The 80 Hours Challenge

In November 2018 I read a Tweet of Elon Musk claiming that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”.

In a reply in that Tweet’s thread he said that “80 hours sustained” is the “correct number of hours a week to change the world”

To be fair: he said it varies per person but let’s just ignore that for a minute

Sounds charming, doesn’t it? Changing the world. Who would not want to do that instead of just being part of the rat race on a day to day basis, barely having any impact on anything, probably not even having your boss or your bosses boss know your name.

What an impact he had on our company? I don’t even know this person?!

I wanted to figure it out myself how much of an impact I can have on at least a small part of the world. So as some sort of New Year’s resolution I decided to start my own personal 80 Hours Challenge (#80hourschallenge) in which I will try for (initially) 12 full weeks to get as close to 80 hours of work as possible.

Many people warned me about that as that’s unhealthy and I totally agree with them. I’ve had stressful times where I was forced by artificial deadlines to work for 80 hours or more per week in client projects and it was brutal and no fun. No doubt. The experiment is completely voluntary though and I can stop it any time whenever I get the impression that it might start to actually become self-destructive or unhealthy in any form. Having worked as a self-employed Developer for the past 7 years in a row now I think I developed a good sense for how much work is too much work and when to pull the ripcord. My girlfriend has also always taken care of me and warned me when she had the feeling I was working too much. No need to worry! (Although I really appreciate so much empathy from you! 🥰)

I have regularly worked for 45–55 hours on average for the last couple of years without feeling any kind of stress. I love my job as professional Software Developer and even more, it’s not only a job for me but has always ever been my hobby in the first place. So like more than 80% of all my fellow Developers out there (according to the recent Developer Survey Results by Stackoverflow) I also code in my spare time and I really enjoy it!

In fact, I sometimes even do that after a stressful day in the office to relax and come down. Working on my own side projects and maintaining and contributing to open source projects really recharges my batteries most of the time. As long as I can freely decide what to work on and when to do it!

Release fast or release never!

At the same time I have the same problem many other Developers doing side projects face: I tend to lose interest if I don’t see any results fast enough because there are 100 things appearing more exciting to me then. By setting such a high number as a target figure I want to try to motivate myself to maybe do the extra hour every once in a while, going the extra mile to really get stuff done and actually get things shipped at last. Instead of: “naaah, I can finish that deployment script tomorrow, that’s fine, no pressure” and then procrastinate until the infinity and never get it done I hope it will be more like: “ok, one more hour closer to your 80 hours goal AND you will have the script done!”

I don’t know how this will work out or if it will work at all. I have no idea how much impact on the world around me that will have but I am willing to find out. In the first 2 weeks in 2019 I already failed quite miserably in terms of reaching the 80 hours (53,5 and 61,25 hours) but at least I managed to motivate myself to continue to work on that side project I had “on hold” for half a year now. And that’s already a first small success for me. I don’t know if I had done that without that arbitrary 80 hours goal.

I think the initial kick-off to this came by Jani and his idea of the 72-hour-startup which you can follow on Twitter: #theshippening

You can follow my journey on Twitter where I will tweet about that every once in a while: #80hourschallenge