A Hired Imposter's Secrets #3 => (Handling Developer Burnout 😰)
My struggles, my system
I feel all people experience burnout in the game of life when it gets tough or when we're trying to take on more things.
This is close to the heart. It's something that I struggle with as I continue to push my boundaries with the things I want to accomplish in the day and new projects to take on in a technical, personal, or self-developmental sense.
So, burnout. We hear the word often in today's hustle culture, but let's break down the definition. When you google "burnout definition," you'll get the below.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
Below the burnout definition, you'll see HelpGuide's listed effects of burnout. Direct damage can be physical, leads to anxiety disorders, loss of energy, and they write how it may even kill you prematurely. Holy cow, what!?
Now I'm not about to get into all that. As you guys know, I'm a sales guy turned developer, not a doctor. What I will dive into, though, is how burnout has affected my life and how I try to keep it at bay while I continue to push the envelope in life to achieve my long-term goals.
What's your why? Define it.
The psychology of why we do things is based on three things: feeling, necessity, and habit. So why should we define our why when it comes to long-term goals?
It’s NECESSARY to keep our FEELINGS in check so we can create/execute the HABITS needed to get us to our desired goal.
So what’s a solid why you might ask? It can be anything really, but make it personal!
- You want a change in life
- You want to travel
- You want to purchase a house
- You want a better quality work/life balance.
Find your deep personal why to unlock your true potential. My personal why that pushes me when I’m on the verge of burnout is my family. They give me my superpowers in life to move toward our goals and make the feeling of burnout become determination.
Define your why and have it become your crazy, maniacal motivation. Let your why to make you realize you’re doing this and won't fail. When you tire, then rest up; your why is what gets you back up and at it again.
Take a programmatic approach
For me, burnout happens when I’m doing too many things at one time. When we’re doing too many things, it can be easy to lose focus on the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of each item we’re trying to accomplish. It’s essential to stop and reflect on if you’re approaching it the right way. Gamify the system by whiteboarding your path.
Once you’ve written down the variables needed to hit your goal, write the necessary control flow to get there, then run the program, aka execute! Doing this will save so much time in your build process....OOPS goal progression as it’s what’s needed to achieve your MVP. Avoid distractions and focus without taking a perfectionist approach.
⏰ The Pomodoro technique
While you’re executing, something that I’ve found helpful is doing something similar to the Pomodoro technique. Now, I loosely model this. The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that uses a timer to break work into intervals, typically 25min in length, separated by short breaks.
I use this loosely for myself, as when I’m in the zone, 25min will break my level of concentration and productivity. However, the concept remains valid. After a long period of exertion, take a short break.
I hold myself accountable to this break by placing a timer on my Apple watch. The traditional Pomodoro split is 25min with 10min of rest. My break is relative to the level of exertion I put out. So if I go two hours, I’ll take a 30 min breather as I know that If I break for more than 40min, It’s hard for me to get back to it.
I exercise to break up my day during my hybrid Pomodoro technique. I’ve found that there comes the point to my day that my brain becomes mush entirely when inside a codebase or solving complex problems. Once I feel the burnout and mental exhaustion creep in, I’ll run downstairs and pop my pre-workout. I’ll come back to what I’m doing, knowing that in about 15-30min this sucker is about to kick in. Once it does, it’s gym time.
While I’m at the gym, it gives my mind a break that it needs. Putting strain on my body takes away that brain fog that I can get in and start thinking of other things. While I’m pushing my body to the limit, I notice this is when my creativity peaks. I get solutions to what I was working on pop up, ideas for blog posts, future projects, and reflect on things more clearly. This has been my best way not to get burnt out, as when I’m done, I’m energized to keep going.
This is the hardest for me, rest. We need to rest. If we don't, all of the above gets harder to focus on and achieve. At the beginning of the article, we discussed. The psychology of why we do things is based on three things: feeling, necessity, and habit.
Suppose we don't have the necessary rest to not be a zombie during the day. In that case, we won't be FEELING as optimal during our time making the NECESSARY HABIT to achieve the goal, therefore not being as productive. So you see, it’s counterintuitive. I have a significant fault in this as I feel there aren’t enough hours in the day, so I’ll make more of my being awake for more of them.
Lack of rest is the kryptonite to the superpower our why has given us.
I feel this is the #1 cause of burnout to reaching any goal. This DRASTICALLY affects all of the above. You can get too tired to chase your why. When you’re trying to approach things programmatically, it’s harder for you to focus on some of the simple things that deliver maximum results. It gets harder to hit the Pomodoro style 25min work crunch without losing focus. Then with exercising, forget it as your body hasn’t had the chance to heal is it’s done by rest.
These are my steps to help avoid burnout. I’ve shown how my why motivates me, my approach to work as minimal as possible to get my desired result, how I execute my system and illustrate why exercise and rest are crucial to this approach!
Suppose you have some advice for me and how you can help me with my burnout. If this helped you, leave a like and a comment about how it did. If you have ideas that help with your burnout, comment below, as I can use all the help I can get!
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