Monday, April 8, 2013

Should I Take Programming Burnout Seriously?

Should I Take Programming Burnout Seriously?

 Yes! If you are suffering  burnout take it very seriously as it could cause medical problems and it could be a sign of more serious mental illnesses. The advise that I give on the subject is in no way to be considered "professional advise". If you are having issues with burnout I suggest that you seek help from a professional.

You could actually be suffering from severe depression. According to the Mayo Clinic:
 Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including:
  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • A negative spillover into personal relationships or home life
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes, especially in women
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Vulnerability to illnesses


What Causes Burnout?

The biggest cause of burnout is you. You are most likely an overachiever that wants nothing more than to prove to yourself and to others that you are a great developer. Its this can do attitude that most likely made you a highly skilled and a highly sought out software professional. However, if you don't take care of yourself than who cares if you are an awesome developer.

What Can I do To Prevent Burnout

In order to prevent burnout and for that matter other mental disorders you need to maintain balance in your life. It may have been fine when you where 15 to program until 3am and through the weekend. were not a full time programmer and you had other things to keep you busy.  Its not good for anyone to stare at strange symbols all day and all night. You need to maintain balance in your life by:
  • Involving yourself in a hobby
  • Take a vacation
  • Hang out with people
  • Get enough sleep
  • Get a life
A good way to maintain balance is to involve yourself in a hobby. When I got severely burnout I started gardening, began bowling, took-up reading ( non-programming books ) and I began learning Spanish. The best part about taking up a hobby is if you do get burned out you can just get involved in your hobby and not worry that programming is no longer fun to you.

If you started working as a programmer than it is no longer something you do as a hobby "for fun". No matter what kind of project you are doing on the side or how much fun you think it is. So just say no to programming at home. You want to write something more interesting find another job.

If its been a while than you need to take a vacation. No programming computers on your vacation time either! Take it with real people not virtual ones. Believe me its a-lot cheaper to pay $3,000+ on a week vacation than it is to have to switch jobs because of burnout.

Hang out with people more often to keep the non-computer social interaction up. I know that people are much harder to communicate with than computers and you may feel socially awkward and just want to get back to the old keyboard and monitor but hangout with people anyways. If you must find people as geeky as you to hang out with. Or even find a girl that will put up with you.

Get some sleep for crying out loud. Pulling all nighters is not really productive. Your brain actually needs sleep in order to function. Have you ever noticed that you solve difficult problems after getting a good nights sleep and coming back to the problem.

Get a Life! There is life outside of work so go live it. Do something fun for a change. I know you think programming is fun but its really not. Spending time with your friends and family, going to a ballgame with your niece or nephew, volunteering is fun. So get a life and don't drive yourself into an insane asylum trying to be a "master programmer".

Am I too Young to Burnout?

There is no age restriction when it comes to burnout. I was severely burned out after only 2 years in the profession and had to take six months off from programming before I want to do it again. I thought that the urge to develop software was gone for good. But in fact I have been programming for 9 years after that experience and my desire to programming came back in full.

What do I do if I can't Program Computers?

If you are completely burned out from programming you may be asking yourself how you are going to make money in the future. I know that you may be thinking that programming will never be something you ever want to do again but the desire to program computers will most likely come back. Even though it feels permanent it most likely is not.
Having said that, you will need to do one of the following:
  • Take a leave of absence
  • Switch to a different role in the same company
  • Reduce your work load at your current job
  • Find a temporary source of income while you recover.
  • Find a permanent new profession
If I had to choose I would pick a leave of absence. This may allow you to keep your position while you recover. Don't feel that you have to come back too soon and don't give into pressure from your company. You may find that you are more valuable than you thought. You can just say its a personal matter that you have to attend to. You may find it better to just flat out tell your boss the situation. If it is a seasoned software development team they may know about creative burnout and know what to do. Whatever you do do it gracefully and don't burn any bridges.

You could inquire about switching to a different role within the same company. You may just be burned out on the type of programming you are doing or you may just be burned out on the coding end. Perhaps your company has different roles that you could be useful in. Even though you don't churn code anymore the company may find it beneficial to retain you as say a QA guy while you help with the transition of another developer.

If your are burned out than you need to reduce your work load. This is true weather you switch roles or switch companies all together. Burnout occurs when you are overworked and it most likely is self-inflicted. Let your manager know you are overloaded and think you can't handle a large work load right now. I know if you are an over achiever, like me, this is very difficult to say but it could save your job in this case.

If you think is better to move on than you need to find a temporary source of income. Don't worry about it being a permanent career path just get some money coming in. If you are single this is pretty easy, move in with your parents or find a good friend to live with for a while so you can deal with a reduced salary. When the desire to code comes back you can start looking for a new job then.

I would only advise finding a permenant new profession after taking a substantial period of time off. After a few months of not coding pick up a compiler and see if you want to code again. If you don't want to than wait a little longer. Some programmers take over a year off before the desire comes back. Burnouts can range in severity of a just bored to in need of medical attention.

Stack-exchange: Am I too young to burn out?
Job burnout: How to spot it and take action

1 comment:

  1. Hi, thanks for writing this. I think I am experiencing this right now considering my work load in college. Since I transferred a lot of credits into college from high school, most of my humanities were taken care of and my schedule has consisted of 3+ programming courses per semester. Right now I am really considering taking a leave of absence to just recollect myself but feel...'ashamed' about it. Reading your post has at least calmed my mind a little bit.

    So, again, thank you.