Overtime and All Nighters

Mid-1990s: The Gold Master Disk had to be in Ireland by the following afternoon, if we were to ship on time.

This required us to work all night; I got home in time to see the sunrise, and was expected back at work after lunch.

I was there because each new build required a new setup - and I was Mr. Setups - in those pre-internet days when CDs were a novelty and all programs were installed.

We made it! The Gold Master Disk was shipped, thousands of copies were made, put in boxes with a huge manual, and shipped back to us.

By the time they had arrived, we had discovered some serious bugs and the entire shipment was declared unfit for use. When the company closed down a few years later, we finally threw the entire batch into the dumpster.

That was my first introduction to all-nighters, and the more I lived through them and watched the results of all-nighters and overtime in general, the more I am against them.

After 10 - 12 hours of work, most - if not all - people start being too tired to think straight.

If you cannot think straight then you are a menace on the road and a useless engineer, tester or writer. You - and the project - are better off if you would go get some sleep and restart early in the morning with a clear head.

There will occasionally be that rare emergency that really warrants serious overtime.

When Answers.com - then still gurunet.com - was almost ready to launch, Walt Mossberg informed them - on very short notice - that he was going to write about it them the Wall Street Journal on a specific day. The team did an all nighter to be ready for their premature launch.

But as a general rule, chances are that you are wasting time working too hard. Some advance planning and professional Project Management would be a better idea.

Work smarter, not harder and longer.

- Danny Schoemann

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