You’re staring at the blue light showing from your computer screen while your hands work magic on the keyboard. Metal music blasting out of the headphone around your ears. You’ve consumed 25 cups of coffee in just 6 days, you’re still feeling hyped. You love the space you are in. The god mode, the maniac self operational mode of ignoring what’s going on around. 3… 2… 1…. application deployed. The application you just deployed, it’ll take 4 junior developers 6 weeks to build, you said. It took you a week to design, build and ship it. You’re happy! Your head is screaming! Spinning. Then it hit, you stand up feeling numb down from your waist, tried stretching and you collapse heavily on the floor.
End of the story.
Don’t go now. The fun is just getting started!
What’s that? Why does it happen to us developers? And what can we do to avoid it?
*grabs a long chair. . .brace yourself, son*
What is Burnout?
Burnout is the physical, and mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. It slowly enters developers’ life and kills the passion for coding. It manifests itself in different ways for different people. I’m one of those different people. Did you know? Burnout is a very common thing in the IT industry?
We developers get stuck working hard for a long period on multiple projects, that seem impossible to complete. If things go south side (meaning if things don’t go as planned) it becomes really dangerous for the developer, and he/she may have to quit from the industry. Or they may fall pit-deep into it and struggle all their life to get out of it.
Why does it happen to us developers?
The answer is already right in front of you, my friend. I want to let you in a little secret. Here it goes. Even the smartest programmer can fall into the bosom of serious burnout. Why does it happen commonly to us developers?
- Sitting on your desk in front of a computer for 7-8+ hours every day isn’t as healthy as you think, and that is one of the most common reasons for burnout. Staring at your computer takes a lot of your physical and mental energy.
- Bad working culture or environment is another reason. When a senior developer or a company doesn’t train their junior developers well to manage a task or take care of something, it later falls back to the responsibility of the senior developer. Eventually, they get stuck late at night or in the office to fix those issues.
- Mental health issues. Sighs. Programming takes a lot of brainpower and is quite a stressful job. Your brain has to stretch, think, to solve complex problems. Sometimes your mind is pushed to the limits of the hours you’ve set for it. And when that happens, continuously for weeks, mental fatigue takes over. Think of your mind as a muscle. When you go to the gym and you work out, you won’t be able to live that piece of metal, isn’t that right? Well, the same happens to your brain. You won’t be able to work like you want to. Your brain stops working in those cases because it isn’t able to think anymore.
- Doing the same type of work every day makes the job repetitive for programmers. We, software developers, love programming but when they have to write similar kinds of code or use the same technology every day. It slowly kills the motivation and passion you had when you started. It makes them feel like a bird, trapped or stuck in a cage, and they felt they will never get out of it. Or make progress in their career. PS: we developers sometimes face mental health issues like anxiety or insomnia, lol.
What can we do to avoid burnout?
These are points you are probably already familiar with.
- Acknowledge that burnout is not emblematic of personal failure. It is important to remember that burnout is a sign that individuals are in a work environment where they have been pushed too hard for too long. There is no need to feel personal guilt or shame over burnout. At all.
- Identify tasks that are energizing versus tasks that are draining. Make note of what you enjoy doing and what you don’t enjoy doing. Knowing what energies you versus what drains you can help you figure out which projects to prioritize and what to say “No” to.
- Say “No” more often. If a friend wants you to build the next “Facebook”, and you know it’ll cost you lots of late nights. Learn to say no to the request.
- Keep track of positive experiences and minor accomplishments. Refer to them during difficult times to remind yourself of the good you’ve done.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot achieve with the resources you have. Carefully consider the amount of energy and time you have to dedicate to projects and requests from colleagues.
- Tap into existing resources by leveraging on your strengths and your support network (if you don’t have any, StackOverflow, GitHub, YouTube is there).
- Ask for help! Be intentional and specific about your requests.
- Lower the unrealistic standards you hold yourself to. Not everything needs to be perfect.
- Make time to rest. Recognize moments when you’re exhausted and take a break.
If you’re going to deny yourself sleep, and refuse to eat. Then be ready to leave the software industry. *keeps a straight smiling face*
But really, you need to always put your mental health first. Most developers do not burn out. Instead, they are promoted to roles that involve less and less coding. For those of us that remain in or around coding, the formula for keeping it together is simple. Take care of yourself. Maintain the body. Feed the mind. Build strong and lasting emotional ties. Play, eat, sleep, and have fun. Here’s a quote from Vic Blends!
If you’re just out here grinding for no reason, something is going to make you quit. But if you have got a reason for why you’re grinding and you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, ain’t nothing going to be able to stop you. […] You can’t make me quit because I know this is something bigger than my pockets.
Bonus points: For sticking with me, I’ll like to give you some free cookies.
- never seek to be better than anyone else, only to be better than yourself.
- have a work-life balance
- take care of the little things around you
- never hold on to the past
- be your best
WE ALL WANT TO BE THE BEST, REMEMBER THAT ONE SURE WAY TO BECOMING ONE IS TO AVOID BURNING OUT!