time during which a machine, especially a computer, is out of action or unavailable for use.

Your site is not serving:

  • There’s been a catastrophic failure and you’ve deleted the directory that your database engine stores data in.

  • You’re performing database maintenance and downtime is necessary.

  • You’re executing complex database migrations that result in downtime.

For any developer this is an anxious time. A time when we are all on edge. If the downtime is planned; it’s chosen because it’s the best outcome from your sum cost comparisons. Yet it still doesn’t sit well, you wonder about the affected users. You wonder about the impact. It’s not a place we want to be on a regular basis. If it’s unplanned downtime it’s a whole other level of concentration. A new kind of focus, all thoughts and energy directed towards the fix and bringing your site back up. Never have you been so productive at 3am.

These - both planned and unplanned - feelings are shared by all developers and we are adverse to them. In our jobs we consider this and dislike it, but what do we do with our personal downtime? Are we really ok with this downtime, why does this downtime sit with us so well and yet any other kind is unacceptable?

While watching Netflix consider if this the best and most enjoyable use of your downtime. If you ask your self: “Is this really what I want to be doing?” I suspect that it’s more that this is the easy choice rather than best. If we consider just the planned downtime. When your web app is down you are making necessary and positive changes that will improve your app. When we have personal downtime we often make no positive changes. Netflix may be great but what are you gaining? What’s the positive change that you’ve made?

Downtime is not relaxation and I am not arguing that you should never relax. Relaxation is a positive change that will benefit you. It gives time for your brain to relax and recuperate. During downtime you are out of action, doing nothing, wasting time (probably). Sure there’s a balance to be had between downtime and relaxation, and it’s not always that easy to tell. But consider it… am I making the best choice?