How to Avoid Emotional Burnout in the Routine of a Programmer

Written By Alexandra Reay

If you want to become a better programmer, you need to learn constantly, adapt to new technologies and methods, and solve highly complex and complicated problems on a daily basis. This can be a huge source of stress even if you are an experienced professional.

The programmer may work in the office too much, and even then take additional work for long nights. Some people are self-confident enough, thus they are trying to attend a lot of courses which are definitely not so important now or the information can be found in the open source.

Sometimes programmers just lose their interest, want to try working in another department, can`t handle rapid technological growth, etc.

Also, tight deadlines and never-ending office hours quite often lead to emotional and physical burnout among programmers, and it’s not uncommon for them to leave the profession altogether.

Sure, as a programmer you are probably well-paid, and since programmers can expect an employment rate of 87 percent, you don’t have to worry about job security, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges.

James Walters, the head of IT for AssignmentGeek, recommends eight ways to deal with emotional burnout and live a more balanced, fulfilling and productive life as a programmer.

1. Keep Your Physical Health in Check

Having something wrong physically affects our mental and emotional health. You probably work long hours, and of course you need extra energy for that, which usually comes from coffee, snacks, and sugar.

While this may be a short-term fix, it can cause a whole slew of problems in the long run, such as obesity, cardiovascular issues, back problems from sitting all day, and fatigue due to not getting enough sleep.

To counter this, opt for healthier foods, get enough quality sleep, make sure that your schedule is less hectic, and introduce physical activity into your daily routine even if it’s just walking to and from work. Take care of yourself first.

2. Set Aside Time to Try New Things

According to a 2014 study, there are over 18.5 million programmers in the world, and that number will only continue to grow in the coming years as we rely on technology more and more.

However, such a demand for software can cause some programmers to burn out pretty quickly. How so? Well, if you specialize in something that is heavily used, like Java or Android , you can expect to have a lot of work coming your way, which is great, but if you are doing the same stuff over and over, it can get pretty discouraging and even soul-crushing.

The solution is to allocate 20 percent of your time to trying new technologies and methods, experimenting with them or trying to figure out how a particular library works, for example.

For instance, you can experiment with solutions for your code. If you need to write a piece of code, you should not get bogged down trying to think of something that will work for all possible scenarios (which is something you want when it comes to unit testing). Write enough code so that the solution provides 80 percent of the desired effects.

3. Don’t Be Cheap When It Comes to Your Setup and Tools

Your job is probably stressful as it is, and you don’t need a slow computer causing you even more grief, especially if you are trying to compile something. Apart from a powerful PC or Mac, you should also think about a dual monitor setup, which will save you time and keep everything displayed clearly.

And, since you will be spending a better part of your day hunched over your keyboard, looking at code, you should invest in a comfortable office chair that will help your posture. Other small stuff such as noise-canceling headphones can also make your workday more comfortable.

4. Rely on Good Tools for Help

Another thing that can make your life as programmer easier is a good suite of tools, which you should pick out based on your own needs. For instance, knowing all the keyboard shortcuts for your tools, such as Notepad++, command line or shell, OS, or each specific application will not only save you a ton of time and make you more efficient, but it will also make the day less tedious.

Also, there are plenty of productivity tools that can shoulder some of the burden for you. For example, I especially love The Silver Searcher, which is a code-searching tool that is incredibly fast and has some interesting options such as choosing which files will be excluded from your search, which saves you a lot of time.

Another tool that is absolutely essential if you are a programmer is GitHub, which is, among other things, one of the most popular version-control and collaboration platforms. It also allows you to review code, build software, and manage your projects. It is used by over 31 million developers in the world.

5. Realize That You Are in Control of Your Life and Career

Whether you are working as a freelancer or on salary for an IT company, you will always have someone to report to who determines whether you have done a good job or not, be it your client, manager, or the CEO of the company.

If they are not happy with you, even if you have done your best, you can either get fired or work even harder to the point of complete burnout. Neither option is good, but it’s always better to find a different job, which shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re a programmer, than to work yourself into the ground.

Remember that you are in control of your own life, and you probably still have many years ahead of you, and that goes for your programming career as well. In fact, your career will allow you to have a fulfilling life. But it’s not going to happen if you are too burned-out.

You need to be able to establish a balance between staying healthy and motivated and all the benefits of having a successful career as programmer. If you work about 40 hours per week at your main job, you need to think twice before starting to work more. Remember that the entire work cycle takes about ⅓ of your everyday life.

You have to track also your emotional involvement rate. Because if you feel that, you`re in the category of a risk to face your first or last emotional burnout.

Prioritize all your plans, activities, and wishes.

Spend your time both at home and at work doing pleasurable activities.

Your mind is also supposed to have a rest. Not only by different logical tasks and book reading.

Discover something new, use it, and follow professional trends to stay up to date.

Some businesses who have such a problem may try to implement Hamburg Reintegration Model. According to this, an employee enters the office at first for 2 hours per day, then for 4, 6, and only then for a full-time working day. Reintegration takes from 6 weeks and up to half a year. So, you don't need to skip this or to try to speed it up – the process needs to take its time.

Remember that you need to take care of your family, not with money but by paying attention to them. You also need to track your health—especially monitor your eyestraine mobile and relax with other kinds of daily activities, like hobbies, reading, sports, walks, short travels, and games.

6. Step Away From Coding

By stepping away we mean two things.

You don't need to dive into the job. You have temporary reduce this factor of stress. You can devote the new amount of time for new hobbies – books, lego, games, traveling, or just for a family time.

First, take short breaks to help you clear your head and recharge your batteries so you can tackle new problems.

Whether you work intensely for an hour and then take a 10-minute break or take a 15-minute break every 90 minutes is up to you, but make sure to break up those long sessions because they are not doing you any good in terms of productivity.

Second, you should always make time for your hobbies and things that make your life worth living outside of work, things like watching movies, hiking, painting, taking photographs, building with Lego blocks, or reading. A lot of programmers might think these activities are a waste of time, but they can help you gain a fresh perspective, and they can even be a source of new ideas.

7. Switch to a Different Job or Project

If you are stuck tweaking your codebase for weeks or months, your job can get pretty boring, which can then cause you to be become disengaged and less productive. You can also wind up being assigned to a project that is not aligned with your expectations and interests or one that has taken an entirely different turn where your skills are no longer a good fit. If that is the case, you can always explore switching to a different project.

If you’re completely disillusioned when it comes to programming, you can always explore other relevant fields such as information architecture, quality assurance, technical writing, or system administration, any of which might turn out to be a better option for you.

8. Establish Your Limits and Clearly Define Them

All programmers are different, and while some of your colleagues might be able work 18 hours a day, every day, that doesn’t mean you can or should. Of course, working overtime is something that is expected in your line of work, but if it becomes a constant, you need to do something about it.

You need to set your limits, and make them clear to your boss. Every company you work for is going to try and make the most of your abilities until you are completely spent unless you decide to put your foot down and draw the line somewhere. While most companies will allow you to limit the number of hours you work, you can expect to be passed over for a promotion or raise as a result.

But, on the other hand, you will get to spend more time with your friends and family, and you’ll have the option to do something else with your time outside of work.

Programming Is Not a 100-Metre Dash

As a programmer, you should treat your career as a marathon, not a sprint. Pacing yourself and taking a step back every once in a while, as well as exploring different fields, are just some options at your disposal that can help you prevent burnout and enable you to have a long and productive career as a developer. Take care of yourself, and good luck.