needed for your current project, and only needed to understand the context better (get the bigger picture), such as reading about bitcoin if your current project is to fix a multithreading-related bug in software that happens to be a bitcoin application.
  • Prioritize your personal TODO list. Decide whether reading that article is more or less important than replying Joe's message, or doing the laundry, or learning nail painting. It is entirely your choice, there is no good or bad choice. Then do things in order of priority. The bottom items might never be done if life keeps you busy, but that is not a problem.
2

Some will write that you should put all into career and for those I can say it is waste of time, most of those people who gave their youth to hunt career end up lying to themself to justify the reason that they lost half of their youth on learning something that helped them a lot, but still after ten years in their 30s they are still on a very beginning constantly sacrificing their life for career all the time learning - it is a neverending loop.

I was in the beginning somewhat like that also, but my friends put me back in the reality. The thing is, you will never manage to learn everything, no matter how much time you sacrifice on learning, there is always someone who knows more then you. For sure is that you need to learn your job, but from my point of view, you are obsessive a little bit.

I cant tell you what to do, nor I know what is best for you, but I chosed to spend my free time on traveling and hobbies which made me more creative and productive then guys who were spending rest of the day reading about work and I learned to learn new things when job demands it, not before and not after, which helped me in solving problems faster then my other coworkers who does not have hobbies, do not go out and have fun and are 24hours mentaly connected for their job. Money always comes and go, like careers, there will always be someone better and worst then you, but if you do not have energy and you are not happy on your daily basis with yourself and you question your routine, your creativity level is almost pure zero, and no matter how much you learn, you will have serious issues in solving even the simplest problems. Working is all about solving problems. Do what you love, that makes you happy because that will fuel your desire and challenge you for learning new things, and you will be able to do it faster. If you are mentaly connected 24h per day with your job and you never actualy leave your work your problem solving skills will get slower and slower, and when you hit 30, when you should be in your most energic and creative phase you will strugle with basic things because you will find your job boring over time and you will lose the flair and passion for job that you loved once.

If you are workacholic then go for it, or if your hobby is reading about your job position and responsibilities. But people who have hobbies, and go out to have fun whenever they can usually ends up being better at their work. This is from my experiences that I sow comparing employees and coworkers, their life styles and so on.

Confidence comes with experience.

1

During working hours you work, meaning you solve problems that occur while you do your tasks, including the necessary research for them.

Everything that is not related to your tasks, like reading interesting articles about the topic, is for your free time.

Doing basically more work for the same money will set wrong expectations in your performance and cause a lot of trouble later.

Guess you are in a junior role, there it is perfectly normal that things take longer than a senior would need, that's why you get paid less, no need to compensate that in any other way.

protected by Community Jul 27 '17 at 3:05

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.