Matt from 37Signals blogs about workaholics with the following assertions: they don't get as much done (most of the time) and they focus on inconsequential details.
Many leapt to the defense of workaholics - people who, it seems, are workaholics themselves. Because I'm often labeled a workaholic I'm trying to see past my emotions and yet it still doesn't smell like the truth to me.
And even more so because this weekend I watched Triumph of the Nerds, Cringley's chronicling of the personal computer industry from it's humble roots in what would become Silicon Valley. As he interviewed people, I couldn't help but think that software development is experiencing a culture change. The people who got the boat off the ground were almost entirely obsessed with their work, even down to the details. I have a hard time imagining an Andy Hertzfeld, Woz, or young Bill Gates as a 501 developer.
Even if you go forward a few years, guys like John Carmack don't fit the mould of "balanced life/time to go pick up my kids and watch TV!"
These days though, I think what used to be hobbyism is now simply work and fair game for any person who wants a way to earn their keep and "clock out" for life afterwards. This is not to say that it wasn't that way before, it just seems like much more commitment was involved. Or maybe the moral is that no one with a 501 development attitude did anything noteworthy.
But even as I write that and play my hand as a kid who grew up on the folklore of the early computer industry I have to do a gut check because me staying at work late building yet another website for someone is not the same as writing the first GUI. Not even close...
I take away the notion that there isn't necessarily a direct relationship between time spent at work and productivity but I also know that if I had the 9-5 attitude with no tendency to "get into" my profession, I might as well be an accountant. And as grandiose as it may seem, I'd love to have one idea that really matters versus a lifetime of mediocrity so I could rush home to have a "life."