Developer Focus Time Results

In a previous post I described how I approached writing a survey to see how much time our ICs have to focus on engineering or data science work. Well, the results are in - at least from 10 people. Obviously that’s not a huge n-size, but it’s most of the people we were trying to reach with this survey.

First off, 7 of the 10 say that they only get into a state of focused productivity once a day or less. That’s not very good. We’d like daily focus time at a minimum, and reaching more than once a day would be even better.

There were some results from the survey that may be relevant to explaining why there is so little focus time in our org.

First, 8 of the 10 people needed two or more hours of uninterrupted time to get into a state of focus and get good engineering/DS work done.

So, you need two or more hours. How hard can that be? Well, apparently pretty hard. 7 of the 10 report that too many meetings or other interruptions keep them from having the time they need to focus.

It’s also probably hard to have two or more hours out of an eight-hour day when you’re multitasking. Nobody said they only worked on one task a day, and 5 of the 10 said that they work on three or more tasks a day. Once you give the Meeting Monster his pound of flesh, you’re not going to have two+ hours of unbroken time when you’re splitting your day across three tasks.

How about those meetings? Well, 3 of the 10 say they don’t actively decline meetings that aren’t useful. (!) That’s an easy low-hanging fruit: engineers have to understand that they’re professionals who are responsible for their valuable time! We don’t want them wasting it on meetings that they know are unproductive. ICs have to be empowered to say “no” to useless meetings.

Anyway, it was an interesting exercise. And now we have something of a baseline for future surveys.

(PS: One question I asked that was a total failure was: “do you have more focus time now than last year?” I asked this without thinking about the fact that changes in our org have made it so that very few people are in the same position they were last year, so it’s not a like-for-like comparison. I didn’t get any good signal off this question.)