How to Fix Burnout as a Developer
Lewis Menelaws Feb 7
Everyone's been there.
Burnout is something that happens to the best of us. First, how do we even determine if we are burnt out versus just tired? There are many factors.
- Coding is no longer enjoyable and extremely hard to focus on.
- Increased irritability (as if devs aren't irritable enough).
- Feelings of depression.
Those are just some of the feelings you can get during burnout. All of them have one thing in common. You are stuck in place.
I work long long hours everyday, rarely getting a day off. I am a business owner and sole developer working on some big web projects. In order for me to complete a lot of these projects on time, I had to stay up late, sacrifice quality down time and sleep less.
Which is why I was an idiot for taking a second job.
A lot of people (especially entrepreneurs) are so obsessed with how fast they will become successful that they will sacrifice their mental health in order to constantly push themselves. Stepping out of your comfort zone is fine but putting yourself at serious risk for nothing is just stupid as I learned.
After the dreaded 6 weeks of the second job I did (while balancing project deadlines on the other side), I felt like everything I was doing was a waste of my time. I no longer enjoyed creating things. I felt like I destroyed the only passion I have. Would I feel like this forever?
The answer is no. I did lots of different things to help recover myself from this burnout. Here is what I learned.
Stop working so much.
Yeah yeah, I get it. Stop working so much and you will be good. Although this seems obvious, let's read between the lines. Let's say you are a developer for a company and work 5 days a week 9am - 5pm. You're getting a solid 8 hours of work in a day. That means you have 2 days off to do whatever you want to do.
Now when I characterize work, I am meaning coding that you are being paid to do (most likely code that you don't 100% want to be writing). If you work 40 hours a week being a developer. It's ok to leave it at that. This article perfectly describes being ok with just working as a programmer without it being their life.
Now if coding is your life. Learn to take a break. Code something you want to once in a while. Contribute to Open Source projects. Learn when to just stop.
Prioritize your health.
Programmers are generally unhealthy people. How can you blame us? Our jobs is to type for hours and then type for hours in different combinations. It's chaos. Luckily there are hamster wheel desks that allows us to walk while programming at our desks.
Personally, this isn't cost effective so instead I just purchased a gym membership and went every other day while improving my diet. Not only did I feel better about myself but my code got better and better. After a workout, I decided to rewrite a bunch of jQuery code I did 6 months back... yeah, that's how amazing you feel.
Try something new.
My life is fairly routine. Work, read, sleep, repeat. I started to go to the gym at this time and go for runs at night time to make things different for me and I felt motivated to go back to my life and work on my passions that I was slowly getting back from burning out.
My girlfriend and I started cooking more together and going on bike rides. Adding this to my life made it really exciting.
So all of these tips help to prevent burnout. What if I am already burnt out?
Although I did incorporate all of the above tips into my routine. The best advice I could've looked back on was:
Patience is key. Talk to your loved ones.
Feeling depressed is a horrible feeling. You can't do anything because you feel like you are too tired to do anything. After this feeling you will come into a state of negativity and self-doubt. Never have I contemplated so much life decisions in a short span. It's sad.
Despite all of this negativity in my life. I had to keep telling myself that just like it took a lot of work to let my brain get into this state, it will also take a lot of time and work to get out of it as well. Which is why I took a week off work to allow myself to recover. Sometimes you won't have this opportunity but the healing process may be a little slower.
Talk to your loved ones about how you feel and let them help you during your recovery process.