Where the time goes: systems engineer vs. engineering manager

Over the past year, I’ve transitioned from being a hand-on individual contributor doing systems work to being an engineering manager. Here’s a brief analysis of where I’m spending my time and how it’s changed along with my role.

Total Time on Computer

One of the main reasons I use RescueTime is to see what my overall time spent tip-taping away on my computer is. Add maybe 30% to see what my total work time is for a week. There are always going to be mellow weeks and harder weeks, but in general around these numbers is where i’m productively balancing work, life, fitness, etc.

Systems Engineer: ~36 hours
Engineering Manager: ~24 hours

As a manager, I’m spending ~1/3 less time on my computer.

Specific Programs

Systems Engineer

  • 8.5h Sublime Text
  • 8.5h iTerm2
  • 2.9h GitHub
  • 2.6h Gmail
  • 1.4h Trello
Engineering Manager

  • 4.2h Gmail
  • 3.5h HipChat
  • 1.6h Google Docs
  • 1.4h Github
  • 1.3h Technical System Dashboards


Quick takeaways: Everyone emails, and github is an awesome productivity tool for both engineering and managers.

Also, man, more than 8 hours in a terminal? Yikes! That probably takes into account a few hours of editing with nano and a few hours of resolving/investigating production issues.

We didn’t have HipChat last year, but doubtlessly would have been on that quite a bit. We also have many more remote employees, and chat for communication is more of a necessity these days.