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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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What are your tips for avoiding burnout?

Top comments (47)

mathur_anurag profile image
Anurag Mathur 
  1. Drink lots of water. Not coffee, not Red Bull, just plain water.

  2. Take frequent breaks from work. A few minutes every hour is good.

  3. Walk / run / jog / exercise everyday.

  4. Talk to a human being face to face for a few minute. Do not leave touch with your human side.

  5. Eat balanced food.

  6. Pick a day to engage in other activities that you do not consider work to ensure that feel rested.

gosukiwi_20 profile image
Federico Ramirez

Aw man I have to talk to another human being? Dang I guess I'll burnout /jk

cthothubo profile image

Burnout doesn't come in a week. It takes years of accumulated frustration piling up. Once you become burn out is already too late. So if you are already burned out, take a sabbatical and consider a new job. I did that and worked for me.

If you think you may become burned out, you need to figure out what is causing it. Maybe is how your company works, maybe are your customers, maybe is a single project that keeps coming back. Seek a way to remove that from your life. In my experience changing the way teams and companies work is impossible, so consider switching jobs if you can't avoid what causes you stress.

Burnout had little to do with coding, and more with how you feeling your work. I am happier when I code than when I am doing management. Time off is also important, but if your work suck you will still feel miserable and depressed. Is rather work on something cool 50 hours a week than do something I hate for 30.

kwelch profile image
Kyle Welch

The biggest tip I can give is to allow yourself to take time away from it. No matter was is causing the burnout it will be there when you come back to it. I can honestly say staying later or dwelling on an issue has never solved an issue faster than leaving it and coming back to it refreshed. One way I try to allow myself to shift focus is to have concurrent projects. This allows me to pick up something new and move it forward as I clear myself of the frustrations of the first project.

Another good tip is to reach out for help. In almost every case someone has been there and can provide guidance. There are all of people out there that are willing to help you just need to be open to asking for it.

nitishdayal profile image
Nitish Dayal

+1 on both points

Deal w/ anxiety + PTSD, things piled up and I was super overwhelmed around August and didn't touch any programming language for 3mos. Was honestly the best choice I could have made.

When I started up again, one of the first things I did was get on Twitter. 0 followers, wasn't aware of the world of Twitter-famous developers, just started tweeting out questions with hashtags relating to the topic I was struggling with. Lo and behold, people a lot smarter than me helped! I became engaged in conversations! I got a 🤘🏾 from @thepracticaldev (<3)! I contributed to open source! I found a mentor!

Don't overload yourself, take a break if you need it, openly ask questions. All around great advice.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

"I got a 🤘🏾 from @thepracticaldev (<3)!"

Aww ❤️

I also really like this advice. Yesterday I was feeling overwhelmed by having a lot on my plate, and I just reached out to a friend for some help getting it all together. I rarely do that, and I want to learn to be faster to ask for help.

kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

Walk away from it every night.

If you're working on a side project in addition to your normal job, keep most of your nights free.

Go enjoy some nature. Kayaking has really helped me disconnect and recharge.

I think another keyword is disconnect. I've felt 1000% better since removing email from my phone, turning off most notifications, and staying off my phone after 7pm. Give my eyes some non-screen time. :)

weswedding profile image
Weston Wedding

Don't feel obligated to work on your "side projects" you work on in your free time or even have any side projects, especially if you're already getting paid to code. Stop reading and thinking about coding all the time, unless you feel like doing it.

There can be an immense pressure to try to do and read all the things all the time. But you don't have to. Very few people live and breathe coding and software design patterns and the latest frameworks and are just fine! Have a hobby that isn't what you're already doing for 8 hours a day!

pavsaund profile image
Pavneet Singh Saund • Edited

This is a very personal topic, and there are many good answers to the discussion already. I'd like to add a little perspective, as someone who's experienced burnout.

Many refer to burnout as work-related, but there isn't a guarantee that's the source. Quite often work can be a contributing factor, and also a trigger, but the source of burnout can be some place else. This was the case with me. A combination of many factors. Personal health, diet, work-pressures, raising small children, an ill wife. Things many people deal with on a regular basis, but for me the pressure built up over time, and bubbled over.

The thing is it often happens to people that are passionate. People who care about the things they are doing that are also the source of that burnout. It's a double-edged sword.

It's like doing the right things for the wrong reasons.

My way back from burnout has been a long one, and I'd like to share some things I've learned that makes all of the difference, for me.

To recover from the initial incident, only one thing helped:
Disconnecting from all external commitments, and taking rest. Huge benefit for me was paid time away from work. A perk everyone has in Norway. Gardening became therapy for me in this period (not so much now 😉). Spending time with my family and children. Doing more things I wanted to vs had to.

After that initial "recovery" (I wasn't ready to start working) I found, and Embraced Empathy. This is a very personal one, but this has been a guiding principle in my life ever since I experienced burnout. Show empathy for myself has allowed me to show it to others. Reaching out to others has allowed me to show it to myself. It's a positive, self-enforcing cycle. which has built up my own resilience,

Other things played a major factor in the time since, and I tend to balance and weigh these practices differently based on actual needs:

  • Focus on your circle of influence. Not your circle of concern. This has been really powerful for me. When worried and concerned about things I cannot change, I feel helpless. Often REALLY outraged, but at the end of the day, I have no way of releasing that pressure. After I switched to focusing on the things within my control, I've seen my circle of control / influence expand & a greater sense of contentment.
  • Eat well and Move. Your mind and body play a key part in sustaining your brain. You don't need to be an athlete, but a simple 20 minute walk daily will work wonders. Also, a good diet will work wonders.
  • Practice mindfulness. This doesn't need to be meditation, but taking time out during the day to be aware of your motions. Try to act purposefully, instead of by habit.
  • Regular introspection. A mix of mindful mornings and journaling has helped me formulate thoughts and come to conclusions, which has allowed me to adjust course when I felt things weren't working.

There are more than enough points here to dig in to.
I've shared my story of burnout here, if you're interested:

k2t0f12d profile image
Bryan Baldwin

Get regular sleep. Even if you have to tear yourself away sometimes. Notice when you feel compelled to sit in front of your computer, but aren't accomplishing anything.

Find something you can do, and like to do, regularly away from your desk. It should involve light exercise and limited focus. Swimming, gymnastics, dancing, and gardening come to mind.

Besides the obvious benefits of activity, these sorts of things can induce a daydreamy state - Theta brain waves. This level of consciousness is ideal for letting your thoughts coalesce. I often think of my best ideas, or suddenly discover the next thing I need to do to solve a problem while showering, or mowing the lawn.

grmpyprogrammer profile image
Chris Hartjes

For the past 2 years I have been doing a 4-day workweek from Mon-Thur - 32 hours a week. One of my mentors put me onto the idea and asked me to write about it ->

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Thanks for this 😊

casen profile image

I think the best way is to use your creativity for activities outside of programming or computers. Music, art, sports, dance, gardening, wood working.

It is a tough balance to strike due to the fact that many of us feel pressure to be productive at writing code. Some days just won't be productive, and your best bet is to rest your mind and prepare for tomorrow. The main cause of burnout is maintaining too fast a pace, and taking work a bit too seriously.

nezteb profile image
Noah Betzen

If you're normally a workaholic that needs calendars, todo lists, and productivity apps: schedule blocks of time during your day for relaxation. Don't be specific. During those blocks, do not try to be productive. If you can't think of anything to do, sit and do nothing.

Also: drink water, stand up often, stretch, and walk/run/bike.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Good advice

mikengarrett profile image
Mike 🤘

A healthy lifestyle can be minimized, but it must not be eliminated.

I've found that I need at least 4 hours of sleep to function the next day (2 REMs).
I'm most efficient when I take a short break to walk and stretch every 3-4 hours.
Eating healthy makes a huge difference to me. Often a vegetable-based meal will do more than a pot of coffee, especially for lunch.
If you're getting stuck, switch to a different task or take a walk to allow your brain some time to break out of the loop.
Make sure your workstation is configured to be ergonomically efficient. Herman Miller has a good amount of public content on the topic:
Get familiar with the warning signs of burnout in yourself and tackle them when they first appear. It's better to take time off to sleep, eat, workout, socialize, etc to allow you to recharge and start back over than it is to recover from total burnout.

Everyone is built different, so take my insight with a grain of salt.

mdabek profile image
Marek Dabek

Walk / run / jog / exercise everyday.

I've found a sport I really like, happened to be judo. Add a group of people you can play this sport with, happened to be a bunch of great guys.

Each time I am on the mat all problems just go away.

judo58362 profile image

Good 4 U my Friend. I am a former Judoka in the USA----still love to talk about it and be involved in some way.
Take care

rnelson0 profile image
Rob Nelson

Pace yourself. There's always more work tomorrow no matter how much you get done today. Don't set an impossible pace dealing with the queued up work you can't meet, because you will try and hold yourself to it, and so will those around you. It's better to finish something earlier than promised once in a while than to be behind once in a while. Don't let the burden of being a superhero at delivering things fast, and the worry of what happens when you finally can't, wear you down.

maxart2501 profile image
Massimo Artizzu

Always get your rightful sleep. Never, ever get into sleep deprivation.

Take your time for personal projects and studies. It's important!

Also, for something entirely not related to development. Stimulate your creativity. Heck, even play some videogames!

Do sports. Relieve all that stress. Personally I play rugby.

Hug someone.

joshcheek profile image
Josh Cheek

Don't do it obligatorily (for me, at least, that makes it a chore and it looms over me)

Avoid commitment (the idea of releasing an open source thing is exciting, but maintaining it over time is high cost, low appreciation -- even abuse, and doesn't stand to offer you much).

The simple obvious thing you would have done when you were brand new, that thing is actually a pretty good solution. If it's not good enough, introduce complexity as needed. But don't start with complexity, so much effort has been spent and so many simple easy projects turned into failures because people were trying to do it the "Right Way". But the right way has a scope, and that scope is typically medium to large projects. Don't start there, you'll spin your wheels and fail and burn out.

If you do those things, then you can have the option to get excited enough to do a small several hour to several day project, learn a lesson from it, and then set it aside to never be looked at again. Those projects are fun, and they don't cost you some permanent investment that is hard to get back.

Also, if you're doing this for work: Then know that estimates are bullshit, so don't commit to some estimate, and don't feel bad for blowing one (do reflect on why, though). And don't get attached to your code or some idea you suggested. You'll enjoy work so much more if you have better code that other people suggested, and if you don't feel obligated to double down on an opinion that as you think about it, is probably wrong.