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Premm Krishna Shenoy
Premm Krishna Shenoy

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Developer burnout: This shit is real!

I used to assume burnouts are probably not that eerie as it sounds and it's just a word for people to express their tiredness.

But hell no! I was completely wrong. I had this experience while working from home where I forget track of time and got fried. I assume you might as have similar experiences to share as most developers/freelancers are working from home due to the COVID crisis.

I always wanted to write a tech blog on things that I learn, customarily technical. Never thought this would be my first post but there was a compelling urge πŸ™ˆ

A lil introduction

Average developers can work focused for 8 hours per day which is why most companies have 40 hours per week as a work policy. We try to exceed and work more than this for a significant period and feel stuck while existing tasks might feel overwhelming. We feel we are becoming slow at almost every task.

So what exactly is a burnout 🧟?

According to NCBI, there are three main areas of symptoms that are considered to be signs of burnout:

  • Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and don't have enough energy. Physical symptoms include things like pain and gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel) problems.

  • Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.

  • Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home, or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless, and lack creativity.

I was lucky to find this great illustration of what burnouts are about

Look out πŸ‘€ for the signs

If you are experiencing a combination of these thoughts over a significant period say a week or more you might need to back off from work and chill off sometime ASAP. But I need to work!?.. Shhh. No excuses! 🀫

  1. I do not feel a sense of accomplishment and feel dragging myself to work 😒
  2. I feel I might not be able to do it quickly as I used to do it before, I feel like a sloth now.
  3. I do not have the energy to do any other task other than my work 😫. Phew! Just got over this one.
  4. I will not pitch in my idea this time, I have lost my confidence gradually 😦.
  5. Sleep?! πŸ₯± What the heck is that, I haven't had one proper one since last week, this problem is much more interesting than that.
  6. The weekend is a good day to finish my huge todo lists that I am unable to complete due to my work cycle πŸ™ˆ
  7. I can skip my lunch/ work while eating it, Am I not great at multi-tasking πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’»?
  8. Let me take that issue up, a plus point I can learn something up, why bother the team about this.
  9. All I see myself do on weekdays is:- eat πŸ”, work πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’», sleep😴(maybe)...Repeat! 🧟

Having experienced most of these, I can say burnout + imposter syndrome is a disaster waiting to happen 🀯.


My brief experience πŸ˜‡

I work as a backend engineer though I love experimenting everything with a polyglot mindset and have a broader tech stack experience than a focused one, A jack of all trades but master of none. I have ADHD and keep myself busy with most of the time. I keep hearing overwhelming technical terms and buzzwords and being inquisitive I land my feet on each one of them, only to find if someone needs a hand in debugging, I have shallow knowledge. I love my product well,making it classy and getting the expected uptimes, so I easily clocked around 50-60 hours a week trying to learn, build and fix things around. Fortunately, I am surrounded by some of the best minds and an empathetic team but I used to take things up on my own as the adrenaline to learn and own things up was kicking in high.

One week..two weeks and it went on until a day I realized I am losing my health, peaceful sleep and I am unable to get any significant work done. I started to keep mum on most meetings as I felt blank to pitch any thoughts. I was afraid that people will notice this strangeness and felt demotivated.

A general thought that we have is :- How about we extend the hours for today and make it up on weekends or maybe tomorrow


Please don't do this. You never know if tomorrow would be a similar day as today. You cannot trick your 🧠 easily to cool/shut off on weekends. It is like a car where you need to ensure oil is changed periodically though it feels nothing bad is going to happen :)

I took a simple small break of around 4 days to take my mind off everything and focus on things like mindfulness,playing with pets and especially being on an information diet.

The following week I was back on fire, and so was my confidence. I learned the importance of taking breaks and listening to your brain when it is tired.

Heart is apparently a restless monster 😈.


How do I break out of this hell?! πŸ™…β€β™‚οΈ

1. Learn to say NO ❌

We oftentimes agree to things that we think either due to the excitement of the opportunity to learn or we tend to think we have all the time we need to work on it.
A problem with this is there is no boundary to it and it's a commitment that you cannot ignore later.

2. Take breaks ⏱️ and break your routine πŸƒ

How often do you take breaks? Do you have a dedicated time for lunch and work time set up?

  • Make use of the allocated leaves and learn to drift off from work at least once a month.
  • Setup a work time and talk it out to your team for an acceptable time that works for a good collaboration.
  • Take short breaks to enjoy your cup of coffee, playing with your pets, meditate, stretch your muscles out, or whatever that sets you at peace. P.S: I highly recommend Stretchly app to remind you of your breaks.

3. Have a good sleep cycle ⏰

  • Keep track of time and go to πŸ›οΈ at a regular time. Disconnect from work and reduce brain activity at least an hour before your sleep.
  • While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, studies show most healthy adults require 7-9 hours of sleep to function at their best.

4. Be vocal to your team

The most important thing I feel most people miss out is, we tend to keep this to ourselves. Maybe your fellow pals are experiencing the same and need help as well πŸ€—.

We must be open to tell your state of mind to at least the closest ones in your team. Remember your help might be a hand's distance away. Split the work appropriately by discussion with your team.

If you are on a solo adventure to learn or experiment things, try splitting it into logical splits to have a smooth transistions.

Talk to your manager on the goals and align on what is achievable and set clear boundaries. This is important to let your manager/team know and set your expectations but never make a compromise on your mental/physical health.

5.Focus on few things at a time

While the tech keeps on expanding, we might get overwhelmed to keep up the pace. Be on an information diet and filter only things you see might be valuable to add to your career.

For all, I can say is, companies do not expect a candidate to know everything and have deep knowledge of all the fancy tech out there. All they expect is a strong fundamental on what we work and things we plan to take up for a new job.
Focus on the stack that you loved to work and be a master of at least one though a jack of all.

Mistakes were made thoughπŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ πŸ˜‚

Thank you!

Hope you like this article and take good care of yourself 😊.

NOTE: This is completely based on my experience and could be a different story for le fellow pals.

Feel free to drop suggestions as this is my first write up.

If you'd like to chat/reach out, I'm available on Twitter at @premmkrishna
Adios πŸ‘‹!

Top comments (11)

yemolai profile image
Romulo G Rodrigues

Damn, I didn't noticed I was checking every single box on that burnout symptoms list. And I've been in this limbo for months now. Some changes are gonna be needed, always loved this craft but the last months were a hell for me and I was wondering quitting to live on a farm already

premmkrishna profile image
Premm Krishna Shenoy • Edited

Hope you are doing fine now :D. Bet it would be temporary, once we make a small modification to our lifestyle.
More importantly, we need to take care of our health which is difficult to regain while we can easily catch up on work.
P.S: Software engineering is the most flexible job that we can have, it's just we need to find the right balance.

mostertcoder profile image
Dominic Mostert • Edited

I've been burned out for a few months now: I was tasked with building a huge video streaming site from scratch in just two weeks, by myself! Long story short I worked around 14 to 16 hours a day until launch - not to mention all the problems and arguments in between.

Compensation? Nope...

Finally had enough and I will be starting my new job next month! 😁 Better salary, fewer hours and less stress guaranteed.

Your health and happiness is more important than keeping some client or manager happy!

premmkrishna profile image
Premm Krishna Shenoy

True that! Health and wellness are really important, realized it over a long period of time.
Fortunately, I have been in firms that emphasize employees to focus on health and take time off at any time if required.
Most of it is a personal option, we can either choose to take up more challenges, upskill, and enjoy the adrenaline or strike ourselves a balance between health and which works for us :D. Happy for you that you found the perfect balance that you need.
Anything becomes stressful/tedious if we keep doing it for a prolonged time.

fenu28 profile image
Fenil Kamdar

Thank you for sharing this! I have faced almost each and every burnout symptom you mentioned and believe me I had a great urge to NOT take breaks and that resulted in poor performance. I hope your tips will be helpful.

premmkrishna profile image
Premm Krishna Shenoy

Thanks pal for taking time to read this. There is no point I solving all things at a faced paces manner, there are endless interesting problems that can keep popping up to satisfy our thirst for knowledge and practice.

yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

I'm the stallion coder so I have been coding 14 hours per day and 7 days per week. However, things are slowing down in recent weeks. Blame this on the reduction of daylight hours.

premmkrishna profile image
Premm Krishna Shenoy

Woah! That's a lot of hours :O. Take a good amount of break mate. A small break can go a long way into your productivity.

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

That game Among Us is a nice distraction from burnout πŸ˜‰ Started playing it a few days ago it's hilarious.

premmkrishna profile image
Premm Krishna Shenoy

Absolutely love how they kept it simple and free yet intresting.

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

I know right and it looks like a fairly simple game but it's a lot of fun to play. It would be cool to create a game like that cross platform with our technical stacks.