Imagine an actor who is to play the role of another character. He comes into the studio and sits while the makeup artists prepare and make him up with his very elaborate costume. In the 15 to 45 minutes his makeup is being done, he prepares himself for the role by reviewing his scripts and rehearsing improvisations.
About an hour later, his make up is done and he’s ready to play this character: he gets in the zone, gets on stage and plays his character. He goes on acting for hours, with the costume still on and after a 6 hour shift, he’s done. But then it takes about 2 hours to dissemble his costume carefully so that it can be used the next day. After disassembling the costume, he can return to his normal day, with whatever strength he’s got life. I bet you can imagine what he’s able to do the rest of the day. For me, I’d just wanna relax, eat and watch something for a while.
Often times, I tell people that my brain kind of melts completely once I get off work and so I’m in no mood whatsoever, to do any other kind of work especially after having mental fatigue. But it wasn’t until last night before bed that I found a way to properly explain what really goes on inside my brain while I’m coding. The opening paragraph above was the Theatrical Explanation.
Once I sit down at my desk, I take a few moments to get myself ready… music, I look at the codes and problems I have to solve next, and so on. Then I start getting into the codes, and as I do so, the neurons in my brain start creating the pathways that puts me in “the zone”. The more time I spend coding, the stronger these pathways become, as well as the connections between the synapses involved. Even when I take short breaks in between codes (like 5 to 15 minutes) these pathways still remain in tact.
This is the condition of my brain for 4 to 6 hours while coding. By the time I close from work and return home, it takes approximately 2 hours for those pathways to dissolved, as well as for the synaptic connections to disconnect, and my brain can then to return back to it’s original state before I started coding. It’s like my brain cells have been training to become specialized just for coding during that period. So they would need time to reset. At this point, the brain is really tired and completely worked out.
Ask any coder: computer programming is a very brain-intensive work. If I had to guess, I would say 6 hours of coding is equivalent to 12 hours of manual labor (I have no evidence of this claim though).
So that is what it’s like for me, whenever I get deep into coding.