These days, I prefer counting longer periods of time when I can: by day instead of by hour. This helps me focus on outcomes instead of hours, and helps me even out my performance.
Focusing on outcomes instead of hours
I’ve found that when I’m counting hours, it can be easy to focus more on time than on the outcome. “I’ve put in 40 hours, so we must be almost done, right?” It’s led me into missing problems, taking a wrong direction, or missing an opportunity for a change for the better.
Looking at longer periods of time means it’s easier for me to keep my attention on the bigger picture. I use a day as the smallest block, and a week as “a good chunk”. It helps me keep my eyes open for unexpected things and for better ways of achieving the same outcome.
This doesn’t mean disappearing for a week and coming back with the finished goods, though. I like short feedback loops, so I like doing daily stand-ups and weekly retros to keep things on track.
Evening out my performance
Not every hour of work is equal. My 9 to 10 on Monday morning is not the same as my 3 - 4 on Wednesday, which is not the same as my 4 - 5 on Friday. Lots of things influence any given hour.
- How I’m feeling. If I’m grouchy or tired, I tend to work slower. If I’m excited, I tend to work faster.
- How the other people on the team are feeling. If the team is feeling down, it can be hard to make lots of progress. If the team is feeling like things are going well, it can be easy to make lots of progress.
- If the internet is down and I can’t look up help on a tricky problem. Sometimes a quick poke around StackOverflow is all I need to get unstuck on a tricky bit of code. Sometimes a scan through my bookmarks is all I need to find a new UX approach to a problem.
Looking at a day as a unit, things even out a bit. The one “bad” hour doesn’t matter so much in the context of the day as a whole. Looking at a week as a unit you get an even more balanced view.
Counting days instead of hours helps me focus on the work, not the clock. Counting days instead of hours helps me take a longer term view. It smooths out the bumps and lets me look at the big picture.
Do you count hours (or minutes) or days? What benefits (and drawbacks) does your approach give you?