Often, during Interviews, Retrospectives, Morning StandUps or Knowledge Sharing sessions, I hear people who describe their daily routine with a bored and boring tone.
Every tasks is a pain in the ass, nothing is really interesting, and everything is hard. Days go by without - apparently - any new challenge or new learnings.
It is really like that?
Don't get me wrong. Coding is hard, some tasks or legacy projects are really boring crap, still, after so many years in the industry I manage to find enthusiastic challenges and learnings almost weekly.
Don't get me wrong. It's not always greenfield development, coding flow and super challenging cool features.
It's not always unicorns, rainbows and ice-cream.
It is often sweat, blood and tears.
Believe me, I rant a lot. But I love what I do and I am always excited at solving problems or improving the things that make me so upset.
So. How is it possible that so many people can't find joy or interest in what they do?
Everyday I ask my kids what they did in school.
Everyday I get the same reply:
Good. Not much, all OK-ish..
And then I ask myself, and them:
How is it possible?!? 6 hours and nothing happened?
Nothing that made you angry, made you laugh, bored you to death
No test that frightened you.
No experiment that caught your interest.
No act of heroism, or bullyism in the school yard.
No funny meme shared in your school chat or dumb challenge taken from Tiktok?
Nothing has happened that is worth mentioning?!?
A day like that is not OK-ish, it is terrible!
Of course, during the rest of the day they start telling bits and pieces of their school life and we are all sure that it is not true that every day is the same. But when first asked, the automatic response lacks of this awareness.
Being mindful about your emotions, about what makes you happy or angry, about what your expectations are and about what you do to meet them is very important to live an content life and regain control over events.
Sometimes it is not lack of enthusiasm or motivation, rather lack of communication skills, or humility or the assumption that what we do is not so interesting or important.
We are developers, (except rare cases ) we are not saving lives or changing the world, I wrote about that when I had to prepare myself for a career orientation event for school students at my company: Coding is boring, why do I love coding?
Therefore it is indeed possible that when asked about our day, about our job, about the projects we are working on, we don't know what to say, we don't know how to tell it in an appealing way. If it's not appealing or worthy to us, how can we transmit enthusiasm to others?
Even if you are not interested in going on stage at Tech Conventions or in becoming a Leader/Manager, I really suggest joining a Toastmasters International club in your town.
You will have plenty of opportunities of giving prepared or Impromptu speeches, Introducing yourself, answering questions out of the blue about topics you have no idea, you will learn giving feedback or story-telling and by practicing all that you will become more convincing and intriguing (or simply sound more enthusiastic and interesting) next time you are telling about yourself and your job ( be it at an interview or a party).
If on the other hand, you truly believe your job is worthless and what you do is hard, boring and pointless I suggest a few exercises to change perspective:
You can learn a lot from little things.
Sometimes it can be a funny or interesting anecdote you can just throw in at a dinner.
Sometimes it is just a shortcut that saves you keystrokes and time.
Sometime it could be a change in perspective that makes your life happier.
No matter how small these learnings are, remember the compound effect:
The more you learn, the more you grow. Exponentially.
It might be reading about the Iranian Revolution, after a watching a silly french comedy.
It might be understanding phonetics and languages after a trip to a viking museum.
It might be lockpicking after having lost the keys of your basement.
It does not matter. What matters is the attitude.
Be curious. be hungry.
Follow every link, open every tab.
Let the child in you keeping asking questions. And look for the answers - on google or at the library.
Keep a Developer Journal: It is very important and useful, to fight Imposter Syndrome (you can browse back and realise how noob you were one or 5 years ago, and therefore how much you have learned and have grown so far), and to retrieve some snippets of code, or recall some things.
For something not strictly code related ( like quotes or books or movie excerpts I like) I sometimes use a Commonplace Book but if you are very disciplined there are hundreds of ways to collect, gather and classify information, check out Personal Knowledge Management.
It is a matter of attitude.
If you are curious, you will also find joy in the little things you discover.
With a little bit of effort and discipline, you could also practice finding joy in whatever you have to do. Or better, you can change perspective, and change any boring task that you have to do, into an opportunity for learning and find joy.
An annoying bug could become a interesting detective challenge.
A tedious manual cleanup task, could be the opportunity to learn some shell scripting skills.
Picking up a legacy project could open endless refactoring opportunities where your design skills would shine.
Really. You can find joy in everything you do. You should be able to find joy everywhere.
If you really don't or can't (maybe you really work in a bad team or company, where you can't afford taking any minute off the crunch time, to read those docs with more attention, or to invest in some proper Continuous Integration/Deployment pipeline, or to share ideas and pair-program with your colleagues, well... do something for yourself and for your happiness.
Change what you don't like.
Yes, it might be hard, but do you prefer to be hating every single minute of your working day ( of your life)?
Be it an itchy pullover, a boring job where your talent is not acknowledged, or the partner from who you grew distant; if it does not make you happy, do whatever you can to change the situation.
And if you really can't: then you don't have any other chances than changing perspective and focus on what is good in the situation anyway.
Because something good, some joy, although tiny and apparently irrelevant, can be found.
The itchy pullover can remind you of your grandma and of winter holidays you spent at her place.
The boring job, alleviates you from the stress of constant pressure to prove yourself and grants you stability and security.
Your partner might not sparkle passion and butterflies at every look or touch, but allows you to be fully yourself at home, and you can really talk about everything without faking.
Again, keeping a journal helps a lot; call it Secret Diary or Gratitude Journal or how you prefer, write a sentence or a page, it does not matter. What matters is keeping the streak, write something every evening, something positive that happened during your day.
Forget what went wrong or made you angry, focus only on those things that sparkled joy, or were at least relatively pleasant.
It is a nice (and sometimes hard) exercise but it helps you reframe your day, your emotions, close the day with a positive feeling.
Mindfulness and gratitude are connected and you will start looking at your days in a different way.
“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home... it's your responsibility to love it, or change it.” —Chuck Palahniuk