Stack OverflowHow do you keep a balance between working, training, health and family?
[+73] [37] Jim Burger
[2008-09-29 01:26:41]
[ discussion time-management lifestyle ]

One trend I see in the awesome developers I've met, is that they devote inordinate amounts of time to coding at the expense of (usually) their health. Personally, I also find it hard to motivate myself to keep healthy.

Every now and again, I meet a fantastic coder who has it clocked; they are up to date with the latest dev news, have time to read about good programming practices, and to finish it off, have happy wives/husbands and families.

How do you guys/gals manage it in the short 24 hours a day that we all have?


Finding the time to program in your spare time? [1]

(2) This is nothing to do with programming - it applies to all working people. - Blorgbeard
@Blorgbeard, if you're a programmer, I really hope you can see the logic error in your statement. Programmers are "working people" and I think this question is completely relevant. - Ash
(2) While the question can be viewed as having a broad scope, it is directed at programmers, from a programmer. The answers provided have detail specific to programming (podcasts, late night debugging sessions). There is more to coding than code. - Jim Burger
(1) The same problem occurs, and the same answers apply in other fields as with programming. This is not endemic to programmers, nor are the solutions particularly programming related. Consider asking Metafilter, Lifehacker, or Google. This isn't the appropriate site. PLEASE READ THE FAQ. - Adam Davis
This question is likely to be closed as "Not Programming Related." I don't see how one could modify it so the question applies strongly to programming in a way that it wouldn't apply to many other work/life balances in other fields, but hopefully someone else can and does so it's site appropriate. - Adam Davis
Show me where in the FAQ that says I have to pick a problem that is exclusive to programming? I read: •detailed and specific •written clearly and simply •of interest to at least one other programmer somewhere - Jim Burger
I'd say, given the response, that this question is /useful/ to at least 12 other programmers. - Jim Burger
"it should be about programming" This is not about programming, it's about work/life balance. It's like asking how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich suitable for eating while coding - just because it's valuable to many programmers does not make it a programming question. - Adam Davis
What you do when you program, in order to help you program better, when shared with others who program, is good advice for the act of programming. I dont think I can put it any plainer than that. - Jim Burger
Besides which, the advice for time management is far and away different for different jobs. I used to be a mechanic, and as such, the oppurtunities for self developement were far different. As was the physical aspect of the job. Things I learned in that field DO NOT apply to programmers. - Jim Burger
I disagree with you, but I won't close this question myself. We'll see what the S/N ratio of this site is as people find a balance - personally I'm holding out for more signal than noise, but the community defines the community... - Adam Davis
Its unfortunate that you disagree without positing why, but I can accept to 'agree to disagree'. - Jim Burger also seems somewhat hypocritical coming from you in light of this question:… - Jim Burger
If you do not understand my position from what I've already said, and how it conflicts with your understanding of the purpose of this site then I assume it's because my explanations are unclear. Perhaps you can at least see that your question is a discussion question, rather than one with an answer. - Adam Davis
I suppose I could clean up my profile, but the reality is we all ask stupid questions when we start. No one took the time to discuss this with me, though, and I learned (as you can see) to ask non-discussion questions with specific answers. - Adam Davis
I've seen several good programmers turn away from SO after their questions were closed for being offtopic, and I'm hoping that by commenting and requesting the questions be changed rather than closing people will stick around and contribute, rather than get stung and walk away. - Adam Davis
So you recognized right from the start that this question was not appropriate and decided to post it anyway? Maybe I should have simply closed it without this prolonged discussion. Ah well. Live and learn. - Adam Davis
I tagged it with discussion knowing that answers are likely going to be in a discussion-like format. - Jim Burger
I appreciate that you feel this question is innappropiate, however I have put forward why I feel that it is. Besides which, we are all here to provide value to other programmers. Im sorry you do not feel as though this question comes under that banner. - Jim Burger
I also reject the connotation that I deliberately set out to provide questions that I know to be offtopic. Also note that theat question of yours is your best question thus far by SO readers standards. - Jim Burger
For those interested I've continued my point of view to an entry on my blog, under the category "Community", which you can find via my profile. - Jim Burger
Programmers are specific people.. After day at work I sit at home always developing sth, and I suffer from lack of time, too. We need just one computer and one internet connection to fullfill our whole free time. :( - rafek
@Jim: I'm flattered! :D Nice article. Still don't agree with it, but we can all agree that it's good I'm not the one calling the shots around here. Doesn't mean I'm not going to nudge it in the direction I think Jeff was aiming for (you should check out the podcast...) Keep up the good work. - Adam Davis
@Ash, there is no logic error in my statement. Not all programmers are working people, and nowhere NEAR all working people are programmers. This question applies to working programmers only as much as it applies to anyone working. It also doesn't really have a correct answer, by its nature. - Blorgbeard
@Adam - I'm glad we can all agree to disagree and move on with keeping the site a valuable resource. - Jim Burger
Check this out:… - Christopher Altman
(1) Your wife could take turns with you on groceries and dog walking. Of course, you still have to pay attention to her or you won't have a wife after a while. I know the feeling: I had the same thing happen (sudden decrease in free time) when I finished university and got a job. Will probably happen again if I get married. Oh well. - FrustratedWithFormsDesigner
(4) You are NOT alone. - Amardeep
(1) This is one of the reasons I am glad to be a commuter. I have about an hour and a half commute each way, to and from work. Since it is by train, that is three hours of "me time" for development, research, etc. - joseph.ferris
Same thing here :-). At least we arrange ourselves by giving each other free time for a hobby. I think that's life. If you feel like you don't have any time for yourself anymore it is not so good, try to find a good solution. Each person needs some time for himself. - jdehaan
(11) Maybe it's time to use your skills towards quitting your day job? Like, at nights, rather than contributing to opensource projects, start building your home business. Your wife wouldn't object, since you're contributing to your family, and you're having fun, since you're doing what you love. Fast forward a year, you quit your day job, you've got some decent income that's growing, and you've got a lot of time for your family. - ulu
@ulu: You should post that as an answer. :) - musicfreak
@musicfreak Let's upvote ulu's comment. - Lyndsey Ferguson
@musicfreak thanks, I'll try - ulu
+1 for having a wife. - 0scar
Thank you for this question because I am not married and now the best thing I should do is one of the following : 1-NO MARRY 2- Marry form a wo-programmer (female programmers in my idioms :D ) and enjoy programming in our life. - M.H
[+53] [2008-09-29 01:36:09] Jason Short [ACCEPTED]

My only secret is to maximize the time I have available. Your time is incredibly scarce. Don't waste it playing with things. Get what you need, read the buzz, keep the sites like this to a minimum and spend your actual day at work writing the best quality code you can.

I have made it a priority to spend time with my wife and kids. You have to schedule it just like everything else. If you don't state it as a priority you will let it slip. "Just one more bug test" quickly turns into a very late night. Take the time off, go play with kids and wife - THEN look at the bug. The bug will be there, I promise. The wife and kids will be asleep by the time you have it solved.

Besides, there is a lot of research to suggest going and doing a totally different task (like play) can free your subconcious to solve the issue. Coming back at the problem later with fresh eyes will often reward you with something you were missing before.

That is the biggest difference between me now and 15 years ago. Back then I would spend entire weekends trying to solve some complex problem just because I could. Now I spend the time with my family and let the cool problems be solved in much shorter time frames, or by working with a group.

Yes, you can sometimes solve the problem much faster by sharing it with another coder. Even if they are just a sounding board, getting someone listen to you ramble can be helpful.

Get your priorities right. Code is one of those activities that will expand to take all the available time if you let it. Do the fun stuff (eat dessert first) and I then find it easier to work on the hard stuff.

What does the order of consuming regions with very low rates of precipitation have to do with the rest your post? Slightly confused by what is otherwise an informative answer. - Jason Dagit
Exactly the kind of pep talk I needed. Thanks :) - Jim Burger
Your welcome - glad to be of help. - Jason Short
What helps me is this: set a timer and when it goes off, leave. I spent a lot of all-nighters 8 years ago, but with two kids those days are over. - cynicalman
Ditto on '(coding) will expand to take all the available time if you let it.' You really have to put your family first. Working in groups really does help reduce the amount of time you spend solving problems. - PhantomTypist
[+30] [2010-06-11 19:13:15] JasCav

This isn't really about being married as it is about time management. Being married is just providing you an excuse to, what might have been, poor time management before. The only difference is that, before, because you had no other responsibilities, you could goof off and not get much done and THEN get to programming and still accomplish a lot.

What you have to decide is what are you doing that is unimportant (are you spending an hour watching TV a night - is that worth it?), what is necessary (taking care of your wife and family is, in my opinion, more important as you made the decision to get married), and what you want to do (program/develop in your spare time). Say 'no' to those unimportant things, and then dish out your time to the others, respectively.

(3) Totally agree. There is a heck of a lot of time in the day to get things done. You should write a scheduling algorithm to optimize your daily routine. - gnucom
(3) Yeah, I find that when the wife leaves town, I waste my time. She gives me focus. - Lyndsey Ferguson
I added another vote to this answer: it is well phrased. I think a compromise needs to be made, time management has to be focused on as well and communication needs to be clear. - Lyndsey Ferguson
[+28] [2008-09-30 09:22:04] LKM

Everyone knows what you have to do to keep your life in balance: Eat healthy, sleep long enough, keep social contacts, don't work long hours, exercise... The trick is cheating yourself into actually doing these things.

Here are a few tricks which help me:

  • Treat exercise as a game. I use Nike+ and Wii Fit to cheat me into looking at exercising as a game I play, trying to achieve better scores. Nike+ has the added advantage that you can make your numbers public, so you know that people know when you slack off. Wii Fit is nice because it shows you a graph of your weight, which helps you immediately identify when you're gaining weight. Something else I do is listen to audiobooks only when I'm exercising, so if I want to know how a story continues, I have to go for a run
  • Have an ergonomic work place. This is part of exercising. Make sure you sit correctly; get a good chair. Find a way to work while standing. Take regular breaks: go outside for a few minutes each hour.
  • Have a landline. Nowadays, tons of people don't have landlines, they only have cell phones. I've had only a cell phone for about 5 years, and I've found that it discourages people from calling you, hurting your social life. In the few months since I've gotten a landline, I've literally had more random calls from friends than in the five years I've had only a cell phone. This really helps get my mind of work, and encourages me to go out, go to parties, or invite friends over.
  • Avoid interruptions when working. Programming is an activity you do while "in the flow." Every interruption costs you at least half an hour of "getting back into the flow" time, thus making it harder for you to finish stuff, thus encouraging overtime. I've heard of software companies with a "no interruption day", which is one day each week when people won't ask each other questions, thus allowing developers to have at least one day per week where they get things done. You can also encourage people to ask questions by mail, and then only check mail manually.
  • Have a productive work place. Get a second screen. Get the OS you like. Get a good keyboard and mouse. Install the software you like working with.
  • Work from home. This may not be possible for everyone, and it may not work for everyone, but if you can, at least try it. It cuts down on interruptions like nothing else. Even if you have a family it's easier to teach them not to interrupt you while you're working than to teach your coworkers. Also, it allows you to work when you're actually ready to work. I typically find that I'm more alert in the morning, so I tend to work early hours and spend the afternoon doing something other than work. It also allows you to exercise when you feel like it, rather than before or after work hours.
  • Don't mix life with your work. If you work from home, have a "work room" with a "work computer." Don't do work on your personal computer, and don't do personal stuff on your work computer. Don't give your employer your cell phone number; if he needs to reach you at all times, he should get you a work cell phone. Don't think about work when you're not working, but as soon as you sit in front of your "work computer," concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Don't work 100%. You're a developer. You probably earn enough that you can afford to work less than 100%, so why not do it? Even cutting down only 20% gives you one additional day each week to spend with your family, or to work out, or to just go for a walk and enjoy yourself.
  • Have your own projects. I've found that only programming "for work" eventually takes the joy out of programming. If you're working on a big enterprise Java app, why not play around with Ruby at home? If you're working on a huge C# application, why not play around with Objective-C at your Mac at home? You'll learn a lot, you'll discover the fun in programming again, and maybe you'll even write the next million-selling iPhone app :-)
  • Schedule your sleeping. I put all of my social activity in my calendar, but sleeping is the most important. Not only should you be reminded by an alarm clock to get up in the morning, you should have reminders telling you to go to bed. Simply staying up and working on something is far too easy, and it'll kill you eventually. It's enormously important to get your body to learn when to sleep and when to get up, and this doesn't happen if you don't sleep regularly each day. Yes, I would even encourage people not to sleep in on sundays. If you sleep enough during the week, you won't need to anyways, and if you'll keep a regular sleeping schedule, you'll eventually wake up automatically each day.
  • Catch enough sleep. You probably don't sleep enough; also, coffee is not a valid replacement for sleep. Not sleeping enough will start affecting your mental capacity relatively quickly, which makes it harder to get work done, which forces you to work longer, which takes away sleep time, and so on.
  • Cook your own food. Eating healthy is easy to say and hard to do. Most restaurant food is crap, so why not cook your own? It's not hard, and it allows you to control what exactly it is that you eat. You can cook the food the way you like it. Also, cooking is fun. It's an engineering activity; you're basically an interpreter for the cookbook bytecode, but you can improve that program if you find bugs. Also, your friends will love you if you become a good cook.
  • Use something like GTD. GTD or similar task management systems allow you to get stuff out of your mind. By scheduling everything, you don't have to think about chores which allows you to concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Don't think that you owe your employer anything. You work there because you want to, not because you're forced to. Your employer needs you more than you need him. Do the best job that you can, but don't let your work become your life.

These are a few of the things that come to mind. I do all of these, and in my experience, they really help tremendously. Hope this helps!

Wow... great answer, thanks :) - Jim Burger
(1) "You're a developer. You probably earn enough that you can afford to work less than 100%"... raise an eyebrow You've gotta be kidding me... :( - Manrico Corazzi
"Don't work 100%" Could you please explain this point? Programmers (in your country) earn enough money so they do not have to work 100%? I would think the exact opposite - since you are very much overpaid, you should be working 110% to give your employer what he is paying for! - Marek
(1) The concept of not working 100% includes the idea of also not getting paid 100%. I'm quite obviously not saying that you should simply work less without telling your employer that you're doing so. - LKM
@LKM: Good information. I'm just confused about the 2nd and 4th bullet points which seem to contradict each other. In the 2nd bullet point, you say to take a break every hour, then in the 4th bullet point you mention "the flow", and how if you lose it, it costs you 30 minutes. Assuming you take a break every hour (which would break your flow), you are only working 30 minutes each hour (at best) with that logic. Care to clarify? - Senseful
@Senseful: Obviously, if you're totally in the zone, you don't have to interrupt yourself and take a break. Just don't work hours and hours without taking a break. You know, use common sense :-) - LKM
[+15] [2010-06-11 19:36:53] leChuck

All I can say is, just wait until you have children. ;)

[+10] [2010-06-11 19:08:23] Brian R. Bondy

Get a laptop, work as you watch movies or tv with your wife at night. Honestly having a wife, having kids, having anything shouldn't be an excuse for not being able to learn and develop yourself.

I finish work, I spend a few hours with my family, and then the kids go to bed and we have down time. During that down time I choose to program. Enjoy the time with your wife, don't feel like you should be working, but remember there is time after that.

If you love doing something you'll find the time. I have twins babies at home and I still actively learn and progress at a pace as fast as before.

I've always thought that people who say once you get married, or have kids, your life is over, is just an excuse. Of course it's all about them, but your life is not over. You can choose to stay where you are comfortably or you can choose to excel from there. The same applies to having a wife but it's even easier than having a wife + kids.

Is it hard? Yes, but the hard things in life are hard for a reason... so that not everyone does them.

I should also mention that communication is key in a relationship. If you feel troubled that you don't have the time to advance yourself, then talk to your wife. Work something out together.

(3) "If you love doing something you'll find time." This is a huge leading indicator that you truly enjoy doing something, whether that be career development, dating, or hobbies. - JMP
(1) +1 I'm in pretty much the same boat, and have a similar routine, wrt work, family and then personal persuits. - mdma
[+10] [2010-06-11 19:11:02] Lyndsey Ferguson

Make a compromise with your wife: Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday early mornings are for yourself: this could be programming, reading, etc.

Other days you will be completely there; not thinking of what you need/want to do on your latest project (at least that's the idea: I still think of what I want to do while commuting ;))

Another thing I wanted to add: set your priorities when you are working on your hobbies. Don't screw around reading blogs or forums unless they help you accomplish your goals.

(5) Compromising... LOL. - gnucom
(3) "A good compromise leaves everybody mad." - Calvin & Hobbes - JasCav
Where exactly does one go to find a compromising mate? - Hardryv If you have a mate that's not compromising, that's a difficult situation. If you don't have a mate yet, don't spend so much time on your hobbies that keep you away from the rest of humanity! :) - Lyndsey Ferguson
1 ipod touch (or ipad) + 1 laptop with fav IDE +1 wireless network= martial bliss. Since she got an ipod touch I get much less junk about after hours development - Anthony
(2) I can't believe nobody here has suggested a divorce!! Dave, there is such a thing as a "clean prostitute" and that makes all the sense in the world when you decide you like programming. YOU GET THINGS DONE when you have no other obligations or family to care about. I'm an IT manager and this comes from experience - I will never again hire guys who are married or dating or plan to do either! You just can't get them to stay longer or do some overtime or come in over the weekend. When you need people to get things done you gotta find the ones that are married to one thing only - SOURCE CODE! - Raine
Compromising doesn't work, it's either black or white or you don't touch it with a ten foot pole. And everybody who disagrees with that at first eventually learns the hard way. If you want to do any kind of a hobby for fun (not for profit) you will NOT be able to do this in the first few years of marriage (or any feelings-based relationship). WAIT TILL IT GOES COLD! And when you are both tired of one another, then you stay together out of respect, or for financial benefits, but you can now dedicate your time to your hobbies. Or just don't marry at all! - Raine
Trust me - there's enough people breeding already to provide you with a large enough client base. Kids are not worth your wasted time and money. Don't have kids because time and time again - YOU WILL REGRET IT!!! Even though they look cute at first. - Raine
(5) @Raine: What bothers me is that you almost sound serious. A smiley or two would help. - Michael Myers
[+7] [2008-09-29 01:30:28] TheSoftwareJedi

Finding an employer who truly respects work/life balance was key for me. I recently changed jobs and am AMAZED at how much more flexibility I have.

Being able to turn your switch from programmer to family during your commute can be hard, but I tend to nail it most of the time. My long commute helps with that.

[+6] [2008-09-29 01:28:26] Ólafur Waage

We refractor and optimize our lives when new lines of code/life is checked in.

(1) I guess removing duplication is a good idea in the context of spouses. :) - Jim Burger
(4) Either that or very careful usage of synchronization. - Ben Hoffstein
Relationships are notoriously non-thread-safe, so watch your pointer. - bmoeskau
[+6] [2010-06-11 19:13:58] Kate Gregory

If your job only provides you with an income and doesn't provide you with education or the chance to do things you feel are important, you will have a hard time finding fulfillment by squeezing things in at the end of the work day. So now you have learned what kind of job you want. Work towards achieving that. And since the best job, the most learning, and the most amazing contributions to a better world would be just ashes in your mouth if she and the dog weren't with you, make sure you find time for her while you're improving yourself and finding the path to that job.

[+6] [2010-06-11 19:14:37] souLTower

Communicate, work with her, communicate, work through it.... I've been married and programming for 20 years. It can be done. If it's part of you you'll find a way to make it happen. Just keep your priorities in front of you. Way too many people put the ME before the WE in marriage. It says in scripture that the two become one flesh.


"The key to living with someone and loving them is to always put their needs before your own." - A very wise friend - JasCav
(1) @Jason. Too true. Your very wise friend may have read Ephesians 5:25 "For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the congregation" Sure many would say they'd die for their wives, but then when it comes to giving them time... - Atømix
Just make sure you avoid all the genocidal Old Testament proverbs when dealing with the lady. - Hardryv
+1 for involving scripture - Johannes Jensen
[+5] [2008-09-29 01:37:29] technophile

This one can go either way, but I find that working from home really helps me balance things. I can take lunch and spend it with my 2-year-old, spend the time I would be commuting making dinner instead, etc. Some people find it hurts their balance, since it becomes so much easier to work more hours instead, and it's definitely easier to goof off too, though, so it takes some discipline.

Finding an employer that really does respect your "off" time and allow you scheduling flexibility is also key, as others have noted. It's hard enough when you're not in a tug-of-war with your management.

[+5] [2008-09-29 06:35:06] Shane MacLaughlin

I run my own small software company, and my major solution to the time issue was to build an office beside the house. No commute = more work time and more family time. Health wise, I try and get a run in most lunch times but it can be a challenge, and also try and play as much as possible with my kids outdoors. Kids love to play, and it can be great exercise for everyone involved. Having a young family, i.e. babies and toddlers, can be way more demanding than slightly older kids (mine are 5 and 9 now), so my advice to any one with the very young'uns is to go with the flow as things just keep getting better as they get older.

As I get older, I get much more jealous of own time, and the value I derive from it. I want to spend it with my wife and kids, or my friends, or even by myself, doing things I enjoy. For me, it's a matter of staying focussed enough to keep doing stuff I enjoying doing rather than vegetating when I'm not working. Healthy is also about keeping on having fun and enjoying life, smug as it may well sound. This takes effort.

This is my Fathers approach, working from a home office, and its definitely a spectacular way of freeing up time - which is arguably better/healthier than being time efficient. If only we could all do it. - Jim Burger
[+4] [2008-09-29 01:50:10] Jason Dufair

I rediscovered my ADD (having had it pretty acutely as an adolescent) in my mid 30s. Learning about it as an adult, I uncovered the fact that context switching is just more expensive for someone with ADD. It explained the long nights solving obscure technical problems. Not because they were necessarily on my priority list, but because I didn't know how to stop. I was also less than confident in my ability to restore the mental context when I came back to my problem. I've since spent time developing my ability to context switch and various mental and external tools to maintain state. This allows me to balance more processes and get some decent satisfaction in my parenting, exercise, relationships, work, church, etc.

I know a lot of programmers with ADD - all of them seem to rehit that wall in their early 30's. Hmm, I wonder if there is a study about that. - Jason Short
Doesn't the ADD prevent one from focusing on the same problem for long enough the way one did in their teens and twenties? - Uri
On the contrary, ADD is a bit of a misnomer. Many people with ADD have the ability to hyperfocus. I believe that's what makes us a particular fit for programming and math. - Jason Dufair
[+3] [2008-09-29 01:36:46] Korbin

Get involved in some kind of exercise activity that is fun to do. For years I was a gym rat, but I found myself having a hard time going because it stopped being fun me me.

I picked up tennis again and it seemed to bring balance back into my life. I have been meetng new people an more importantly I spend hours exercising and it doesn't feel like I'm exercising.

Ultimately, finding something that you enjoy as much an writing code that doesn't seem like work seems to be the best way to go.

[+2] [2008-09-29 01:35:47] Ben Hoffstein

Beer...The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

-- Homer Simpson

[+2] [2008-09-29 02:04:27] Ash

I often find exercise boring, as do many other programmers/developers.

To overcome this I subscribe to some good technical podcasts [1] and load them onto an mp3 player.

Now I find I have been able to walk for over an hour while getting up to date with latest technical/development topics. It just amazes me how the time flies and how healthy I feel after doing this.

If you have a wife/partner/kids, you can either walk with them and talk, or if you run out of things to say there is nothing wrong with both listening to podcasts/music. It's still exercise.


Currently podcast is my main get-out-the-door-for-that-run-motivator. It rocks! - svrist
Thanks, I might try this :) - Jim Burger
[+2] [2008-09-29 07:29:19] vanja

If you're not in a crunch time on a project, then it's "just" a matter of discipline to get your priorities straighten out - family, recreation, etc... But our job can, and often is, merciless when it comes to deadlines.

I personally try (and made it thus far) to reserve weekends exclusively for non-programming activities. During the week, well, is entirely different matter.

[+2] [2008-09-29 06:21:40] Andrew

I found this great quotation by Bruce Lee [1], which helps me create more time for the things I choose to make important:

"It's not the daily increase, but daily decrease.
Hack away at the unessential"

The last line equally applies to programming too ;o)


[+2] [2008-09-29 09:52:31] Myrrdyn

Sadly, time is scarce...

More sadly, people often forget how much scarce it is...

Saddest of all, there is always the choice to better use your time (and so much people do not understand/know this).

Your choices are your only way to "harvest back" time for yourself.

(Sorry now, I've to run away from my PC, the Grim Reaper is coming! :D)


a link [1] about social pressure to do more (vaguely related)


[+2] [2010-04-13 15:33:28] Holli

Use the time for travel. I spend over one hour in my car each day to get to work and back. Thats lot of of time. Since I can't read during driving audio podcasts are a very good alternative. They keep me informed about the latest things. There are a lot of free podcasts on almost any field of interest. Audio books are fine too if you like them.

I also sleep less. My working hours are very bad since I really work 9 to 5. But getting up at 6 give me the chance to get things done before I go to work since sometimes I am not in the mood when I come home from work. Sleep less but still sleep enough.

I good calender software and good GTD software can be very helpful. I sometimes forget things or events so a constant digital reminder is just what I need.

Don't forget your friends. Twitter and emails are find but people really should meet from time to time.

Make a "No computer day". Each week for one day don't touch your hardware. Not even reading emails. do something completely none-electronic. Meet friends, read a book.

could you please provide an example of a good GTD software? - Marek
On my Mac I use Things from It is fine because it also syncs with my iPhone and iPod Touch. - Holli
[+2] [2010-04-13 15:42:25] Christopher Altman

Get up early, I am married with two children. After work I start my second job of raising my children. So the only time I can carve out is in the morning while they are sleeping.

For weight training/fitness:
The most important part of working out is consistency. When do you have consistent time of your own? Mine is my lunch break. I work out during lunch, there is a gym a quick walk from my office. I do weight training and do not take a shower afterwards to save time. Do I smell, no, because weight training does not get me drenched in sweat. Also, I walk to work, three miles a day, that is my cardio.

Personal Interest Time:
Like I said, I have kids, that means Dora is on TV rather than History Channel, or I am playing hop-scotch instead of reading. To find personal interest time, I listen to Podcasts on my way into work. There are a swath of technology and programming podcasts that are excellent.

And the most important, Date Night:
A guy who is married for thirty years taught me that date night with the wife (and without the kids) is essential for marriage. Keep the fire going and make sure you take out your wife. When she is happy, you are happy.

Walking to work would be great, but I live 40km away. Lunch breaks are a definite though, thankfully there is a gym nearby. Seems like a general concensus here - podcasts on the way to work. I also listen to them while making dinner or doing chores. 3 kids here and yeah - its Dora or nothing. Date night -- how often? - Jim Burger
Date night: At least once a month, but I try at least twice a month. Each date does not have to be elaborate or expensive, the most important part is that your wife sees your effort and that you are consistent with setting the dates. My wife and I are simple, we like dinner and a movie, get home by 11 or 12. Having the time together without distraction helps us remember why we got married. - Christopher Altman
[+2] [2010-04-13 15:43:46] sparkkkey
  1. Delete your facebook account.

You will have loads of time leftover in the day.

For me its the twitter account but good advice nonetheless. - Jim Burger
[+2] [2008-10-08 01:32:42] Josh

Multitask. Previously, I got two or three things done on my one hour commute (via train, tram) to work: travel, personal programming, and perhaps listening to a podcast. Now I travel by bike, getting forty minutes of exercise in each direction and 'listening' to a podcast.

[+2] [2010-06-11 19:35:49] Reagan Williams

I feel your pain, and will advise that the loss of "self-time" only gets amplified when you start having kids.

You have to make adjustments as you transition from a bachelor-developer into a family-man. I find inspiration in other successful developers with wifes.

As far as your interests in self-educating and spending time working on side projects, just because you're married doesn't mean you have to give that up. Work it out with your wife that you need X hours every T-TH (or whatever day(s) work) to work on your own stuff.

I've found with my wife & kids that works best. And the time that I'm not scheduled to work/study, then I devote it entirely to them.

Side note: I'd suggest kicking the sleep deprevation right away, that's a bad hole to start digging.

I hope that helps...

+1 for getting your sleep proper. - kotlinski
+1 also for sleep deprivation. I have gone down that path trying to fit a ton into my day, and it results in MANY problems. On top of it, your time management gets even worse because you can't focus. - JasCav
[+1] [2009-01-28 08:58:25] Rich

It is a challenge.

Make the most of the time you have. I no longer have time to read up or try out the latest technologies, but I use travelling time on the train to read magazine articles, so I can find out which things I need to focus on.

I try to put my family first, work second, and health third. But I use technology to motivate me to keep fit- I wear a heart rate monitor and run with Nike+, so I can record all the details of my runs, log them on websites, and analyse them. The geek in me really responds to that, and I get fitter as a result.

I think as you get older, you have to accept you are no longer the hot shot developer you may have been- you have different priorities. And that is fine.

So my overall advice is to look at your life, work out your priorities, and devote whatever time is appropriate to them.

I'm a big fan of this idea; I also commute an hour each way every day and have been using it in a similar manner. Great advice. - Jim Burger
[+1] [2010-04-13 14:48:21] DevSolo

I live & work in Florida, so my "solution" to combating stress and staying healthy is to run or bike to/from work as often as I can. Not always easy to get things to/from work, so that adds some extra fun to the puzzle. For example, I might drive in one day w/ extra clothes, run home (w/ camelbak for hydro, phone & ext HD), bike in the next day and drive home with everything. rinse, repeat.

If you have the means, I would consider giving it a try. The amount of stress you burn off and moments of clarity you can have are extra benefits. I probably solve one problem a trip. Granted these aren't always the be all, end all issues, but it's a great way to let the mind wander.

EDIT: If you're so inclined, using an iPod/iPhone this can be a great time to catch up on podcasts as well.

Also a good idea...currently, I'm taking advantage of some near by gym facilities in my lunch breaks and after work. One of my biggest problems in the past has been stopping work, so it is takes a conscious effort to down tools. - Jim Burger
[+1] [2010-06-11 19:09:35] Ed B

When she needs time to herself..take that time to do some programming

(3) That could be good; except she may be taking time for herself while you're at the job! :( :-) - Lyndsey Ferguson
(1) This would be a good answer, except that some people (not just women) don't necessarily take time for themselves as that is not how they relax. (This is sometimes called clingy...but...whatever.) I think Lyndsey's solution is the best. He needs to tell his wife that he needs his own, personal time too. - JasCav
[+1] [2008-09-29 08:00:46] Manrico Corazzi

I don't... :-(

I read about David Allen's " Getting Things Done [1]", a book about an organizational method:

The Getting Things Done method rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks. (from Wikipedia)

The same principles a developer should apply to his work seem to be the one s/he should apply to her/his life. With a little bit of discipline you can improve a lot the quality of your time, reducing the amount you waste.

Nevertheless it's really hard to mantain that kind of discipline - expecially when it comes to the kids (the boss, the customers, the colleagues ;-)


[+1] [2008-09-29 03:48:51] A. Rex

One of my co-workers once has a very simple solution to this very problem: work from 7:30 to 4:30 every day, without exception. Go home and spend time with the wife and kid. Keep work and home completely separate (to the extent that we didn't know his wife was expecting!). He was also very moved by the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and followed some of its philosophies.

I'm not saying that this approach is for everyone (I don't think it would work for me), but it certainly worked for him. In any case, good luck!

[+1] [2008-09-29 04:24:16] benc

I am reluctant to admit it, but the most important factor is the expectations of the employeer and the boss. You can have all the good or bad habits in the world, but having a manager that is serious about your success on reasonable terms is the most important factor.

The second most important factor is having priorities and sticking to them. When you start a family, you have to make it a priority, and that is reflected in how you spend your time. Things inevitably have to change, and they will keep changing over time. You have to work hard to keep the priorities in control of the clock, and not the other way around.

This also means that you have to service the priorities in order. If family is most important, that means if you have a good boss for a while and now you have a bad boss, it is time to get a new job. You can't sit around and say: "My family is my number one priority even though my job used to be great but now it is eating into my home life." What that means is your job has become your first priority and your family is a nostalgic second.

[+1] [2008-09-29 01:30:06] Jeff Yates

I find it hard to keep everything in balance. If someone has the answer, I'd be interested to see it, but I doubt there's a hard and fast rule. It most likely takes discipline and relies on us knowing when to stop one activity to start another. I think we all know how hard that can be when we're just one more change and compile away from making it work.

[+1] [2008-09-29 01:38:05] Eran Galperin

Sleep less. Seriously. (I do...)

Also, this might be generic lifestyle advice - but find a sport hobby that you enjoy and do it regularly. Besides improving your physical health, it's good to completely disconnect from a computed environnment every now and then.

I would say sleep more - your brain needs time to offload the information you process. The more you take in, and then sleep less you are actually retaining less of it. - Jason Short
I meant sleep less since there just isn't enough time for everything ;) - Eran Galperin
[0] [2010-06-11 19:34:37] Microkernel

Time division multiplexing!!! :)

he he, just kidding. I am not really experienced in this, and had not thought it could be so serious. Thanks for bringing this up.... :)

[0] [2010-06-11 19:37:01] Cade Roux

Going along with all the people who say you have plenty of time for wife and programming outside work if you would just manage your time better, I bet you probably could squeeze time for a few kids or pets in there too. ;-)

[0] [2010-06-11 19:51:22] ulu

Maybe it's time to use your skills towards quitting your day job? Like, at nights, rather than contributing to opensource projects, start building your home business. Your wife wouldn't object, since you're contributing to your family, and you're having fun, since you're doing what you love. Fast forward a year, you quit your day job, you've got some decent income that's growing, and you've got a lot of time for your family.

[0] [2010-06-11 20:57:48] fzshah76

welcome to jail :D, but seriously you gotta find time for your passion

[0] [2010-06-11 21:11:13] spoulson

It's natural to feel a little oppressed by marriage because as a bachelor you had free rein to do whatever you want whenever you want. Now, it's all about compromise and time management, but the benefits usually outweigh the costs. If not, your marriage is not working out.

Find bits of time you want do things. If you commonly spend your lunch break alone, then spend it with lappy, instead, and work on that new idea of yours. Agree with the wife which days of the week are yours and her's. She needs personal time, too. Lastly, keep tabs on your social calendar so as not to book it too tight. Before you know it, that one last day you had free gets spent on someone's birthday party or impromptu happy hour and you lost your coding day.