Night Time is the Right Time

by Ville Laurikari on Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hacking at night.

Looking back, I tend to do my most interesting programming at night. Writing the query optimizer for HiSQL kept me up a couple of nights. The first versions of libtre (a regex matching library with support for approximate matching) took a number of long evenings.   I wrote the first prototype for transparent tunneling of TCP connections over SSH for SSH Tectia ConnectSecure in the middle of the night.

There’s clearly a pattern here. Good code happens at night. Night time is the right time… for coding.  Sometimes, for me, at least.

The question is, why?  Am I so excited about the ideas, so beside myself with the anticipation of turning the idea into something real, that I cannot sleep?  Or is it that I simply need the peace and quiet in order to get into the zone?  Maybe when I’m in the zone I don’t want to stop, then loose track of time, and end up coding into the night?   All of the above?

Regardless of the reason, it does appear that I’m not alone with this.

This makes me wonder if software companies should rethink some of their policies regarding working times.  Wouldn’t it make sense to allow doing the work in flexible pieces? Maybe spend the morning until lunch at the office, and do the rest at home in the evening?

Furthermore, there’s evidence that a short nap can significantly boost productivity.   A 20-minute nap can make all the difference, apparently.  I certainly cannot get much thinking done in the early afternoon.  I tend to take care of some of my more rote, menial tasks during the groggy post-lunch time.  I’m a manager, so there’s plenty of that kind of work for me, alas.  But for a software developer, wouldn’t it make sense to take that 20-minute nap, and wake up fresh, instead of hours of half-witted monitor-staring?

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racy_rick August 11, 2009 at 18:03

I’ve often went home to nap, but then the motivation to go back to work is weak.

In my office we tend to play ping pong in the afternoons and that loosens up the mind. I think the worse spot to be in is tired in the afternoon, wanting to do something else, stuck in the desk, staring at the monitor.


I should get a cot!

Ville Laurikari August 11, 2009 at 19:03

Ping pong sounds like a good idea. We have a pool table at work, but it’s not exactly a game that would wake you up. Hmm, I think I saw some ping pong paddles lying around the office somewhere… worth a try, thanks for the idea!

Nishant Arora November 23, 2011 at 18:40

nice writeup… even I am coding in the night… dunno but there is some sort of boost vibes in the night…. the new generation of programmers is nocturnal i suppose…

Thanks, Feels good to know I am not alone, my parents think its sort of a disorder, but now I have some support… :P

PS: your like button has a glitch, it is giving me an error

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