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Patrick Wendo
Patrick Wendo

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Remember to rest. There's more to life than code.

I experienced my first major case of burnout this week. All the signs were there but I didn't notice until my supervisor asked me if I'm doing OK. I tend to think I am a rather productive person in general. My schedule of late has been split between piano lessons, work, and learning new things on the side. The only problem was that aside from work, nothing else was fit into a rigid time schedule.

I would typically wake up, make a pot of coffee and get to work. I choose not to eat lunch because my productivity dips so hard after a meal(red flag #1), so normally I would take a break for lunch, but I would spend it on YouTube or Netflix or something else behind a screen(red flag #2).

Once I'm done with work it would be a toss up between learning a new technology or piano practice.(red flag #3, lack of a rigid schedule.) and then once I finish whichever task I choose, then I'd make supper, watch something and sleep.

My supervisor pointed out that my code quality has been going down of late and for me that was weird, because I thought I was doing a good job, but in hindsight, I started to realize that small bugs would really get to me. I'd make small errors and get really frustrated which led to more errors and just spiral out of control. This made work to become more of a chore than the enjoyable job I know it to be. I should have seen the signs, but it's easy not to when you're in it.

So I took a couple days off and started trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Spoiler alert, I had no schedule. I had a gray mix of things I tend to do, but no specific format. However, I now work on a very rigid schedule, and it has honestly helped me. I schedule my sleep, my gaming time, work hours, piano lessons etc etc. I also make sure to eat more regularly(We joke about being powered by coffee, but coffee is not food.). Doesn't have to be a full blown meal, but at least have a salad or something. Similarly, less screen time is important. Taking time away from being behind a screen is why I decided to pick up piano. As a gamer and a programmer, there are days I spend >12 hours behind a screen and the migraines that follow are not fun. Repetition may seem dull, but it helps the mind adjust accordingly. Predictability in my schedule is what I am after for now. Plus, I added in a run every morning to see the sun and at least grab some fresh air. I feel way better this week than I did last week, and my quality of work is back up to par.

Discussion (15)

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar

Hi Patrick, thanks for sharing us your ideas (and hugs to recover from burnout).

I had almost the same routine, but after I used my Pomodoro routine (I called the Limachino routine, due to a tomato in my country), I used to stay 45 minutes doing work, answering email or video calls (yes, 45 minutes) and 15 minutes to do another thing at home: coffee, bath, read a book or walk to relax.

Set up your time, write some tasks to do or goals to be accomplished in the day, and try to cover them in the day. (yes, beginner recommendation, but every time comes to the rescue :))

Hang in there, and hear your body when it says "no more."

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w3ndo profile image
Patrick Wendo Author

I now have a daily planner, and I try to keep track of the time as best as I can. It helps with the process.

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar

Don't be crazy writing everything there: some colleagues were very extreme and wrote everything. Uses something helps to stay at day but not a slave of your system: do what works with you (why? I used a lot of apps, Kanban and others: currently, I'm working with pen and paper and Eisenhower method to see the whole picture).

You did the first step, it is a good starting point =)

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joolsmcfly profile image
Julien Dephix

I find marking a todo item as done with a pen more satisfying than moving a task from todo to done in Jira.

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar

I love pen and paper, because you can write more things or draw or do easily anything to keep tracked your tasks. And yes, the paper doesn't have search interface, capability to send emails or share tasks, but I don't care, these are MY TASKS, Jira/Trello/whatever has the teams tasks 😉

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peerreynders profile image
peerreynders

I schedule my sleep,
Plus, I added in a run every morning

I wondered when you where going to get to the exercise bit. Though that one can be tricky. There's the running vs walking issue (long term wear and tear) and in general needing a mixture of activities. Needing enough to be beneficial but not too much in the morning to interfere with the rest of the day or too much at the end of the day to interfere with sleep.

You didn't mention hydration, I would assume you top up before your run and replenish frequently during day (just coffee doesn't count).

However there is something else I came across during my more recent rabbit hole dives.

Whatever you may think of Tom Bilyeu doesn't matter; however:

"ONLY chase things that give you MORE energy than they take"

Now most of us aren't in a position to be that single minded about it. But for some time I've been scoring over the internet for a more systematic approach; until I finally found something in a strange place:

Energy Management/Energy Accounting

Now on the surface this may seem like "common sense" but how many people actually make an explicit inventory of "things that use up my energy" and "things that recharge my battery"?

What I typically observe is that people simply brute-force their way through their day (which we all have to do sometimes) until they finally hit the "I'm too tired" point leaving only room for low energy/low value activities.

The "brute-force" approach is simple but will likely not lead to an optimal outcome.

I've never found "work smarter, not harder" all that helpful but perhaps deliberate, explicit energy (micro-)management is "smarter" than the "harder" brute-force approach.

my gaming time

Given video games dopaminergic properties superficially it makes sense to use them to compensate for work related stress. However pay attention to what you play and how you play it. You could very easily find yourself in the position where you have "de-stressed" but actually "drained your battery even further".

Added to that depending on the genres you indulge in keep an eye on "when the fun stops". The industry is knowingly and deliberately enhancing the addictive qualities of video games.

So it's important to create an awareness of where the fun stops and addictive repetition starts.

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w3ndo profile image
Patrick Wendo Author

You could very easily find yourself in the position where you have "de-stressed" but actually "drained your battery even further".

I noticed this when I was in campus. It may seem like fun to be able to say I beat a souls-like game after the fact, but of the few times I have rage quit it has been on games like these. I still have a couple, but I only play them when I am in a position to subject myself to that stress. What I realized is that, just how people have comfort shows on Netflix, I have comfort games. Games that I can absentmindedly play. Typically I use fighting games and driving sims. Occasionally some GTA. And I never play online as that also stresses me out. Sometimes a simple story driven game is all you need. The Mass Effect series comes to mind, or maybe the bioshock series.

You didn't mention hydration, I would assume you top up before your run and replenish frequently during day (just coffee doesn't count).

I only use coffee to start me off during the day. After that I have a bottle bottle of water by my desk at all times. Hydration is key.

Now on the surface this may seem like "common sense" but how many people actually make an explicit inventory of "things that use up my energy" and "things that recharge my battery"?

I would have to read up more on this to make a proper comment.

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peerreynders profile image
peerreynders • Edited on

Typically I use fighting games and driving sims. Occasionally some GTA.

Hmmm… interesting.

I kind of left the Resistances, Halos, Dooms, and Wolfensteins (all SP) behind.

Two representative examples for my "comfort game genres":

  • Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi
  • Wipeout Omega (single player only)

I'm a total scrub at the first one (which is perhaps a good thing) and it took me some time to get somewhat competent with the second (series). But there is always the question of the opportunity cost that has been incurred.

Recently for my own perspective I've made this observation about these genres:

  • repetitive
  • predictable (judged by some as boring)
  • skill-based

It's the skill-based aspect that can still eat away at the energy meter. So my recommendation is to scrutinize, unpack and examine your preferences.

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w3ndo profile image
Patrick Wendo Author

Some games like Hitman do come in as proper problem solving games. The more you play the level the more you realise new ways to finish the missions. They can be very relaxing every now and then. The reason I mention hitman is because it is also repetitive and predictable. Your skill level is judged by your knowledge of the level and the game mechanics.

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joolsmcfly profile image
Julien Dephix

Thanks for sharing this, Patrick!

It’s very important to have time afk indeed. Gardening, DIYing, walking etc help revitalise. Green colour is vital to us, it’s one of the reasons I went back to countryside.

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w3ndo profile image
Patrick Wendo Author

Funny thing is, I live in the countryside with a great view from my apartment, but I still ended up not seeing this view as much as I needed to.

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joolsmcfly profile image
Julien Dephix

Based on what you wrote you’re in the process of changing your habits so it won’t be long until you go out there and explore what you see from your window! :)

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

I agree completely it's so easy to get burned out from doing too many things at once.

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Freddy Global

Hey I want you to know I needed this! Thank you so much, I'm gonna relax this weekend because you're spot on and it's really great advice.

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harithzainudin profile image
Muhammad Harith Zainudin

good advice! I totally agree with you. We thought of keep doing things will make us productive. Well, maybe some people are like that.
But, rest and having some time off also are very important. Thank you for sharing Patrick! :)