This article is the last part of the “Side Projects” mini-series I started quite some time ago.

Last week I was working a lot on my side projects. I was at home for almost the whole week because I was sick. On the days where I felt better I coded. And after a few days I noticed: I take a break really often. Still I get more done than on an average day in my day job.

At home, whenever I get stuck, tired or bored, I take a break. I cook something or eat something. I get a cup of coffee or tea. I wash the dishes or clean something in our appartement. I play counter strike or watch TV or take a nap or just do nothing for 10 minutes. I just do anything - anything but writing software.

I know there are many possible reasons why I am still more productive, even though I work less net hours. One reason is probably that I don’t have to deal with company politics and that I don’t have to coordinate with other people. But that’s not the point of this blog posting. I think that there are three reasons for me being productive that are directly related to the breaks.

The first reason is quite trivial. I don’t code when I am tired, I just take a break. When I’m tired it is harder for me to concentrate, so I make more mistakes and get less done. Simply taking a long break solves this problem.

The second reason is that I don’t really get frustrated by my work. When I am stuck or bored I just take a break. I relax and remind myself why I do this: Because I like developing software, because it is fun. After a break, with a new perspective, things are often easier. It’s also easier to push through boring work when you know you can take the next break any time you want, and it does not matter how many hours you work today.

I just don’t let myself get to the point of frustration. That way I am more motivated, have more energy and procrastinate less when I am actually sitting in front of the computer. I know you could argue that I procrastinate more by spending more time away from the computer. Anyway, I believe less time in front of the computer but better spent still means more productivity.

The third reason is maybe the most important one: When doing a mundane task like washing the dishes, my mind can wander. The details of what I have been doing are still in my head, but by taking a break I can see things from a different angle and often find solutions for why I am stuck. I also have most of my ideas when I am doing “nothing” - just a few days ago I had a great idea while I was having a bath (more on that in a later posting).

Doing only work as long as I like doing it and taking lots of breaks costs a lot of time. I spend less time in front of the computer, I spend less time developing software. Anyway, I think I gain more productivity than I lose because of the breaks.