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Cover image for So you burned out on coding. Now what?

So you burned out on coding. Now what?

Jessi Shakarian
Dev turned UX'er. Learning python to build more immersive user experiences using AI and ML.
・4 min read

Burnout happens. It happened to me 6 months ago. Only in the last 2-3 weeks have I been feeling re-energized to begin again.

Here's the most important thing:

It's okay if you burned out on coding. It's okay to take a break.

I have ADHD, I hit my interests really hard - I am an all or nothing kind of person. It happens, you get really excited about learning to code and you overdo it. Maybe you got a lot going on in your life and coding becomes your escape, your journey to something better.

Whatever got you to this moment, there's some important things we need to know.

Be nice to yourself.

That's right. Don't try to push through it. Just accept that your body and mind is telling you it's time to take a break. Go do something that will refill your well - watch your favorite tv series, go talk to your friends about stuff that's not programming. Take care of yourself, do all the things you've been putting off. Let your brain take a break and let the information you've just learned simmer on the back burner.

Programming will still be there when you're ready to come back.

I understand that you need this new career option, better pay, whatever it is that's driving you to learn how to code, but you will be a better programmer for this break, I promise.

Find a non-programming hobby

You read that correctly. If you don't have a non-programming hobby, get one. If you have one, go back to it. For me, my hobby I fell in love in during my break was chess. I love to play chess! I started getting really involved in the online chess community on twitter.

I also found it really helpful to play over the board, I needed a break from digital things. Being able to think about something analog is helpful. Your brain thinks differently about analog things compared to digital. Which leads me to my next point...

Be aware of your frustrations.

They might lead you to your next coding adventure.

When I burned out on JavaScript, I thought I never wanted to code again. I was like, I am done, it's gonna be no code from here on!

Six months later, here I am learning Python. Why? Because I while I was playing a lot of chess, and noticed that I wasn't happy with chess engines. They weren't intuitive for the user, they don't do what I think they should do. I fell down a hole of machine learning, and now here I am learning how to be a machine learning engineer.

Finding a problem you want to fix is something I actually struggled with when I was learning JavaScript. I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to fix, or make better online. If you had asked me six months ago if I was interested in machine learning, I would have told you hell no!. But now, it's super interesting, because it's a way to problem solve.

Knowing how you want to solve a problem is half the battle.

Learn multiple languages.

As I've mentioned, I started at JavaScript (HTML/CSS first, then JS). It didn't really click with me the first time because I was just taking in information, I wasn't really sure what to do with that. I was new to the tech world, really just trying to find my place in it. Some things you might want to think about on your break from burnout:

  • what's your goal? Where do you want to be in a year from now?
  • how do you work best? Personally, I'm a really tactile person, so much of my goals tend to revolve around making digital spaces easier to understand. Mostly because I want to be able to understand how things work together.
  • what do you want to see in the world? There's just some things that, if you don't do it, no one really will.

There's lots of ways to make things online - every programming language or framework does something in a different way. When you're ready to try again, look at the githubs of companies doing what you want to do. See how they put together their own stuff. Try a new to you language or two, you might be surprised what you enjoy because it clicks with the way you think about solving problems.

The interesting thing to me about taking a break from JavaScript, is that by learning Python and machine learning fundamentals, it actually makes it a lot easier to begin looking at JavaScript again. But really, all I did was begin to narrow my scope by knowing how I want to approach the problems I want to solve.

Conclusion

I hope this helps you find your way through the burnout. I didn't think it was going to take 6 months for me to return to coding, but we have to go at the pace that works best for us. Yours might be shorter, or longer than mine.

Have you had burnout? What did you to help yourself through it? Did you return to the programming language you started in? I'd love to hear more in the comments!

Discussion (13)

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chrismjohnston profile image
Christopher Johnston

I understand this so much. When I started my bootcamp I watched all the videos for class, read all the articles, listened to coding podcasts in the car and when I was exercising or washing dishes, and read articles on sites like this in my free time. I even stopped watching TV and just watched coding videos on YouTube instead. I used to think there was something wrong with me but this is a side effect of my ADHD.

I burned out hard about 11 months in; I didn't want to look at code, read about it, or talk about it. It was Virtual Coffee that got me back into code and I'm eschewing web technologies like JS and Node on favor of Python and math.

I'm pursuing this AWS Machine Learning Scholarship and whether I get or not it will strengthen some key skills that I want to improve and it might help in my next journey. I'm seriously considering another bachelor's, but in mechanical engineering this time. 🛠️

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jessishakarian profile image
Jessi Shakarian Author

We definitely have the same type of ADHD.

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asapsonter profile image
Sam Sonter

i just keep reading books to know basics

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rexebin profile image
Rex

Might be off topic here. I use an awesome software called workrave and stick to a practice called Tomato to help me with burn out. Basically every half an hour or so, workrave stops me from working on the computer and forces me to take a break for 5 minutes. Learned the practice from Clean Coder Robert Martin. With this, I am more productive and burn out a lot slower. The breaks also helps to breaking through problems. A short break from a problem on hand, gives my brain a chance to digest and often end up seeing the problem from different perspective and solve it. Also a non stop 25/30 minutes is focused and very efficient.

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rutikwankhade profile image
Rutik Wankhade

It's the pomodoro technique. I use that too.

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rexebin profile image
Rex

Yes, Pomodoro. Nothing enforce the breaks as well as workrave. A bit thanks to the developers.

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transdev profile image
Emma Winters

Hmm, not exactly 6 months but like 2.

Have you had burnout? Yes, of course, i am also diagnosed with ADHD.
What did you to help yourself through it? Nothing to be honest, I Do love my job, however if i just take a 1-2 month break, everything gets resolved.
Did you return to the programming language you started in? Well i don't do specifically one language, as i work for a company that uses a lot of technologies such as JavaScript, C, Python, and more.

Because i also work with ML, and APIs.

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aliakakis profile image
Antonios Liakakis

Happened to me at my late 20s early 30s. I really considered dropping everything and become a full time instructor at my local martial arts gym for which I was going continuously for 15 years. The head instructor mentioned that there was an open position. Changed jobs and luckily got my mojo back.

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commdao profile image
commdao

Like you, I started with HTML/CSS and only now am starting to make some headway with JavaScript. What concept of JS were you at when you needed to take a break?

This week I'm tackling ternary operators, loops, and setTimeout().

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jessishakarian profile image
Jessi Shakarian Author

I was somewhere around where you are - ternary operators, methods, I just didn't have the bandwidth to keep at it. But I hit HTML/CSS pretty hard, and was coming from a place of knowing almost nothing about coding, so it was a lot of information for me at that time.

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tyrwindev profile image
TyrWinDev

Excellent article 👍 The burnout is real ! And it's so difficult to manage your frustration if you don't have a way to separate yourself from coding. Gonna put this in practice. Thank you !

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jessishakarian profile image
Jessi Shakarian Author

Thank you. Hope it helps you out!

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jairaencio profile image
Jaira Encio

This is great, I'm so burned out right now i just wanna do a career shift of being HR or flight attendant instead haha