1. 55

I’ve been on Lobsters for a while now. My profile says “3 years”. Wow, holy shit. If I could list off all the ways I’ve grown since then, I’d need quite a lot of time to do it. A sizeable portion of it could probably be attributed to this website. People that come around here. Random individuals on the internet, that I haven’t met face to face, but I’ve appreciated all the wisdom and help they’ve lent in their free time, even if it wasn’t always particularly meant for just me. I’ve come to a crossroads in my “career”, and I couldn’t think of many better places to ask for this kind of advice, granted a few of you don’t mind reading through this and maybe even sending me back a word or two, if you have the time.

I think I’m going on around 5 years as a Web Developer. Yes, the kind that’s wired up Google Analytics for companies to track people, that’s had to suck it up and throw JQuery and some bullshit 800lb plugins at your browser because who’s about to argue with the boss. I don’t have a college degree, and believe me I gave a go at it. But I’ve suffered from attention deficit problems (to count one problem) for my whole life, and school is the first kind of place where the chances of making it through are way more slim with that kind of luggage you’ve gotta carry into every lecture, through every study session, and it’s unfathomably more difficult when you don’t know what’s wrong, and you don’t have any kind of treatment to deal with it.

Well, here I am now, healthcare hasn’t gotten any less expensive, and after getting laid off from my latest job, I’ve gotta figure out some way to keep the bills paid to keep my head from going under water. Up to here, it’s felt like I’ve struggled every point along the way. I can’t figure out which direction to go. Every manager I’ve worked under has lauded me for my “acumen” with quality code, figuring my way around problems, learning when I need to (I’d sure like to believe they’re right). But every manager has also brought up issues I have with productivity, focus, and when it’s getting hard to sleep, and everything’s getting to me, and I’m coming into the office around noon, my tardiness.

Do I give up?

Should I try to seek out a simpler job, that may not pay nearly as much, but one that won’t eat me up and throw me out? Do I try and switch tracks to a related work, like IT? Although I’m young, there are people that depend on me, I can’t just keep rolling the dice when every firm will tell me I’m not good enough, when with this dissatisfaction my employment hangs over my head like a cloud. However much I love how programming makes me feel, I just want to be able to come home one day and not feel afraid that the next day my manager will pull me into their office, that when unemployed I won’t find new work in time. I just want to be able to make it, at this point, and I don’t know which direction to turn.

  1.  

  2. 36

    First of, this is just a personal opinion and observation based only on what you wrote and my own experience. Do not make life changing decisions solely on something a random person on the internet says but I do hope this will help you find a path in some way.

    I think you need to slow down and cut distractions. You have to be really careful to not burn out, problems with productivity and focus plus being depressed about your work are generally signs of that happening. I don’t know you personally but it’s very likely that you are not a failure at your job, your job problems might be related to just burning out.

    Look for a boring big corporate job, avoid startups. Corporate will in general be less stressful, stable and far more likely to organize training courses for you. You could even ask them for specific ones outside of your immediate skill set required for the job. People at one of my previous $jobs asked for time management/getting things done courses and were granted those. Do your best ‘from 9 to 5’ and use the remaining time for family and yourself, whatever you do outside your job make sure it’s fun for you: contributing to an open source project not related to web development, rock climbing, whatever. Stressing over your work outside your work will only burn you out.

    1. 0

      Some people apparently cope by developing apathy. Please don’t.

      1. 12

        I am not suggesting losing passion. Just pointing out that passion can be found outside of strict bounds of work, and while some workplaces are perfectly fit to nourish passionate workers - most default to exploiting that (unpaid overtime, putting pressure on employees) or perceiving it wrongly (seeing someone doing overtime as someone who can’t manage his job in working hours). Startups also tend to ask you to undergo the same sacrifices they take because why wouldn’t you be passionate by the business and work underpaid while it’s on the runway?

        By all means, remain passionate but don’t let that passion burn out where it’s not appreciated. I suggested corporate because it’s perfectly moral to work 9-5 at a corporation and perform as best as you can on what the contract states and most of that work will be less stressful than a 5 person startup expecting 16 hours per day out of you. The latter will burn you out on the spot, the former lets you keep the flame going on your hobbies.

        1. 2

          I disagree about your generalization of the dayjob morality. It is only moral if the work you do is moral in the overall, big picture.

          Also, the popular term for your suggested lifestyle is wage slavery. I know of people who have successfully developed apathy in their day job so that they can “live” their life in the afternoons and the weekends with “clear head”. I did not.

          1. 4

            So your suggestion for @kel is to liberate himself from the oppression of employment and start his own business? How would that solve any of @kel’s problems?

            1. 1

              So your suggestion for @kel is to liberate himself from the oppression of employment and start his own business?

              I have no idea about USA but here in Czechia I would be able to direct him towards at least four public sector organizations that would be able to help him grow both personally and professionally while cutting him some slack. At least one of them would have no problem with him finishing any college he wanted. Semi-officially on paid hours.

              Founding a business with some friends would be a viable option too, but that usually requires contacts and some cash. I would not recommend going the startup way of building a product first and finding the customers second. Perhaps start helping out his non-technical acquaintances and slowly building a stable customer base?

              How would that solve any of @kel’s problems?

              I believe that the general solution to @kel’s problems would be to stop associating with people who use others and find some friends with whom to work towards something worthwhile instead. This would provide a degree of emotional stability through meaningful relationships, collective financial safety net and generally prevent life feeling like a chore.

        2. 4

          The source of your hostility must exist somewhere but I can’t find a legitimate basis for it in the comment you are replying to.

          ask them for specific (training courses) outside of your immediate skill set

          Do your best ‘from 9 to 5’

          Where is the apathy?

          1. 0

            Look for a boring big corporate job…

            Apathy: lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. Synonyms: …, boredom, …

            The advice above totals to “slave for a decent wage unconcerned with the meaning of the work you do and then passionately spend yourself to happiness”. I believe that this approach to life is a little bit yesterday. But yeah, some people find it in them to spend their most productive time doing something boring for no better reason than getting paid.

            1. 4

              I’m not sure I follow the leap from “boring big corporate job” to meaninglessness.

              There are plenty of corporations where you can produce meaningful, important work but with substantial backing. Likewise, there are plenty of vapid “Uber but for X”-style startups that will give you no resources and expect the world.

      2. 15

        I know it’s painful and brave to open up like this, so good job :)

        As for actual advice, find a therapist and find a psychiatrist. In the US we’ve got this conception that if you get help for your brain, you’ve somehow failed as an adult. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mental health issues are serious business and deserve treatment by professionals. Therapy is the reason I’m still alive, much less a functional member of society. Same with psychiatry. It was definitely a sucky experience finding the right cocktail of drugs that stabilize my brain, but once I did life got a lot better.

        Psychiatry is especially helpful with productivity and focus. Last year I finally admitted my ADD was getting in the way of my work and started taking Ritalin. And it’s absolutely crazy, being able to focus for the first time in my life.

        1. 2

          I’ve gone down the road of therapy/psychiatrists before, and I’ve had experiences that have damaged my trust. Right now I’m in a position where I can’t access this care whether or not I tried to, but I think you’re right, when I can, maybe it’s worth giving another shot.

          1. 4

            So this advice may be way off base for your experience, but a few people have found it helpful in the past. I don’t know what happened with you, but maybe this will help.

            Find someone who listens to you. You mentioned “figuring [your] way around problems, learning what [you] need to” with software development, so do that for your personal development too. When you go into a meeting with a psych, be ready to direct that interaction. You can also think of doctors and psychiatrists as programmers, except they’re trying to debug you. Make it easy for them. Tell them straight up what you perceive your problem to be, and what your success criteria are. Do your research, explain your thoughts, and be polite. That’s how I’ve gotten the best interactions with doctors.

            For example, you said you have attention issues. Okay, so:

            • Look up ADHD symptoms, do you match a lot of them?
            • How do your focus issues manifest specifically? Figure it out, be ready to explain and discuss.
            • Do your focus issues affect other areas of your life, and how do you feel about that? For example, do you check your phone too much when with friends, or get distracted while people are talking?
            • How do you want to feel? How are your feelings not meeting your expectations?
            • Take an ADHD diagnosis test, the kind that give you a bunch of questions you rate on a scale of strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree. These tests are pretty good indicators, lots of psychs will actually have you take one on site with them.
            • Read about different medication, side effects, etc. Talk to people you trust who take those medications, see what they think. See what people online say. Go into that appointment knowing what medication(s) you’re potentially interested in.

            I’m sure you hate debugging flaky bugs in a system with inadequate logging, so don’t put your doctor in the same position. Only you know what’s really going on with you, the doctor can’t read your mind.


            A good psych will also help you with strategies. If they throw you some drugs hope they stick, they aren’t doing their job. Medication is a game changer, for sure. But when the game changes, you need to work with the new rules. Good psychs can work with you to find out the strategies that work best for you. And since drugs tend to affect people in different ways, they can help you identify the “rules” and tailor your strategies. With ADHD medication in particular, it’s tremendously important to have a strategy for directing your newfound focus towards productive tasks.

            1. 2

              I can empathize with this, and I’ve had some terrible therapists before. One was actually leaking information about me to other client. I’m happy with my current one, but I can’t deny it’s a long and exhausting process to find a good one.

          2. 9
            1. Sending vibes and good feelings your way. You’re not alone in having these kinds of feelings, even though they are rarely discussed! Feel free to reach out if you ever need someone to talk to, etc.

            2. I’ve also had issues (of a smaller magnitude, perhaps) with productivity, “focus”, etc. at previous jobs and in school. Just my opinion: it’s important to not internalize these criticisms. When I had these problems in the past, I got in the (bad) habit of ascribing them to me, myself (as in, “I am just not good at X” or “I am just not good at working hard”).

            As mentioned, wisely, elsewhere in this thread, productivity, “focus”, getting things done, etc. are skills that can be systematized and practiced! Don’t let criticisms in these areas (even if they are valid!) become a part of your identity just because they relate to “softer” skills that feel less changeable than say, some pure tech skill.

            True, there may be things that are harder for you for genetic or biological reasons. But it is always possible to work to improve these skills, and either way it’s no reflection on your quality as a person.

            1. Speaking from a purely dispassionate, “paying the bills” point of view, it is probably in your best interest to work as a developer somewhere if you can manage it — the pay is probably better than you could get by switching industries, and five years of experience is not as small a number as it sounds!

            In my experience, the “difficulty” of a job in the technical sense is not really related to the stress level produced by that job. I’ve had jobs that were technically unchallenging but very stressful, and I’ve had a blast working on very technically challenging teams. I think you might find that jumping over to an “easier” job is not any less stressful, or at least that it’s always a bit of a roll of the dice either way.

            But also, as mentioned elsewhere in the thread, try to relax and unwind and un-burnout yourself before making any decisions like this, if you can.

            1. 8

              Don’t give up. Work is hard! That’s why its not called play.

              I’m a random internet guy who worked. I’ve been in individual contributor roles from New Useless Guy to Senior Staff Engineer, and every management role from Team Lead to Engineering VP. Here is a piece of advice that was given to me early in my career. I found it to be very useful to me in every job that I’ve taken on, so will I pass it on to you:

              You should always submit a weekly status report to your boss, even if they don’t ask you for it, and always have a 30 minute one-on-one weekly meeting to discuss it, even if neither of you really want to or if you feel there is nothing to discuss. At the end of that meeting, ask these two questions of your boss: “Is there anything I should be doing more or less of?”, and “Is there anything I could be doing better?”

              There’s a few reasons you should to do this. If you write a weekly status report, you’ll have to keep a daily journal. If you have attention, concentration, or organization problems, just writing down what you did at the end of the day and what you hope to accomplish tomorrow will help you a ton.

              Another reason for the report and the meeting is that you want your boss to be constantly reminded about the value that you bring. You want your boss to be able to discuss your work when his or her boss asks what’s going on, because it makes both of you look good.

              You also want your boss to know when your workload is getting you down. If you have a weekly meeting you won’t ever have to explicitly say that your load is too much. a reasonable boss will be able to tell from your weekly status report and from talking to you if you are starting to get overloaded.

              You are right about not wanting to argue with the boss- certainly you don’t do that in public. But any boss that won’t listen to your concerns and explain their reasoning for a decision to you in a one-on-one is probably not someone you want to work for. Asking questions helps your boss as much as it helps you. Your concerns might not change their mind, but hearing them helps your boss be ready with an answer the next time someone asks about it- and maybe that someone is their own boss.

              Make a ritual of asking the “more/less” and “what can I do better” questions at the end of your weekly meeting. You will probably get an “I don’t know” out of your boss most of the time, and that ends the meeting, but eventually, you’ll get an answer. Maybe because you did something unexpectedly great, maybe because you screwed up a little bit. Asking the questions every time shows that you are always open to both praise and criticism, that you actually expect both, and in return you are willing to change for the better. That alone makes you a valuable employee, and will keep you from being at the top of the layoff list when the cuts eventually come.

              Getting the “I don’t know” answer is important too, because it lets you know that expectations are being met. There is no reason to stay up at night worrying when you know the boss is happy, right?

              Finally, if you are working for someone who won’t read your report, or won’t give you that 30 minutes a week, you need to not work for that person. They’ll never be on your side, your career will suffer, and you aren’t ever going to be happy there. Find someone to work with not for.

              Anyway… thats my rando internet guy career advice for the week. Good luck out there, little lobster.

              1. 1

                always have a 30 minute one-on-one weekly meeting to discuss it, even if neither of you really want to or if you feel there is nothing to discuss

                Why? If there actually is nothing to do discuss, it’s a complete waste of time, is it not?

                It’s not useful to “make” something to discuss either. It’s a bit like a government bureaucrat coming up with some pointless busywork for himself, just to project the appearance that he’s being productive.

                Finally, if you are working for someone who won’t read your report, or won’t give you that 30 minutes a week, you need to not work for that person. They’ll never be on your side, your career will suffer, and you aren’t ever going to be happy there

                If that practice were actually a good idea, you’d want the whole team to do it, right? Suppose the boss has 10 people reporting to him. He’d need to carve out 5 hours of his week for those 30-min sessions that probably won’t be useful anyway. Do you think that’s feasible?

                1. 2

                  Why? If there actually is nothing to do discuss, it’s a complete waste of time, is it not?

                  It’s not useful to “make” something to discuss either. It’s a bit like a government bureaucrat coming up with some pointless busywork for himself, just to project the appearance that he’s being productive.

                  No! It is not a complete waste of time! If nothing else, it assures you that your boss has heard what you’re working on- and that the boss knows you are in fact working on something. For people who sometimes lack good focus, just knowing that there is a short meeting with the boss coming up is enough to motivation to at least think about and appreciate what they are doing and what they’ve done, and that’s great for self worth and feeling good about your work.

                  Sometimes there might not be a lot of new things to talk about, maybe its the same status as last week. In that case… a little “how you holding up” talk is good. Or “here’s something to look forward to when you are done with this slog” helps out. Or maybe it gives the boss a chance to ask you in private, “do you need help, or do you just need time on this?”

                  The point is, programming is a heads down job, and you may not get a whole lot of time to interact with your boss day to day. My experience is that if you (as a manager or as an employee) don’t set aside a block of time each week to make that personal interaction happen, it won’t happen on its own, and your job satisfaction will suffer.

                  If that practice were actually a good idea, you’d want the whole team to do it, right? Suppose the boss has 10 people reporting to him. He’d need to carve out 5 hours of his week for those 30-min sessions that probably won’t be useful anyway. Do you think that’s feasible?

                  Well, it certainly is a good idea, and it is not only feasible, its a common industry practice. What do you think managers do for a living? They manage people. Five hours out of a week for scheduled personal time with ten employees isn’t a big time investment.

                  And yes, for the last twenty years, every one of my direct reports got a scheduled weekly meeting with me, and so did every one of my bosses- at that jobs I chose to stay at. :)

              2. 5

                As a random Internet person, I don’t think you should quit. I do think you should think hard about where you’d like to work long-term, and what changes you can make in your life to support that, particularly in the areas of stress management and self-care. I second mulander’s suggestion of a corporate job; typically they don’t require too much of you most of the time.

                I know people with ADD that have good careers in technology. It’s all a matter of finding a good fit.

                1. 4

                  I’m right there with you buddy. After four years of being in the industry, I’ve been struggling with depression (historically) and suicidal thoughts (recently) I’m about to give up and just quit. I could live a less stressful life in middle America and keep mostly to myself until my money ran out.

                  No advice, just letting you know that you’re not alone <3.

                  1. 1

                    Regardless of what the “suck it up and work hard” crowd at the top of the page thinks… Connect with real, living people around you. Go one-on-one to a pub with your favorite coworker, talk about your childhood with your room mate. Get a room mate if you don’t have a partner. Just don’t be alone.

                  2. 4

                    Just another random Internet person here, but I’ve managed and worked with young, super-bright but sometimes erratic people, and what sticks out a mile from your post (to me, anyway) is this: you don’t have tech problems. You have focus, attention and productivity problems. If you have something like ADD (according to your post - I Am Not A Doctor!) or related issues, and it’s that which is causing the problems, then you should focus first and foremost on getting that stuff manageable. Not doing so is just setting you back compared to peers; they have all the company/tech stuff to deal with too, but you have to deal with this as well, and it sounds like it’s dragging you down.

                    I’m no doctor, and I’m wary as shit of pharmaceutical fixes anyway (especially in the US where everything is viewed by the pharmacos as a syndrome or other drug-sink) - but I know people who’ve found ADD treatment genuinely transformative. Maybe you don’t need medication; maybe you need counselling, therapeutic practice, who knows what’s right for you - but regardless of whether that treatment is medical, psychiatric, psychological, meditative, whatever, who gives a shit. Just focus on finding the thing that helps you get grounded and stay grounded. Find it, stick to it. You’re obviously not dumb, you’re determined enough to have got these jobs without college qualifications, so I guess you’re smart enough to know that stuff like this isn’t ever going to just go away; I’m sure it must feel like a mountain to climb even to start addressing this, but you have to accept what is, and work with it to get yourself on a level playing field. Everything else will flow, or not, when you find your right levels; from there you can at least make more informed and more objective decisions about whether the tech world is for you or not. You’re in a good spot in that you’re young and smart enough to seek advice and help. Use that to find the specific advice about your specific issues and the help you need to find the way to get yourself on a stable footing. You can absolutely do that. I wish you really well on your journey.

                    1. 9

                      You’re living in late stage capitalism, and this may be the root of most of the malaise you’re feeling, especially if you have not been through the indoctrination of the entire education system and have a good part of your humanity and creativity intact. I’m assuming you live in a western country i.e. US or rich European country. Society and most social structures are royally fucked at this point in history, and you are probably experiencing that. The world and your peers will all tell you to focus on and that your value as a human is defined by a set of things that include money, profitability, education tokens, and supporting the welfare of yourself and your family through socially dictated means such as capitalist healthcare, large scale education, and poor food and exercise regimens, and working at companies that have a net social damage on the world. All these things are way suboptimal and unhealthy systems. I’m going to take a guess that you know that all these systems of modern Life are fucked, but that you feel trapped in it, can not see any alternative, and no way to support yourself and your dependants. And this is a shitty position because with this attitude the western world HAS to give you negative signals that you should have low self worth and shift to a point of compliance with it.

                      So, youre in a tough position. Comply, suck it up, take a job for the money and the healthcare and STFU. Or don’t. Really connect with yourself as a human, what has value in your life, how do you want to express yourself, what is important to you, what can / should you sacrifice, how can you work on your mental and physical health above all other things? What acitivites have net positive value to humanity? What will make you sleep well?

                      Read Cory Doctorow’s ‘Walkaway’, see how you feel.

                      1. 1

                        I have a mild case of ADD myself and this resonates with me very much.

                        My advice is for you to make some friends. Then go and change the world with them.

                        Bosses are mostly in the way, so do not in any way try to appeal to them. Make sure to work with your friends to make a living, ideally in a way that improves your ability to make a positive change. Stay away from corporations and “startups”, they will just suck your soul.

                        Do not give in and fight cynicism with humor. Also with ponies.

                        1. 1

                          Thank you for the book tip, by the way. It is awesome. I am at the takeoff chapter and cannot stop reading. Will have to, though. Cannot keep my eyes open for much longer. :-)

                        2. 3

                          issues I have with productivity, focus, and when it’s getting hard to sleep, and everything’s getting to me, and I’m coming into the office around noon, my tardiness

                          The great news here is that you have a pretty concrete list of patterns of behavior that are holding you back—and “acumen” isn’t one of them. So you can feel pretty confident that you’ve got the raw materials.

                          I was in a very similar place, actually. I started programming a long time ago, loved it, but failed out of school; and failed in my jobs after school for a lot of the same reasons you mention. I was smart and had a natural talent for programming, but I also:

                          • was also majorly depressed
                          • didn’t know how to motivate myself beyond my own intellectual interest (which was never omnipresent)
                          • dealt with stress by procrastinating and staying up late
                          • which meant I was often fatigued and had less ability to focus.

                          As it happens, I did get a simpler, lower-paying job, which I did for 7 years. It was never very satisfying. But it did give me enough time to teach myself a lot of the mental habits necessary to resolve the laundry list of issues above. In particular I:

                          • developed a pretty solid meditation practice
                          • built a series of strong support relationships
                          • started going to therapy.

                          By the time I realized I didn’t actually want to do what I was doing (I had assumed I was actually a terrible programmer since I failed the first time), I was in a place to keep myself grounded and deal with the stress of working at a higher level. I needed a lot of work before I could bring to bear my natural talent on a practice that I really loved.

                          I don’t know you, but the things you mention up there feel like similar issues to me. They sound like the patterns of a mind that probably struggles with some kind of depression, and can get into spirals of aversion and withdrawing when it encounters stress. I could be totally wrong, of course. But I bet that some of the habits you’re describing can be reformed. The benefits to this kind of practice are great.

                          1. 3

                            I empathise deeply. I also don’t know. I had similar problems (high IQ, ADHD) & worked a series of IT jobs, the essay “the bipolar lisp programmer” resonates deeply (I don’t have bipolar though ADHD could be described as ‘depression restricted to executive functioning’). My solution was becoming a dishwasher at a pay what you want restaurant. I did become happier and learn to enjoy manual work, but this also could have been because I learned to enjoy anywork Given that hard stage at my life, I also found out about mindfulness and became a student of zen at my local centre… weird, never thought that would have happened. The most important skill I learned in the past few years was to sit & face the wall and focus on the breath. I was lucky in having stable accomodation during this life crisis. At the moment I’m trying to get manual labouring jobs that involve rigging (for which I have gotten a few qualifications for, mainly because it’s the sort of schooling where ‘just turning up’ gets you the ticket - hey, I never used to be able to do that! Always arising at 12). My aim is to get into those sorts of climbing roles that also require technical skills (tower techs climb the mast towers and install networking gear) I learned to just turn up, and a few things about myself. But I also feel this is a dangerous area of work I’m getting into and old friends who know a little about some of my work in logic & philosophy comment on my ‘brilliant mind’. Maybe manual work lets you have your mind to yourself? Maybe I owe it to society to put my mind to work? I don’t know. Anyway thank you for posting, these issues hit home & I don’t have any answers. :)

                            If you want to chat / text / video whatever time feel free, you seem cool.

                            1. 3

                              First off, everyone has unproductive days, weeks and even months. Systems, acumen and all these other things will help you with that, but also, you need to take care of yourself. None of it works if you’re not actually taking care of yourself. Eat properly, drink plenty of water, get proper sleep and take time to work on things other than programming/coding.

                              I absolutely love programming, if I could, I would do it all the time, I feel like my hobby is my work. That’s not necessarily a good thing though, you need to shut off that part of your brain sometimes and just relax. Staying up until even just 10/11 at night even a few nights a week trying to solve a problem isn’t the best way to be productive, a large proportion of problems become a lot clearer when you’ve had some sleep and your brain has had a rest. Reading coding books all the time (and only coding books/articles/tutorials) may feel like you’re learning but at a certain point, you need to stop and process what you’ve taken in otherwise you’re just throwing stuff at a wall hoping some of it will stick.

                              A lot of us are guilty of some pretty terrible diets, soft drinks, chips, etc… while spending a lot of time sedentary, sitting in the same chair and position for long hours. It’s not particularly healthy, and if you have an existing issue whether psychological or physical, its only going to exacerbate it.I’m not saying you have go out and become super fitness guy, but get up, go for a walk, spend time with friends/family. I work from home, whenever I’m starting to get frustrated, I get up and go into the living room and play with my kids or go out for a walk and get some fresh air and it does wonders. Get a glass of water, eat a healthier snack, be good to your body and your brain will follow.

                              As for other people measuring/commenting on your performance, external feedback is great, but it’s external and most of the time it’s biased by that persons ideas of what productivity and good work are, which may not align with your personal ideals and goals. It’s very likely that either you or your bosses idea of what constitutes productive output are unrealistic for you at this point in time. This is especially likely if your boss doesn’t have a background in programming or development. For instance if you’re working for a creative agency and your boss is an Art director or other management position, their idea of what’s normal for someone to output may not be based in the experience of the amount of time actual development takes.

                              So what do you do? First off, i’ve seen a couple posts on here and other sites about the applications that people install onto their systems to make them more productive. Long lists of different software to do all these different things like track todos, events, progress, issue trackers, etc… At a certain point, you’re spending more time managing those applications than you’re spending managing you. I know it sounds completely old school, but you need to SEE how productive you’re being with cold hard facts and analysis. The only way to do this is to record and keep track of what you’ve done and what you want to do, not every little aspect of it though.

                              This doesn’t mean you need some crazy overblown notebook system either. All you need is a pad of paper and a pencil on your desk. If you want to use a piece of software to do it, fine, but if you use paper, it’s there, you don’t have to open a program, figure out where you are in a set of todos and manage things like metadata, etc… With a notepad, you pick up the pencil, write down what you did and then get back to work. If you finished the work, draw a line through it, put a tick next to it. Who cares, just mark it as done and move on. If you’re in the middle of working on something and another task pops into your head you need to get done, write it down on the pad, mark it done when you get it done and FORGET ABOUT IT until you mark off what you’re already working on.

                              Do it for a week, keep the sheets, at the end of the week while things are still fresh in your mind, go through the list and really look at it, don’t just toss it or transfer it to somewhere else. Looking at your list, think about the items where you felt stalled out, or that you think took longer than they should have, then try and think of how you can eliminate those bottlenecks in the next week and why you had those bottlenecks in the first place. Then go home, rest, have fun, read a (non-coding) book, watch a movie, go for a run. Don’t dwell on that crap all weekend and then roll into the office dog tired because you never rested.

                              I started out in graphic design doing web sites going on 13 years ago, I pushed myself hard through years of learning new skills and technologies to where I am now and I’m still growing. It’s not enough to read the things that come up on lobste.rs, you need to put things into practice and learn to filter out the things that really don’t apply to you or where you want to be in the next, say, five years. If you don’t have a project that requires apache kafka, then you don’t need to be setting up an instance of it and spending hours trying it out unless its’ something you absolutely need in the future (sorry don’t mean to pick on kafka, just it was up in the feed). Do what I do, skim the title, skim the comments, file it away in the back of your head and move on to the articles which you feel align with what your next steps are to progress.

                              You also need to recognise when you’re burnt out. Everyone burns out, it’s not an age thing and some industries are more prone to pushing their staff towards burn out than others. Advertising and design agencies are notorious for hiring cheap and running young workers into the ground and then replacing them when they burn out. You need to learn to recognise when your body is telling you it’s running out of juice. If you’re sitting at your desk and you keep clicking on that reddit tab instead of the one with your work on it, that’s probably not procrastination, you just can’t bring yourself to do hard work right now and you need to divert your attention to something less intense but productive that will help you be more productive later when your brain is back on duty, review your list of stuff to do, answer a few emails, make some calls.

                              Another major impactor on productivity is external factors, and I don’t mean your boss interrupting you or the phone ringing. I mean things like finances, personal problems, etc… things that weigh heavy on your mind. If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay your rent, then thats going to sit there in the back of your head and pull you away from your work constantly. In truth, if you’re having trouble paying your rent or something like that, then you need to address it. If you need money and if you feel you can, ask for a small advance, if it’s a personal problem, maybe you need to take the rest of the day to sort yourself out. Otherwise you’re just sitting there filling space. If thats’ not the case, get a job in the evenings that isn’t the same as what you do in the day. Get a job at a print shop, a restaurant or somewhere like that that will bring in extra cash but doesn’t require you to pack your brain with more coding/programming.

                              No one is 100% productive all the time. Some people are REALLY good at programming and they output more during the time that they’re being productive, but they’re not productive 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If that were the case, sites like reddit, lobste.rs and others would be ghost towns.

                              Also, do what you have to do to survive. If you have to work at McDonalds for a few months in between jobs, just do it. If you get laid off, just find a job, shovel shit if you have to, just keep moving forward. Write things down that you’re doing and accomplishing and adjust yourself, the life around you and your goals or the steps you need to get to those goals accordingly, it may end up being a crooked road but it will hopefully get you to where you want to be.

                              This whole “making it” thing has to go. There is no making it, there are a succession of jobs and positions that hopefully reflect your experience and skill as you grow as a person and as an employee. You’ll become a senior, then you’ll want to be a manager, or specialise in something, or strike off on your own. You’re never going to “make it”, you just have to push yourself in the general direction that you think you need to go to be better at what you do and keep moving. Create some personal non-work related goals to work towards, buying a cool car, a motorbike, learning to fish, buying a property, becoming financially stable, you’ve “made it” when you achieve one of those, not when you’ve attained some highly regarded position at Google, Facebook or Apple, etc…

                              My two cents, good luck

                              1. [Comment removed by author]

                                1. 4

                                  Buddy, I am the local Communist :)

                                  Thank you for the comment <3

                                  1. 3

                                    If you’re recommending dumpster diving and living in a commune, I guess this might be helpful as well: http://hackaday.com/2017/08/30/living-in-a-storage-locker-undetected-for-2-months/

                                    rolls eyes

                                    1. [Comment removed by author]

                                      1. 2

                                        I’m actually making fun of the people who are suggesting that @kel needs to use every trick in the book to survive. Let’s not put people on the streets the minute they have a financial setback.

                                  2. -2

                                    you’ll be fine. harden up and keep going.

                                    1. 19

                                      FWIW, telling people in crisis to “harden up” is rarely helpful.

                                      1. 8

                                        This is not good advice.