Advice on preventing burnout / pacing yourself

Hi FCC,

Happy March! I’ve been working on the FCC curriculum for some time now, and building my own projects, and also managing a part-time job. I’ve noticed that every time I complete a project, either on FCC or on my own time, I get exhausted (and relieved) and I need to step away before continuing on. I’m wondering if there are any experienced devs (or fellow learners) who have a similar experience, and if there are any advice on pacing yourself in this journey, and even when you DO work as a dev on your first job.

Thanks!

1 Like

Get up and move around every hour or so. Drink plenty of water. Leave your desk for meals. Don’t try to work 7 days a week. Sometimes, when you finish something big, go blow off steam instead of going on to the next thing.

4 Likes

I find that forcing myself to get time in nature away from technology is a huge help for me.

I go on multiple brief walks during the day with no phone, and whenever you complete a big project, take a rest day to just relax and be, try to keep tech use to a minimum on these days.

If you are able to, I recommend taking these rest days once a week. Resist the temptation to keep blazing through projects, the rest times are essential and will make you more productive in the long-run.

2 Likes

Hi,

I’m a fellow learner and I recognize what you write.

The pomodoro technique works. It really does but it requires discipline. Stopping and starting can be hard. In between is easier. If I don’t follow it, I get sucked up and start blazing away, then I don’t sleep…

I make a todo list for my day so that I know what other stuff I should get done and how much time I have for coding. Mind, the todo list is only for 1 day, today, it’s not a bucket list of ambitions and dreams. That way I can keep a steady pace without too many highs and lows.

Sleep has become very important. Don’t know about you, but I don’t handle stress very well and a sleepless night is a wasted day. But I’m a nighttime girl, I work best when it’s dark. Always difficult to manage.

I cry. Because it isn’t fair you know. I rage too, but I cry more.I think it releases some stress.

And fortunately, like you, I get exhausted (and a bit bored with what I’m working on). That way we step out of the tunnel and reconnect with the world around us.

I guess it is the nature of coding. There are so many details, there’s always new stuff to learn, digest, integrate, forget, look up and redigest… You are responsible for every step of the way and you create that project from scratch.

Greets,
Karin

3 Likes

Thanks everyone! Really appreciate these great ideas to stay SANE and motivated.

Yes, that really helped me when the new year started. I used to stare at a Trello board with all the ambitious long-term goals, but now I have a daily board with just immediate tasks. That helps with pacing and things. Will look into pomodoro.

Yeah ~ this ‘burnout’ tends to happen when I also code on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s not good. Will keep that in mind.

Been trying to use my part-time job as an ‘escape’ from coding, but probably replacing one type of work with another type of work is not super healthy. Thanks everyone!

1 Like

My goal is not to end up hating being a programmer. If I feel like I have to do it on my nights and weekends, I’m going to hate it. Every now and then I’ll get sucked into something that I end up doing in my “off” time, but that’s not because I’m telling myself I should do it.

2 Likes

That totally depends on the kind of work. If you enjoy it, and it’s rewarding, work is positive stress. Sometimes you have to push yourself through boring repetitive or difficult tasks, but if those don’t outweigh the joy, they don’t cause burnout.

One of the biggest misconceptions about burnout is that you think “I only need more rest”. That’s not true (unless you’ve been coding for 16 hours each day for a week and severely lack sleep). Resting is important, but no weapon against a real burnout. If your job is demanding and you feel you’re about to burn out, look for experiences and activities that lift you up and outweigh the stress, instead of passively resting.

I personally don’t think I could ever burn out by coding too much. When I code and solve problems and figure things out and make stuff work, it’s like continuously pressing an instant-gratification-button. I rather get into trouble after finishing a project. Yes I’m happy that it’s done and it works perfectly and with some CSS it also looks nice, but the happy-button is gone, until I find the next project to tackle.

I do this too, sometimes. Sometimes it’s a “this is pressing and I need to get it done” and sometimes it’s a “This is a lot of fun and I don’t want to stop”.

Taking time to rest is equally important. Finding the balance is hard, and it’s a skill that is different for everyone depending on their personal situation. If you start feeling exhausted, scale it back a bit. If you start getting bored with all your free time, try ramping it up.

1 Like

I don’t think I’ve been burnt out on coding in general, but I have been burnt out on projects because I pushed too hard to work on them.

1 Like

It all comes back to enthusiasm for what your doing. Consider this the “fuel” that drives you to build stuff.

Since building this stuff takes some energy, you “burn your enthusiasm” as you go along. If your project takes longer than your initial enthusiasm drove you to start it, you might need to start “burning” something else. For example, you could start pushing yourself through some kind of “fear”, IE fear of failure, fear of not getting the job, fear of other people’s judgement, etc etc. This might be a helpful thing in some situations, but generally it can be a negative as very few of these scenarios are actually as bad as you think they are.

Once you complete the project, your relief is you taking your foot off the pedal so you can finally relax without feeling like “you didn’t finish it”, or “gave up” or some other similar feeling. If you feel exhausted that might mean you were “burning” some other thing, and in the process pushing things much farther without that initial enthusiasm.

So there are a few ways to address this “problem”.

Don’t push yourself as hard, rather work only off that enthusiasm. So even if you feel tired, if your tired because you just love doing what your doing, it turns into a good tired. Not an exhausted tired. If you don’t feel enthusiasm for what your doing, then just pause the project and find enthusiasm from something else, or for another project.

Another option is to just find ways to “re-energize” that enthusiasm for what your doing. This is where that “do what you love” term comes from, if you love what your doing, you’ll be willing to keep doing it. I’m not saying you need to 100% love what your doing, but you should find some kind of drive to help push you through doing this stuff.

Put simply software development is a grind. It requires a lot of energy, time and effort. Being able to “stick with it” requires a lot of investment, so knowing how to “pay” for that investment is how you can sustain yourself over time.

Finally I want to point out that there is more to live than focusing on 1 thing all the time. If that 1 thing is work/development/whatever, I’m sure there are other things you can enjoy just as much and be able to take a break from that 1 thing. The idea developers are 100% always working, studying, building stuff is a fake narrative. I’m sure some strive for it, but I don’t find that as enriching.

Go outside, breath the air, watch the clouds, read a nice book, spend time with family and loved ones. Let those moments in life recharge you :slight_smile:

7 Likes

Yeah, definitely take some time off from time to time. And your “endurance” will grow, but it’s not infinite.

3 Likes

In my professional dev life, I took at least a 1 month break after every project I did.

The more experienced I became, the more I learned to handle my work. There is more to life than working or being busy. For the times I sat at in front of a screen in my 20s, I nowadays have to pay the dues. There is no free lunch.

It’s your own responsibility to take care for yourself, no matter what society or companies tell you.

4 Likes

Yes, that resonates. I’m in my fifties, I can’t do what I did in my twenties. I want to, I love to but I run into a wall. And there’s still so much life to live, so much pain and joy to go through. That doesn’t decline but the body does and I have to respect that if it is to respect me.

1 Like

I don’t know specifically about coding-related burnout. But, to avoid burnout, it is recommended that you have a hobby and do not isolate yourself from other people. Physical exercise and a good night’s sleep also help. And don’t go over the limit. Take a break when you realize you are tired. Burnout occurs when your rest is not enough to recover. So, focus on your recovery.

1 Like

It’s not coding-related, it’s body-related. The brain is an organ, blood runs through it. I’m getting on a bit and I don’t work through stress like I used to anymore. Stress produces chemicals, hormones etc in the body and I can’t handle that much of it anymore. On the other hand, I have become very wise and I’ve learned to prioritize myself (I know it sounds selfish but you can only be take care of others if you take good care of yourself), a skill that was very hard to acquire. :smiley: That does compensate.

1 Like

I don’t understand, isn’t coding and working on a coding project the same? Or do you mean when working on projects where you’re not the only one who sets the pace, and have to respect other people’s deadlines?

@bradtaniguchi wow, thanks so much. This really resonated with me.

I love architecture, I love designing buildings, and I love designing websites. What always kills me is working on all of the maintenance things WHEN I don’t see the goal as clearly, or when the goals are poorly communicated. When that happens I really do get “burned out” doing things where I don’t see the point. But that’s really up to me to be proactive, and find/ask about the point, to re-center that enthusiasm.

Great advice in this thread already!

I just want to add that sometimes you just need a break. Not a pomadoro or a water break. Like a day or two or maybe a week.

There’s more to life than coding. If you’re feeling burnt out, spend more time with your family. Turn off your phone. Get outside (covid restrictions permitting).

You learn better when you’re not stressed and sometimes to really digest what you’ve already learned you need to step away for a bit. Your brain is making connections even when you don’t realize it.

1 Like

So true, often I go to sleep with a problem and wake up with the answer. Maybe the brain has to be left alone for a bit so that it can integrate new knowledge with the old, make synaptic connecions. I don’t know how it works, but stepping away is very important.

1 Like

I’m not a dev but am also leaning on FCC at the moment. I know how you feel as I was suffering from the same issue last month.

I think I’ve managed to solve it though, by starting jogging (4km) every morning and using google calendar to plan out my day. I made sure I do the important things, such as learning on FCC, first everyday and leave plenty time at the end of the day, usually after dinner, for spending time with my family and alone (I’m an introvert and absolutely need this to replenish my mental energy). I also made sure I communicated with my family how I’m trying to change my daily routine for the better, so that they will provide the necessary support for the time allowances I need.

Perhaps give this a try?

1 Like