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Lucas Wonderley
Lucas Wonderley

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Keeping your sanity in the face of tough deadlines

When work gets stressful due to deadlines, mistakes and difficult people, your favorite thing can become your prison.

You love to code, but suddenly a herculean slog of development and debugging stands between you and basic sanity and well-being. You feel trapped by your own passion.

It’s necessary to prioritize your well-being above everything else. If you start to feel work crossing that line, it’s time to take a timeout and a step back.

Get in the right head space. Do something else for a while. Read, play, be with the people you love.

And if you get the chance, find a way to remind yourself that you still love what you do. Work on a project on your own time that’s just fun to you and has nothing to do with your day job.

This last suggestion may be counter to most common advice about avoiding burnout. I can hear you say, “More coding? That’s the thing that I’m sick of in the first place!”

I think it’s more likely that you’re sick of dealing with unreasonable deadlines and people. You’re worn down by scheduling pressures that have built up over time. It’s the current, temporary situation that’s unpleasant and unrelenting.

All this has nothing to do with what got you into software development in the first place. You can remind yourself of this by working on your own stuff, on your own time. This will prevent you from strictly associating software development with pain. Building stuff can be fun, remember?

Maybe you even had a role in causing the situation you’re in, and your guilt around that has been fueling you to slog on. Good - you can learn from the mistakes that got you into here and avoid repeating them. That lesson is one of those hard-won rewards that comes with experience.

Of course, none of this will make the painful situation go away. When you come back to work, the problems will be there waiting. But you’ll be fresh. And your outlook will be calibrated knowing that this challenge is temporary, and in the grander scheme of things you still love what you do.

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