Development Core Hours

Stay focussed


“One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.”

Web development is hard, you’re faced with a constant barrage of JavaScript errors, CSS quirks, backend memory leaks, and clients altering the spec midway through a build.

Of course, as developers, our brains are hardwired to handle these issues. We’ve built up a database in our minds of known tricks and tips which, when applied to our code, circumvent many of the common issues with web development.

Our development thought process runs on a single thread within our own memory. If this thread is broken, or interrupted, we stall.

It takes a lot of effort to restart our thought process, in fact research by Ninlabs suggests it takes a programmer 10-15 minutes to restart editing code after an interruption.

And even once they restart their editing of code, there is nothing to say that the quality of the output will be equal to an uninterrupted developer.

You see, much like I’ve done with this article, interrupting you whilst you try and focus on a task (in this case reading) is incredibly counter-productive.

And before you know it, you’ve lost your way.

Core Hours

A distraction free period of time for developers to focus on their code, and build without interruption.

We want our developers to be uninterrupted, and give them the opportunity to ramp up their thought process so they can output code to the absolute best of their ability. To achieve this we’ve implemented an initiative called Core Hours.

Core Hours operate in our agency (AnalogFolk) between the hours of 10am — 12 noon and 2pm — 4pm. During this time a developer cannot be interrupted by anyone. This includes line management, project managers, designers, and fellow developers.

Of course Core Hours isn’t just about people interrupting developers, it’s about eliminating all distractions. We encourage the developers to shut down Email, Twitter, Facebook, Phones, Chat IM, and any other type of distraction.

Core Hours is not an ‘always on’ scheme, it only applies to our developers who are in the production phase of projects. We still want to facilitate collaboration within our team, and the wider agency, during the discovery / scoping phase of projects.

We’ve been operating Core Hours for a year now, and the results have been positive. Our quality of output has been much higher, we’ve got a greatly improved success rate in hitting deadlines, and team morale has increased.


The opening quote is by Paul Graham from his Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule article.

The images in this article were created by Jason Heeris, they’re the best representation of what a distraction can do to a developers thought process.