Dealing with Burnout as a Programmer
• 4 min read
Burnout is a mix of exhaustion, indifference, and annoyance to something you previously loved. This is a feeling that can be quite common in the world of programming. Where you once had joyful curiosity when opening up Visual Studio Code you now feel anxiety or boredom.
A more textbook definition:
Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
World Health Organization
This can happen for a variety of different reasons but can have long-lasting impacts on how you feel towards your craft and job. I strongly feel that it is something that everyone should be careful with. Take note that this article is not a definitive how-to guide but more of my experience with a burnout in the hopes that others can relate.
How it started
I've been a developer for several years now. And throughout my entire career, I've greatly enjoyed programming and studying outside of work hours. I would do (and throw away) a ton of side projects.
The majority of the time was a ton of fun! I felt like I was picking up new skills and building neat projects even if they were of no monetary value. This continued for several years without an issue.
But, on top of it being fun, I also felt a drive to **continue **this behavior. I wanted to stay on top of my craft. I felt like it was a necessity.
However, a few months back I had several real-life issues that were affecting my personal mood, and the free time I had available. Since I had always worked on side projects I didn't see a need to stop but continued doing them despite all the built-up stress.
This continued for almost a year.
The creeping feeling
In the beginning, this wasn't an issue. I would continue to work. But, something felt off. I would open up my text editor and work but my joy in doing so would decrease every time.
Where my attention before was completely undivided in my project, it was now easily diverted into YouTube, video games, or other things. I would feel justified in procrastinating things I had planned out beforehand.
Pushing it out further and further into the future. "I'll finish it eventually"
Even after dealing with my other issues in life, I began to feel stress and anxiety when working on projects or articles outside of work.
At its peak, I just couldn't find the desire to work on much of anything.
The creeping feeling
I just had to stop. Plain and simple. I could no longer bring myself to code as I felt It was quickly becoming a downward cycle. I would feel anxiety when working on side projects, but feel guilty if I didn't continue them.
I took a few months off where I did limited coding outside of work. Slowly over time, I began feeling the desire to code on projects and begin studying. But I did not want to waste this feeling. I began to see this feeling of curiosity and passion to learn as a resource.
I want to avoid this creeping feeling from now on. I now try to time and intentionally plan the time I dedicate to learning and programming outside of work. I feel like this balanced approach is way healthier.
This may seem obvious to some, but it required introspection on my part. I realized that even if I love what I do I have to be careful not to overdo it.
Passion is awesome and should be treated with care.
If anyone has experienced burnout let me know in the comments below how you dealt with it.
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