day in the life game programmer team lead

Day in the Life of a Game Programmer/ Team Lead

In order to improve my time (and hack my life) I have to know what it has in it. Here is my breakdown of an average (quiet) day, although it is still 9:00-6:30. We have been pretty good about doing 9:00-5:00 hours and that is what most of our guys do, and I would prefer to keep it that way. For me, every day is slightly different, some days I have five hours worth of meetings. Other days I do not leave the office till 8:00pm or come in the next day at 7:00am. It is still better than the hours I have spent at other companies, and have been a member of the 100 hours a week club more times than I would like. But this is a pretty good indication of what I would consider average for now, and with the hope I can get back to more 9:00-5:00 days once the major deadlines have passed.

The day starts for me (usually) at 7:00 AM, and I also included the time it takes for each task in parenthesis.

07:00-07:09 (00:09) Wake up, and then really wake up.
07:09-07:32 (00:23) Morning routine, get dressed.
07:32-07:53 (00:21) Make and eat breakfast while checking email.
07:53-07:59 (00:06) Cleanup, brush teeth, put shoes on.
07:59-08:17 (00:18) Leave apartment start walking to bus stop.
08:17-08:54 (00:37) Get on bus to work, start reading a book.
08:54-08:58 (00:04) Get off bus walk to office and my desk.
08:58-09:29 (00:31) Update code, check email, handle admin duties.
09:29-09:45 (00:16) Stand up meeting for half the dev team.
09:45-10:00 (00:15) Stand up meeting for other half of the devs.
10:00-10:30 (00:30) Assist devs requiring clarification on tasks.
10:30-10:36 (00:06) Write emails to other departments on tasks.
10:36-10:39 (00:03) Grab a glass of water.
10:39-10:45 (00:06) Help a developer find a bug they are fixing.
10:45-11:01 (00:16) Read source code and documentation.
11:01-11:35 (00:34) Code.
11:35-11:38 (00:03) Answer a few questions on a feature.
11:38-12:05 (00:27) Code.
12:05-01:00 (00:55) Lunch.
01:00-01:57 (00:57) Code and test, submit some updated APIs.
01:57-02:10 (00:13) Discuss bug fixes and design strategy.
02:10-02:23 (00:13) Code.
02:23-02:33 (00:10) Work with developer finding bugs.
02:33-02:40 (00:07) Code.
02:40-03:01 (00:21) Work with developer solving issue.
03:01-03:09 (00:08) Code.
03:09-03:21 (00:12) Help developer fix bugs.
03:21-03:27 (00:06) Get some tea.
03:27-03:37 (00:10) Code.
03:37-03:41 (00:04) Answer questions about code base.
03:41-04:00 (00:19) Reply to email and write additional email.
04:00-04:12 (00:12) Work on bug fixes with developer.
04:12-04:28 (00:16) Code.
04:28-05:01 (00:33) Read code review from large feature drop.
05:01-05:06 (00:05) Discuss some updates to a part of the code.
05:06-05:31 (00:25) Finish code review and add comments.
05:31-05:55 (00:24) Read updates to code base from other devs.
05:55-06:24 (00:29) Code and submit.
06:24-06:33 (00:09) Shut down, start walking to bus stop.
06:33-07:15 (00:42) Get on bus, read book.
07:15-07:24 (00:09) Get off bus, start walking home.
07:24-07:31 (00:07) Freshen up.
07:31-07:53 (00:22) Check mail and email.
07:53-08:36 (00:43) Make dinner, eat and cleanup.
08:36-09:56 (01:20) Personal code, while listening to music or tv.
09:56-10:41 (00:45) Get changed for gym, pump iron and shower.
10:41-11:45 (01:04) Play around on computer, code, art or games.
11:45-11:51 (00:06) Get ready for bed.
11:51-12:05 (00:14) Read a bit in bed.
12:05-06:59 (06:55) Sleep (perchance to dream).


Administration (email, delegating tasks): 1 hour 53 minutes.
Breaks (lunch, coffee): 1 hour and 4 minutes.
Coding: 4 hours and 2 minutes.
Helping Others: 1 hour and 56 minutes.
Meetings: 31 minutes.

Computing (web surfing, project coding): 3 hours 7 minutes.
Exercise: 45 minutes.
Personal Maintenance (food, shower, etc.): 1 hour 34 minutes.
Reading (including bus travel time): 1 hour 33 minutes.
Sleep: 6 hours 55 minutes.
Travel (not including bus reading time): 40 minutes.

Other Facts:
Read 39 emails.
Sent 5 emails.
Added 37 comments to code review.

A few noteworthy points to consider about the data. The travel time is actually 1 hour and 59 minutes total for me every day, but I only counted the parts I do not do anything else (i.e. not the reading time). Looking over the numbers, it is interesting to see how much time is spent on helping others and administrative tasks. When I first joined the company as a game programmer, I was able to spend almost my full-time on coding and sent very few emails. However as time went on and more people were hired, I spent more time helping the other programmers too. Still, it is interesting to see how the day breaks down like this, and on further investigation where I can improve my use of time (like maybe try exercising in the morning as part of the regular morning routine)? Or take 30 minute lunches instead of the full hour and leave at 6:00 PM? Or try and come in earlier instead of leaving later?

Another thing to consider is how long it takes a game developer to get “in the zone”. Some people at work estimate it can take up to ten minutes to get in the zone, but only one second to get out of it. While it would be great to minimize interruptions, it is far better for me to help remove the other developers roadblocks whenever possible.

Anyway, I will think over the data and may update any changes I made to my day, in a future post.

Until then,
Michael Hubbard

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