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How do you find a balance

emmanuelobo profile image Emmanuel Obogbaimhe ・1 min read

Recently I realized how important it is to have a healthy Work-Life balance especially when it comes to burning out. I have a few side projects that I'm currently working on along with learning new technologies and things of that nature. The change in my routine I found most effective was waking up early (around 5-5:30am) and getting to work on one of my projects before I go to work. This has helped me tremendously and made me more effective.

For those of you who are balancing multiple things such as work, side projects, learning and so on, how do you find a balance and avoid burnout?

Discussion

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I'd say prioritize, schedule it, and stick to it.

I'm currently working full-time, have a small family, working on a Master's through Georgia Tech's OMS CS, am very involved in my religion, and have a few hobbies I like to enjoy when I can. Between all that, I don't have much time. Scheduling work is easy. I need to get 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. That's also a pretty high priority because it's how I provide for my family. Family time gets a little more tricky, but it's usually after work and before the children go to bed and as much time as possible on the weekends. My religious involvement is also pretty easy to plan. It's mostly just Sundays for most of the day and a few, scheduled meetings that come up occasionally. School is generally after the kids go to sleep and as needed on the weekends. My hobbies are the hard thing to schedule. Luckily I get to do a few of them at work (eg. Running Club or Disc Golf Club at lunch once a week), but when I can't do it at work it often takes a little time from something else.

The reason I'm able to participate in so much is that I have a schedule that doesn't change much from day to day or week to week and I stick to it. If I don't do school time at night, I get behind. If I don't go to work, I lose my job. If I don't spend time with my family, we're not as happy in the home and I risk putting my family life in jeopardy. If one part is out of balance, it usually affects the others.

So, prioritize what you want to do. Schedule the highest priority first. Write it down and stick to it. Accept that you don't have infinite time and some days you'll only be able to do a fraction of what you want, but that's okay. Doing something on an item that's important to you is better than nothing or doing something on an item that's not important.

Speaking of priorities... I better get back to school work!

 
 

I completely agree with this. Scheduling and prioritizing are key. What I do now is I loosely schedule my days to allow for some flexibility. For example I know from 5:30 to about 6:30ish I do some prayers. Then from that time on till about 8:30ish I work on my side project. And so on. That leaves some room for error for me if something comes up or I have to make a quick change. Great stuff.

 

I can't say I'm the best one to talk to about finding a balance these days, but it helps to think about the positive impact that not coding has on my coding. That way I don't feel like it's a tradeoff I'm trying to make. Anything that can effectively take my mind of code that isn't independently destructive is a positive thing for the coding part, so it's easier to engage in that activity.

Time isn't so much a constraint as energy. You get more done in one hour of peak energy and focus than you do with five sluggish hours. Do things to recharge the tank.

 

Exactly, I can relate to this. I find that giving myself breaks from coding actually rejuvenates my mind and I'm fresh when I start back up again.

 

I agree with John. Every day of my week is pre-scheduled by the week before. Seeing as I have a very bad sleep schedule I tend to wake up between 11AM and 1PM and sleep at around 2AM-4AM but this is due to the company I work for is based in Australia and I work remotely from Britain. Currently my day normally consists of me waking up, all the usual stuff breakfast, errands and such. About 2 hours after I've woken up I'll begin to work on a side project that I've been working on for a couple of months.

I'm not scheduled for any specific time to start work I just have to do a specific amount of hours per week in order to meet the requirements. Along with what you mentioned on the side project I like to work on side projects before actually going into my real work, I feel like they help boost efficiency, wake you up a bit, help get your brain get going.

I know within the next couple of weeks this will completely change for me as I'm starting university on the 18th so the balance will be all over the place. But having everything scheduled really does help.

We also can never forget to schedule a time to check here now can we!

 

That's an interesting schedule. Cool to see how much schedules vary from person to person but can still produce the same level of productivity. Thanks for sharing.

 

There is no such thing as balance. I've stopped deluding myself into believing that such a fairytale exists. I'm a single mom of 3 kids, VP of Engineering, autism advocate and I mentor jr women developers. Rather than strive for balance, I strive to be 100% in whatever I'm doing- whether it's working, spending time with my family, or helping a mentee with her resume. It's less about balance and more about being fully present in every activity. Time ownership is critical (not time management). I tune out the "noise" that distracts from whatever I'm working on or doing- whether that means leaving my iPhone on "do not disturb" or ignoring the pile of laundry on the bathroom floor (I work remotely- thus distractions are everywhere!). As someone else has mentioned, blocking out time for specific tasks and sticking to it- just as I would if it were a meeting- has been hugely successful in helping to ensure that I remain focused on the specific task at hand. Modern life is a juggling act- the key is focus, not balance, IMHO. :)

 

I like those examples lol. You're very right, focus is an instrumental part of productivity. I'm also working on my focus as well, one thing I realized is that I like to multitask frequently. So I don't focus all my attention in one area, which isn't the best thing when you're trying to be productive. Although you're right in that life is a juggling act in a sense I believe it is also a balancing act if you view it in another perspective. When I say balance in this case I mean finding the right portion of time, energy and focus to each of the main areas of your life. For example my faith is my first priority, then family then work and lastly my side projects. They won't all share the same amount of time and effort I put in but I try to maintain it so that none gets more attention than it should or vice versa. Hope that makes sense.

 

When I started my current job, I told my employer, that to build great software you need a rested mind. So if I don't have an appointment, I sleep as long as I need.
There are days that I'm so in flow, that I work for 12 hours. And then there are days that I do only six, because the task stresses me.
We have no deadlines. The task is ready when I say so.
This kind of approach gets you very unstructured days, but also the sense of freedom.
Also learning a lot of clean code techniques helped me to archive things a lot quicker, so that I don't have the need to do extra hours.
Learning is part of the job. I disagree with Uncle Bob who writes that coders should work 40 hours and then learn 20 hours. I want my co-workers to learn new stuff during work-time. Of course many things a mentioned here are sinply now applicable in a agency environment where your client pays per hour.
I stopped doing side projects during normal labour-weeks. Instead I take vacations from time to time to realize some side projects.

 

Yet another interesting approach. I agree with having a well rested mind, I now know from experience sometimes less is more in terms of overworking yourself. I'm curious (and I know different strategies work for different folks), do you think that having no deadlines create an environment where there is too much freedom? I'm not a huge fan of deadlines but for me it actually pushes me to do some of my best work, especially when I'm closing in on the deadline