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Arika O
Arika O

Posted on • Updated on

Should you write code all the time, even in your free time?

I hear senior developers saying I shouldn't do it because I will get burned out, I hear not so experienced ones saying we should use every moment we have to write another line of code. Some even look down on you and think you're not passionate/ serious enough about your job, just because you don't breath code 24/7.

While I do do work related things after clocking out (and I'm not opposed to that, since I don't have a great deal of experience and there are many things to learn), I can't help thinking about that people working in other fields are not really expected to take their work home with them - I don't see my friend who's a nurse going around and giving shots to her neighbors, after her working hours are done.

What's you opinion on this? Is the amount of time spent coding outside office hours an indicator of how good/ passionate of a developer you are?

Photo soource: Kevin Ku on Pexels

Top comments (86)

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cathyc93 profile image
Cathy Casey-Richards • Edited on

I think it depends on each individual person. Some enjoy coding in their free time, some like to only code during work hours, and some are in between. I don’t think any of these options make one person a better developer than another. It’s all about balance for each individual.

I personally love writing code as my day job and enjoy writing code outside of work from time to time, but I also have a lot of other interests that I like to spend my free time on. I may spend more time coding outside of work if there’s a specific project I’m working on, but I also like to devote time to non-coding projects and activities that interest me.

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bitdweller profile image
Pedro Pimenta

Yes, different strokes for different people. I want to add to this that it also isn't black and white. There are times in my life where I totally do code in my free time, but this is not always the case. Sometimes I do nothing, watch movies, play video games. Other times I buy am ukulele and just practice that for a year (yeah, very specific :) and if I'm feeling it, I will start writing code again, because, this is the most important part I want to and enjoy it.

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

Also - if it's a case of other people looking down on you - that's often a self defence mechanism that hides their own lack of self-worth. They set themselves up as superior by diminishing everyone else. It's not sustainable for them, and isn't true about you. So brush it off.

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shaunagordon profile image
Shauna Gordon

Then there's the question of are people actually looking down on you?

Imposter syndrome's a bitch. It likes to make us think others think less of us because we don't know everything about everything, and yet we all have that same insecurity. Maybe not all of the time, but we've all dealt with it. We've all felt like we're "less-than" or whatever, because we don't know something someone else does.

This field is massive and growing every day. You're not going to know everything about everything. You're not even going to know everything about your little niche. There will always be someone who knows stuff you don't.

And you know what? You also know things other people don't know.

Embrace what you know and share it. Learn the relevant stuff you don't know but need to know. Outsource the rest. Fill your niche, let others fill theirs.

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jsn1nj4 profile image
Elliot Derhay

For what it's worth, there are plenty of people in other positions who do take work home with them; I know at least a few.

I typically don't though since I have responsibilities at home. So when I do leave for the day, even if it's a little late, I'm almost always done for the day.

That's more a responsibility and life balance thing though. If I had more time, I'd probably be working on a side project more often, although it can be harder to depending on what I spent the day racking my brain on.

I mentioned in another comment already, but what I love about working on side projects is that there's no pressure. This is one of the things that makes working on side projects so enjoyable for me—I'm free to handle the work any way I want to, and I can completely put it down if I just don't have the spare time (although I really don't like having to for that reason if I'm being honest 😅).

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chustedde profile image
chustedde

I have occasionally worked on personal programming projects outside of work, but like others have said, only if it's something I find fun or engaging.

I think a good question to ask is why are so many employers not providing time for their employees' professional development? I'm fortunate enough to work for an employer who encourages some professional development on the clock, and I think this should be the norm, even though I know it's sadly pretty far from the current state of things.

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adisreyaj profile image
Adithya Sreyaj

I write code whenever I get free time and I think it will have a bit of an impact on your health too.
I really try to take time off and get my mind off and chill.

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minhthanh3145 profile image
Tô Minh Thành • Edited on

I think it depends on if it makes you happy. Personally I do software development in my free time because it makes me happy and fulfilled, among other things like relationships, friendships. Another thing that makes me happy is self improvement. Besides coding, I also take notes religiously (Zettelkasten) on things that I selectively read, and write blog posts.

My point is that, just because it's coding doesn't mean it's work-related. To me it's just fun, and not to satisfy anyone's expectations on how I should behave professionally. Actually, I actively avoid working more than the agreed hours, in order to make time for coding things that I am personally interested in.

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avxkim profile image
Alexander Kim

You will get burned out, for sure (i got burned after 1 year of non-stop coding). I usually code after my working hours only when i find something new/interesting to play with. If it's just a routine work, i won't do it in my free time.

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jsn1nj4 profile image
Elliot Derhay

Yeah, that's something to watch out for.

What I like about coding in my free time (when I'm able to) is that there's no pressure. So even if I don't have the time to, I don't have to worry about it.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

I'm still not there. Sometimes I feel bad that I don't use my free time for more coding. Most of the days it's like this but I have periods when I can relax and not care about it.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

Same here. Usually when I code in my free time is to try something new.

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mikekennedydev profile image
Michael Kennedy • Edited on

A few years back, after a particularly nasty personal event I threw myself into a coding project outside of work hours. I spent a few hours each night and most weekends working on this project.

I learnt loads from it, lots of which I continue to use in my daily work; it helped to rebuild my confidence and eventually earned myself a great deal of recognition.

But as a long term method of getting ahead its not worth it. It took a colleague to point out how much of my mental health I was risking by continuing in that way.

Sure, as a short term thing it gave me the grounding I needed. But as a long term approach it just doesn't work. And I hate to think what I would've done to myself had I continued in that way.

As far as coding goes, how often does a solution come to mind away from the keyboard? That time away is just as important to the creative process.

Moderation in all things.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

"As far as coding goes, how often does a solution come to mind away from the keyboard?"

This is actually funny because every time I take a break and I go out for a walk with my dog, I end up talking to myself about the code. Sometimes I even come up with solutions :). Thank you for your input.

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ferenczy profile image
David Ferenczy Rogožan

In short, if you want to be a really good or outstanding developer, you should use every opportunity to learn and code. Of course, it increases the chance of burning out eventually, but you can consider it a price paid for being an outstanding developer. Nothing is for free and it's only your choice of how much you want to invest. More you invest, better you may become. Find a good balance. Sacrifice if you want more. People are different so someone has to invest more, someone less to be at the same level. It's also not for everyone. Ideally, it's your hobby so you tend to learn and code as much as you can, often at an expense of not sleeping or similar sacrifices, simply because you like it and enjoy it. But that's probably not your case, since you wouldn't ask such question.

You can still be a good developer, even if you don't invest your own time into learning, but I don't personally know any outstanding developers around me, who wouldn't learn & code all the time simply because they like it.

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ferenczy profile image
David Ferenczy Rogožan

Also, the IT is generally a no-bullshit field regarding the skills. It usually doesn't matter how many schools you have finished, how many diplomas you have or how many hours of your free time you devote to learning and coding every day. What matters is your real knowledge and your skills.

So if anyone is telling you that you're not a good developer just because you don't spend the whole nights coding, it means he's an idiot who has no clue what matters, and he won't be able to help you grow.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

Thank you for the nice words. I think we live amazing times, when as you said, people without CS studies can enter the field and become as good as they want. There's no limit on the things one can learn (ok, maybe just time wise). I'm lucky I didn't have to sacrifice anything until now because I already liked learning new things, even before becoming a frontend developer. But I understand that for others self teaching can be challenging. And not because they don't want to become better but because it doesn't suit them.

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fida1989 profile image
Fida Muntaseer

Continuously connecting yourself with work/code will surely exhaust you sooner or later. So it's wiser to have breaks and do something else in different arena like hobbies, sports, hangouts...etc after work hours. Or at least a good long sound sleep. You can utilize your weekends/hoidays for learning new stuff or developing pet projects.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

Now that we work from home, do naps count :)?

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

What are you doing it for? Is it you are doing it for career progression, personal branding, creating your own startup or you are interested in developing open source because it is fun?

You don't really exactly need to do coding all the time outside of your work. Enriching your mind helps a lot like listening to a podcast, reading books, watching videos, networking, documenting your development journey through your personal blog.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

Right now I do it for career progression/ expanding knowledge. And yes, hobbies are really important for keeping a healthy mind. Thank you for your input.

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thramosal profile image
Thiago Ramos • Edited on

I think it depends. I would code after my work hours if it's something that I am learning or want to learn or understand it better. Also, if I have some sort of a side project I would do that too. And that kind of thing comes and goes. If you think that you need to code after work hours or you will stay behind I would say for you to relax. FOMO and the feeling that other people are making progress and you are not is the one thing that could make you feel stress.
I think if you do not exaggerate you will always be able to learn new things, work on side projects, and code after work hours. But you also be able to play video games, watch movies and just chill.

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itachiuchiha profile image
Itachi Uchiha

No, you shouldn't. Only robots are work without any interruption. Your self-improvement is also important. People shouldn't be a lover of their job. This should be a hobby. When you write code all the time, you may get burnout syndrome.

In the past, I met a lot of people who had burnout syndrome. You should do different things o remember you're a human. Read books, do gym, cook something, draw something or dancing, etc.

The job we love shouldn't kill us. I wanted to die about one year ago because of different reasons. This job was one of my reasons to kill myself.

My girlfriend lied to me. Because of this, I was really sad, and I was under stress while doing my job. Sometimes, I've failed because of these reasons.

Thinking more, really bad idea. This is a kind of die. Let your mind be free. You'll be more successful.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

I'm sorry to hear you went through bad times, I hope you are feeling better now. And I agree, we should avoid burnout as it might even make you quit coding all together - I know someone who actually did.

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itachiuchiha profile image
Itachi Uchiha

Do you like to watch movies? Do it.

Nowadays, I'm trying to improve my English. I loved these words, "I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?"

Stay strong :)

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jamesmh profile image
James Hickey

I think there are two aspects to this question:

a) Coding on the side as a "hobby" ("for fun")
b) Coding on the side as an investment in career advancement, entrepreneurship, etc.

A

If you enjoy coding and want to do it on the side - why not? If it "recharges your batteries" then go for it. But I would agree that having other hobbies is a good thing ;)

B

If you want to invest in your future career (easier to get a job, ability to get better jobs, more opportunities, want to start your own business someday) then you have to do it at a time other than your full-time day job 🤷‍♂️

Also, your current job may use outdated tech or you may not have good mentorship there. What do you do? Well, YOU have to figure that out on your own time.

How can you get experience with open-source if your company doesn't allow you to during the day? Again, it's gotta be on your time.

I do a lot of stuff on the side, in addition to many personal commitments and duties I have. But I always make sure my family comes first and I try to prioritize what activities will have the biggest impact ATM.

For example, if someone asks me to write a book for a well-known tech publisher - should I focus on that? Or just pump out blog posts? It depends on what my future goals are...depends on why I'm blogging too.

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

I totally agree that the more you code, the more experience you have and it's a great investment in your career (most likely the best investment). I think I envy people that can code for 8-9 hours and then go home and code some more because coding is both their job and their hobby :).

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

No. Find a way to live a well rounded life. I love code, and have done for 30 years, but there is more to life. If you're doing it out of some sense that you have to keep up or catch up - here's a secret - YOU NEVER WILL! Not because you're a bad programmer or bad human, but because it's impossible. You will be a better programmer in the long run if you allow your brain time off to recharge.

Crunch time happens occasionally (1-2 times a year is enough). Try to be balanced the rest of the time. If you are finding that hard, have a think about why - internal or external factors.

This might be relevant.

codingmindfully.com/the-software-d...

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arikaturika profile image
Arika O

I always have the feeling I will never catch up or I won't know as much as I need to know but I suppose this is a feeling everyone is struggling with. Thank you for the resource, I was pleased to find out that I'm not experiencing any of the symptoms of a burnout developer :).

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

Glad to hear! It's completely a feeling everyone struggles with. There is too much software engineering to fit in a single human mind! So enjoy the process of learning and admire and take inspiration from those who know a lot already!

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