Throughout the last year, I have worked part-time as a working student and also studied at the university. I was not the first and not the last one who has combined that during their studies, but the problem for me was, that at the end of the day I have felt absolutely exhausted mentally and physically. That caused problems with my health and motivation to continue working on my goals or anything. (yeah, “goals,” I wish I had something more specific at that time).
Those “signals” showed that I am doing something wrong with my life and it cannot go on like this anymore. I understood that I need changes.
- What kind of changes?
That will help me to balance my life and bring my thoughts in order.
- Who do they depend on?
Everything depends on me, my decisions, and actions.
- How can I cause them?
By following the next action items:
1. Daily physical exercise
In my situation then anything would be useful (even just a short walk). The key is to remember to get out of your chair and move. And I know, that’s the biggest challenge. It’s great if you recognize that you need to move during your breaks. First I did manage to get out and walk at lunch about 15 minutes, and now I continue doing that too with adding cardio (20 min.) and yoga (20 min) in the evening in my daily routine.
2. Low carb diet
First and foremost, we have a “sitting” job (just like more and more people these days, most of the knowledge workers these days, etc.). So, when it comes to our diet, we need to reduce carbohydrates because eating them increases the sugar level in our blood. Sugar gives energy, but it’s processed by our bodies just too quickly. In such a short time, the spike is created, and the body regulates it by injecting insulin to the blood, and that removes the sugar from the blood and makes us sleepy very quickly. So, we developers cannot be productive anymore and wishing for a nap during the working day. And the “quick fix” is to eat more sugar and get out of form even more.
3. Get a sufficient amount of sleep
Programmers who sleep less and code more eventually burn out.
Now I am working as a software engineer, busy with blogging, studying new things that are not related to my profession after work, doing that daily workout, and actually, I guess, I need more time to sleep than 7-8 hours per day, so recently I sleep around 9-10 hours. Nevertheless, 7-8 hours per night is ideal for most adults.
As the work routine in IT industry involves much of mental exertion and less physical exhaustion, it’s possible to manage even with less sleep in case the person feels mentally fresh. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance between the number of hours spent awake vs. asleep.
4. Non-programming activity
Many software developers consider programming as a hobby first. And also trying to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies and the newest advances in the field is also essential for pursuing a career in the IT industry.
In fact, in terms of mental processing, the job is much more similar to a lawyer or doctor than anything else.
Becasue of this intensity, it is an excellent idea to have something different to do as a hobby.
At work, we are continuously interacting with lots of other people. Lots of backgrounds. It’s essential to be able to chat with a wide range of people about ‘normal non-work stuff’ at work. And to be able to talk at different levels to many different disciplines or topics.
In this case, having a hobby will help us to become a more rounded person and get along with a wide range of people at work much easier.
5. The psychological trick to staying fit with hard questions
Usually, we’re trying to avoid tough questions, because we’re not sure how to answer them and to where even start. Questions like: “What is my long-term goal?” “Why do I like doing this?” “Why am I feeling like this?” and so on.
Taking the time to think about these questions and finding your answers will allow you to value your own physical and mental health much more, and you’ll be able to take care of yourself better.
There tend to be more mental tricks which are so simple, that it’s almost a crime that you aren’t using them every day.
If you want to learn more about the psychological hacks, how and where they can be applied, then you can find them in my weekly newsletter, along with your FREE Professional Networking Cheat Sheet.
Thank you for reading! 🙏
If you have any thoughts on this post, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, and leave comments below.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels
Top comments (91)
What I do to stay fit:
What I want to improve:
Thank you for sharing 🙏 I really like your upcoming plan very much!
Just today I went for a walk during lunch break. I had your post in mind and it inspired me to do better.
I would like to share a couple of psychological shifts that I have made, which seem to be working for the long-term. I don't like to call it tricks, or hacks, because it is a completely normal way that the mind works. If anything our minds have been tricked and hacked by abnormal things in our environment :-) and we're retraining them to normality.
Choose DISCIPLINE, and NOT motivation
Make the journey itself its own reward
Remember your ego WILL backlash on you
Finally I want to say that a daily practice of meditation will probably give you everything you need to be able to do the rest. Everything you need to know is already inside of yourself. Train yourself and your mind to take pauses, away from default reacting, toward thoughtful response.
AND, sorry I talk too much (-:
I choose to get up early enough and do everything first thing in the morning. That is how it works for me, or else I know I won't do it later. Get up, get it done, feel awesome for having done it, don't spend the rest of the day feeling guilty.
This is great
I try to follow most of these points on a daily basis, but I really struggle with getting proper sleep. I gotta work on that.
I just don't like the low carb fad because not all carbs are evil, only the refined ones are!
Whole carbs actually help to control our blood sugar levels. Think of oats: they're loaded with carbs, but they are recommended even for people with diabetes.
That's why I think that instead of cutting on all carbs, we should be cutting on bad carbs only.
I understand you 😅
Yes, it's true: "we should be cutting on bad carbs only" 👍
Thanks for a great post Ilona, super important subject.
I am happy to share this experience with the dev community! 🙂
The title should be "How to Stay Fit Physically and Mentally and Keep Coding Without Kids" just to be more realistic :) , now I am not saying that it's not possible, however when you have little ones that part where you say "Get Sleep" and Exercise , yeah that's not going to happen in same day or few times a week unless there is 30 hrs in a day or you work 9-2.
Good post, I think no matter who/what the situation is everyone should take time for their body even if it's 20-30 minutes more a day.
Ah, yea, having kids is totally different setup. I try to live balanced, having proper sleep, having exercise, pay attention to nutrition intakes, but I must say that, this is much more difficult if you have a small kid.
Totally agree. I code after my child sleeps after 8pm for 2 hours every other day. I strength train the nx day instead. (current setup)
I wrote How Programmers Can Improve Their Fitness Without Going to the Gym, which is a good starting point for somebody wanting to improve their fitness. I even linking a bunch of backing studies!
As to low-carb diets, I have a site dedicated to exploring such recipes and information, Edaqa's Kitchen. Main point, don't stress too much here. Reduce sugar, replace white with whole grain, and you'll be a lot better off. Beyond that, skip the rice and pasta.
Thank you for the link to the post! I have read it and agree with all the provided action items to improve our fitness 👍
I have a colleague that applies the pomodoro technique and always stays productive. I didn't know what he was doing because it was masked by his smoking needs but I soon realised he never spent more than 5 minutes doing that.
Perhaps, he did that subconsciously, or?
BTW, I know many software developers who use the Pomodoro technique and cannot be productive without it anymore.
No. He knows Pomodoro. I just didn't know at the time that that was what he was doing. I thought he needed frequent breaks because he smokes. I guess he does but maybe that helps him be more productive. Maybe people that smoke are more productive than people that don't, since they often take small breaks.
I personally feel that frequent breaks make me very unproductive
I work at a university and i've noticed that all the age groups have begun to do most of desk work standing.While the students have still been placed into the traditional seated learning.Why haven't more systems been adjusting this?
Interesting observation! I wish I knew the answer 😩
I guess it's because there are no concrete studies that would prove that standing work is any healthier than seated work, it's still in high debate
This reminds me, I've been working on a cheap alternative to stand up desk using 3d printer parts and 1in pvc. Will try to finish this soon, my weight has increased dramatically :(, I gotta shake this off. I'll make a post about it.
Wow! I would be interested to read this post 😃
You may want to rethink your advice with respect to a "low-carb diet". I don't want to go into all the details here but I'd recommend these resources:
I'd be happy to suggest more videos and reading material if you're interested.
Thank you for the links to the informative sources! I will check them out 🙂
This is something we need to hear more often! Balance is SO IMPORTANT, from physical exercise, to diet, to sleep.
Sometimes I find myself falling into bad habits and have to give myself a kick. Immediately start feeling (and coding!) better again.
Yeah, sometimes that happens to me too 😅In the end, we are all just humans.
Great post. One criticism for you is that asking "why am i feeling this way?" Is not usually an effective means of feeling better, if you are sad, stressed, angry etc. Sometimes you can find a useful answer to the question, but usually it is better to engage in an unrelated activity known to bring you joy (i.e. a pleasant distraction).
Good point! I am also trying to switch context if I cannot find the right answer on the question because even if we changed the activity, our brain continues looking for the proper solution.
I myself started to hit the gym very early in the morning after reading "atomic habits".
It has been a month now and I can clearly see the difference on how I'm handling work. my coding is improving, I'm less stressed and my pains for being to much time on the desk diminished a lot and after all learned a bunch of new stretches.
Yes, it works! Because physical activity is one of the most effective ways to improve our mental health and productivity.
It's hard to find texts so objective, simple yet deep and well written lately. I could read your entire post and feel comfortable, not only with the flow, but also the lack of typos and common sense (not in the bad way). People tend to rush and post only things that come to mind. Your post did describe so well the experience and life conditions under programming and development jobs, and your solutions are welcomed. Thanks for sharing!
I don't like to read articles much but this one was a joy to read. Specifically because if the way you presented your arguments. They were well supported with logical reasoning and not too critical of what we coders tend to get a bit defensive about 😅
Thank you very much for the comment! It seems that I am lucky if you liked it 🙈