I did a LeadDev course last year, and this article seems to be a great example of their approach:
Spend a lot of time (or words) talking around a subject. Identify an issue, but don’t discuss it directly. Offer one or two pieces of worthwhile advice on approaching solutions, with pointers to some other article/course/consultant. Congratulate you for being so clever as to pay attention to them.
Yup. I find this style super frustrating because when you actually dig into the metaphors being presented you realize that there’s very little there to dig into.
The one tidbit from the article I do agree with is that catching it early and taking steps to help counter burn out can indeed help.
I burned myself out VERY badly a number of times earlier in my career and as a result I have a pretty finely calibrated sense of what it feels like and a routine about what I need to do to help come back from it.
If you feel like sharing details of that routine, that might be valuable to others. You could even write it up as a blog post…
That’s a fine idea. Thanks for suggesting it.
To an extent I feel like this topic has been talked to death, but this wouldn’t be “Burn out is BAD, M’KAY?” but instead “Here’s what I do when I can feel myself getting roasty”.
Also @friendlysock did a killer write-up on this a couple years back but the link no longer works for me.
Via the wayback machine.
I need to get my blog back up, been a minute.
Thanks much for the link, but you absolutely do! There’s a ton of great content on there ISTR!
Dunno what engine you use but static blog sites make it falling off a log easy these days. I’m using Pelican because Python’s my jam but there are a dizzying variety of choices :)
Thanks again for the link!
for me (with the caveat that this may not work for everyone) the typical root cause of burnout is prediction error – I am expecting some sort of reward (monetary, promotion, praise, social) and it doesn’t come. Specifically for work-burnout it is caused by associating labor (and especially, extreme labor) with failure along some dimension. The fix is to reassociate labor with small successes, especially with primary stimuli. Going into a refactoring cycle (getting those red dots to green) is very effective for me. I never take a break immediately after (though I do tend to schedule a generous break fixed dates in the future that I promise myself I will take), on the risk that that reinforces the negative mental association of labor to return, by rewarding not working.
I’ve seen burnout both in the dev community and also in chemistry (grad school) labs. If you think you guys have it bad… Chemistry has 80-100 hour workweeks with manual labor and toxic fumes, capricious science (you can do everything right but if your hypothesis is wrong, it’s wrong), 25k/yr “stipends”, brutally emotionally abusive professors who got there by luck of the draw, with zero empathic capability managing empires of 80+ grad students and postdocs, constantly under the gun to publish and write grants…
Sometimes our dayjobs don’t matter. I’ve had multiple career-path employments where the code I was writing was worthless, unusable, undeployable, suppressed by management, deprioritized, etc. Part of burnout management is understanding that it’s not wholly about self-reflection, but also about understanding the real neglect of managers.
Pirsig’s gumption traps are everywhere. Recognizing when gumption is going to be drained is essential. I recall when a manager cancelled an entire project, one sprint before first release, wasting about two person-years of code. Understanding that event as a managerial failing and not a personal failing helped me avoid self-blame.
Oddly, I was thinking about “stuckness” as a cause of burnout. When one project is stuck, you probably have a bunch of others that need your attention. When everything is stuck, you’re crispy.
For me, the metaphor rang true. Literally right now I’m living a thing that “smelled” a lot like a thing I’ve lived in the past that led directly to burnout. It felt like I was looking down a familiar street. So instead of engaging there, I decided to immediately make arrangements to change my situation, reminded myself that some emotional distance from the corporation was healthy, and carried on. The whole “we’re a family, this is a family” corporate BS is superbly insidious.
Something I’ve found really important when recognising and dealing with burnout for myself is getting to know what tends to burn me out.
I used to think it was just about the number of hours you worked in a week, maybe with some pressure to deliver mixed in. Over time I realised that (at least for me) it’s as much about the content of those hours.
Give me the occasional week where I spend a few too many hours working on something I’m excited about over a consistent 9-5 where I’m struggling to care.
Obviously week after week of long hours eventually leads to burnout too, but that one feels much easier to spot and deal with than a general sense of malaise.
I don’t consider this burnout. Maybe overwork, maybe exhaustion. The term burnout is bandied about these days with no awareness of how bad it gets. It’s deeper, more insidious and longer lasting than the hip articles all over the place. It can take years to recover. There was a podcast iirc called Burnout Diaries which painted a picture of what I consider actual burnout, I think ten episodes in total. Not to belittle anyone’s exhaustion, but it gets so much worse.
Metta meditation is great for burn out