The importance of Keeping Sane for Software Developers

The importance of Keeping Sane for Software Developers

Our work is complicated and keeps changing - we have to continue learning. As a result, this entails lots of stress. Those who cannot keep up the pace soon become irrelevant. But more important - in that aspect - is the ability to stay sane throughout the years of hardships and challenges.

We don't live in a bubble. We have other things in our life to attain to - family, house and vehicle maintenance - all of which takes a toll on us. That's one of the reason some people prefer working stable decent paying government jobs which are of routine and low intensity. They can enjoy a better work life balance, spending more time with their family and doing fun things they are passionate about.

In my honest opinion, the one thing that takes successful people apart is the ability to keep going on through a large number of years. Otherwise, many others, even with plenty of talent and hard work give up because they can't continue any longer.

An interesting concept I learn from Ryan Holiday, the author of bestselling books such as The Obstacle is the Way, is to focus more on the process than results. Pausing whenever there is the need to - instead of just drilling and hustling - solely for getting the results. Most of the time, if not every time, events don't go as we planned - we don't meet the goals we devised. Therefore, a better way to make progress and growth is to concentrate on the process.

How do successful people have such consistency in their roles?

Steinmännchen - Stonemen. Made with Canon 5d Mark III and vintage analog lens Leica Summilux-R 1.4 50mm.
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

They follow the principle of Less is More, which is, focusing on one thing at a time.

Even if we are ambitious, the sheer amount of opportunities nowadays make us wonder from one goal to another without truly committing to one for a reasonable amount of time.

Microsoft would have been a different type of company if in his early days, Bill Gates shifted from one project to another.

When doing less, we can appreciate the task we are doing, slow the pace and give enough attention to other priorities. We can live a balance life.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Social Media in Colorful Alphabets
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As human beings, we all have the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). That's why people spend hours on social media, watching football matches, attending events - they might have no particular interest in - till late at night because they feel they might be missing out.

As the result, this adds another level of stress to their daily lives as they are sleep deprived, which directly affects their happiness, their productivity and overall life satisfaction.

Between Family, Friend and Sleep you can only choose two.

How to Avoid Burnout?

A lovely November afternoon in Akashi, Japan.
Photo by Sid Leigh / Unsplash

Additionally, I believe the most important thing for being consistent in your work over the years is to avoid burnouts. When a person burns out, he or she loses interest in the work they do, always feel tired and unmotivated; they become less productive overall. They always feel like they need a break or two. Moreover, this individual takes a lot of time to recover from this feeling, usually leading up to years.

A good list to mitigate this issue consists of:

  • Taking regular breaks and holidays.
  • Focusing on learning and improving the process through iterations instead of focusing too much on the deadlines - which are usually moving goalposts.
  • Don't playing the hero; say no when overwhelmed without trying to take too much credits and try to please everyone (which is impossible).
  • Keeping passion in check, which might lead to unrealistic project(s), therefore losing time, health and money.

According to personal anecdotes of people who suffered from burnout, one of the most repetitive reasons was a lack of personal interest in the company, process and/or project. For example, if you're more attuned to coding in a project you like but you're assigned to document stuff in an old legacy project, you soon feel weary, unmotivated with your mind start wondering around.