8/28/2013

08-28-13 - How to Crunch

Baby is like the worst crunch ever. Anyway it's got me thinking about things I've learned about how to cope with crunch.

1. There is no end date. Never push yourself at an unsustainable level, assuming it's going to be over soon. Oh, the milestone is in two weeks, I'll just go really hard and then recover after. No no no, the end date is always moving, there's always another crunch looming, never rely on that. The proper way to crunch is to find a way to lift your output to the maximum level that you can hold for an indeterminate amount of time. Never listen to anyone telling you "it will be over on day X, let's just go all-out for that", just smile and nod and quietly know that you will have the energy to keep going if necessary.

2. Don't stop taking care of yourself. Whatever you need to do to feel okay, you need to keep doing. Don't cut it because of crunch. It really doesn't take that much time, you do have 1-2 hours to spare. I think a lot of people impose a kind of martyrdom on themselves as part of the crunch. It's not just "let's work a lot" it's "let's feel really bad". If you need to go to the gym, have a swim, have sex, do yoga, whatever it is, keep doing it. Your producers and coworkers who are all fucking stupid assholes will give you shit about it with passive aggressive digs; "ooh I'm glad our crunch hasn't cut into your workout time, none of the rest of us are doing that". Fuck you you retarded inefficient less-productive martyr pieces of crap. Don't let them peer pressure you into being stupid.

3. Resist the peer pressure. Just decided this is worth it's own point. There's a lot of fucking retarded peer pressure in crunches. Because others are suffering, you have to also. Because others are putting in stupid long hours at very low productivity, you have to also. A classic stupid one is the next point -

4. Go home. One of the stupidest ideas that teams get in crunches is "if someone on the team is working, we should all stay for moral support". Don't be an idiot. You're going to burn out your whole team because one person was browsing the internet a month ago when they should have been working and is therefore way behind schedule? No. Everyone else GO HOME. If you aren't on the critical path, go sleep, you might be critical tomorrow. Yes the moral support is nice, and in rare cases I do advocate it (perhaps for the final push of the game if the people on the critical path are really hitting the wall), but almost never. Unfortunately as a lead you do often need to stick around if anyone on your team is there, that's the curse of the lead.

5. Sleep. As crunch goes on, lack of sleep will become a critical issue. You've got to anticipate this and start actively working on it from the beginning. That doesn't just mean making the time to lie in bed, it means preparing and thinking about how you're going to ensure you are able to get the sleep you need. Make rules for yourself and then be really diligent about it. For me a major issue is always that the stress of crunch leads to insomnia and the inability to fall asleep. For me the important rules are things like - always stop working by 10 PM in order to sleep by 12 (that means no computer at all, no emails, no nothing), no coffee after 4 PM, get some exercise in the afternoon, take a hot shower or bath at night, no watching TV in bed, etc. Really be strict about it; your sleep rules are part of your todo list, they are tasks that have to be done every day and are not something to be cut. I have occasionally fallen into the habit of using alcohol to help me fall asleep in these insomnia periods; that's a very bad idea, don't do that.

6. Be smart about what you cut out of your life. In order to make time for the work crunch you will have to sacrifice other things you do with your life. But it's easy to cut the wrong things. I already noted don't cut self care. (also don't cut showering and teeth brushing, for the love of god, you still have time for those). Do cut non-productive computer and other electronics time. Do cut anything that's similar to work but not work, anything where you are sitting inside, thinking hard, on a computer, not exercising. Do cut "todos" that are not work or urgent; stuff like house maintenace or balancing your checkbook, all that kind of stuff you just keep piling up until crunch is over. Do cut ways that you waste time that aren't really rewarding in any way (TV, shopping, whatever). Try not to cut really rewarding pleasure time, like hanging out with friends or lovers, you need to keep doing that a little bit (for me that is almost impossible in practice because I get so stressed I can't stop thinking about working for a minute, but in theory it sounds like a good idea).

7. Be healthy. A lot of people in crunch fall into the trap of loading up on sugar and caffeine, stopping exercising, generally eating badly. This might work for a few days or even weeks, but as we noted before crunch is always indeterminate, and this will fuck you badly long term. In fact crunch is the most critical time to be careful with your body. You need it to be healthy so you can push hard, in fact you should be *more* careful about healthy living than you were before crunch. It's a great time to cut out all sugary snacks, fast food, and alcohol.

6 comments:

Bradford James Loos said...

You said: The proper way to crunch is to find a way to lift your output to the maximum level that you can hold for an indeterminate amount of time.

This sounds good, but shouldn't this be the way you work everyday? And if that's true, then how is it any different from crunch?

super friend said...

>> but shouldn't this be the way you work everyday?

Go for it! I'll be over there enjoying the rest of my life.

cbloom said...

Seriously.

nothings said...

I suspect BJL was missing/misreading/misthinking the difference between

"lift your output to maxmimum level possible"

and

"lift your output to the maximum level possible given 8 hours of work a day".

cbloom said...

@nothings - that's only the tip of the iceberg.

People are not anywhere near 100% productivity (given 8 hours of work) on normal days. They're maybe at 50%, often less. And that's not wrong. Of course you should be saving some energy for yourself, your own thoughts or whatever, that's your right. But it's also better for your work if you are a bit under capacity. It gives you energy to think about the big picture, be creative, etc.

nothings said...

Sure, and some of that is implicit (lifting your work to maximum level possible *for the long term* of course implies that you need to do all that other stuff).

But I would also say it's better to try to achieve max productivity from 8 hours a day, than it is to engage in a crunch involving more than 8 hours a day.

Grandmaster B goes into some related issues.

old rants