I've been programming 8 years for a company. We build business intelligence software systems. Since I thought working is learning, I've always studied in terms of what I was doing at the company while working for 60 hours per week. These days, however, I am looking for a new company for employment, I can see that thought was a dumb idea because I frequently fail in job interviews mainly due to lack of knowledge on the other areas. Of course, I am still willing to improve myself and am really trying. But while working that much of time per week, I can't find good amount of study time to catch up.

I don't think I am the only one to concern about this so I would like to ask how you guys find time to study for your career? How many hours do you assign to studying other areas? Am I missing some time management skills?

  • 5
    Why are you failing interviews with 8 years experience working 60 hours per week? Is your knowledge too specialized? Or is the job market too soft? Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 15:24
  • @Robert Harvey That's the questions I asked myself too. But In the end I had to admit that I was too comfortable with my job without preparing myself for what the job market wants. Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 17:28
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    Step 1 stop working 60 hours a week. Cut back to 55 and bingo, 5 hours available for study! Or cut back to 40 so you can have a life.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 18:18

4 Answers 4


Working 60 hour weeks is going to make it pretty difficult to code much outside work and have anything that resembles a balanced lifestyle. That being said, you are where you are so you have to make the best of it. I would recommend that you try to leverage your domain knowledge to land your next job, rather than relying purely on coding skills. In my region at least, I see a fair amount of jobs that are in the realm of BI analyst/programmer. Surely you have learned plenty of transferable knowledge in the last 8 years, at least within your domain. This could be nothing more than a confidence issue, since that sort of experience is really pretty valuable.

Keep in mind, you really do not need to be a human hard drive of programming knowledge. Doing your current job well, using best practices, is probably enough to keep a good grip on things. If you happen to work in a language not deemed worthy by HR departments any longer, then I would recommend learning a new language or two on the side. Pick up a couple books on Python or .Net (or any HR-friendly platform) and read them a few hours a week. This will make you a bit more marketable and allow you to be exposed to some new paradigms outside of what you are used to. A few hours a week for learning can always be found, even if its the time you would normally watch TV or something else that is not too productive.

  • Thanks for your great suggestions! May I ask how you manage your study time yourself? Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 14:57
  • I don't think it is so much about time management as it is about wanting to do it. Making youself motivated to continue learning is more important than time, since if you really have a hunger to learn you will find the time. Create a cooking blog, write an Audacity effects patch, or an AI chat system. Build something fun that you are passionate about and - trust me - you will have the opposite problem.
    – user3792
    Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 13:36
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    @ironcode: It's also about not working sixty hours a week. That doesn't leave much time for study, particularly if Paul has a life beyond work. Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 18:36
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    Even if he made time, after working 60 hours a week his studying would be for naught since his mind won't maintain the information being learned anyways. Also, I wouldn't hire someone dumb enough to consistently work 60 hours a week. Maybe that is part of the problem also.
    – Dunk
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 15:56

Well walking in your shoes I'd say I've got enough data to figure how much time to assign to studying other areas. Look...

I frequently fail in job interviews mainly due to lack of knowledge on the other areas

...Been there done that. Interviews failures (and passes for that matter) are invaluable source of knowledge for what to learn.

After each interview (no matter failed or passed), I make notes marking what areas I was lacking - that makes a solid base for the further study. Then, I just list, prioritize and estimate items extracted from these notes and that makes a guidance on further learning.

  1. If an item makes a key skill I missed at dream job interview, I try do my best to find time to study it.
  2. If it's a frequently asked stuff requiring I dunno day or two to grok, I study it too.
  3. The rest fails into if time allows bucket. If time allows, I study it thoroughly, otherwise try to get a basic understanding or drop it if it doesn't feel important enough

For the sake of completeness: items in my list include not only technical areas but also whatever other skills I may be missing. These can be items like eg, hard time handling post-interview stress or difficulties with paper-and-pen coding - basically anything that I felt was not quite OK at interview.

PS. maintaining and tracking such a list of high-demand technologies might lead you farther than you expect. Thing is, persistence in fiddling with that list kind of breaks the mental block of programming 8 years for a company.

Eg if you decide that you really badly miss something, one day you may decide to change a job to some not-too-appealing position that however gives you an opportunity of full-time experience in desired area. That happened to me twice. Have to admit, each time it felt like jumping into ice water. Nevertheless in the long term perspective it turned out really worth it.


I've always studied in terms of what I was doing at the company while working for 60 hours per week.

Simply start spending the same amount of time studying for other technologies you're interested in.

It's not clear from your questions how many hours you work per day, and how many days per week.

Anyway, I would use my evenings to read books until I'm tired, or (if you still want to sit in front of a monitor) spend some time in websites like this, they greatly increase your skills and knowledge.

Then in the weekend I would try out new things, maybe starting up some small projects to see what I learned.

Some tips and advice on how to optimize your studies:

  • Pick up only the best books (you can find searching "best books" on SO for example)
  • Learn as soon as possible the best practices
  • Learn as soon as possible common mistakes to avoid and coding horrors

Sometimes you need to burn the midnight oil and really hit it hard. A previous poster talked about a "balanced lifestyle", but sometimes you need to put aside that balance and just be "that guy" with work and personal development.

My suggestion? Have person spurts of studying. Say to yourself, every night for the next 3 weeks I am going to study three hours every night before bed. Sure it'll be a rough 3 weeks, but you'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish. Then take a week off from the crazy schedule and just relax after work. This can go in cycles and you will see yourself successful.

Another thing, when it is time to study or personally code at home, don't let yourself get distracted by T.V. or the internet or any other non-productive activities.

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