I admire his decision, but at the same time I hope I never get to that point. I want to like coding, and I don’t want to burn out. Have any good articles been written on this? Is it a matter of personality/body type?
Burnout is on my long list of things to write about.
But a short summary is: take care of yourself. Don’t be a doormat. Take risks. Avoid places where you aren’t respected. Exercise. Be in good relationships with people. Ignore tech for seasons at a time. And kill off perfectionism, because it can consume you. Find ways to enjoy yourself in tech, even after many years.
You should write about it, because I think that’s a good summary.
Find ways to enjoy yourself in tech
This has been critical for me. We’re blessed (for now) in the field that we’re in that there’s a huge amount of choice available. That’s true everywhere, although more true in the world’s big tech cities. Taking advantage of it is key.
Everyone is different. For myself, I prevent burnout by taking breaks. When I get home I do housework: yardwork, cooking. I also do a bit of writing - a blog (or two), watch TV, read blogs and admire folks who build computers out of wood in their basement. I think burnout is the effects of binging on work. We all do that sometimes, and we should take a break to recharge.
If you like to keep programming but feel really burned out, you could try changing application field. Computer science is required EVERYWHERE. It’s often very refreshing to change where you apply it.
For example, I’m “taking a break” now by working at a great company that does bio-informatics. My previous background had been in Neuroscience. Learning a new field of biology and branching out into new directions of computer science has been very exciting for me.
This is a really good point. I have been in a dozen industries as a software developer, and each time it was exciting because even if I knew the tech, I didn’t yet know the domain.
I think it is profoundly impacted by personality and environment. You have to understand what works for you and seek it out.
Personality wise: the idea of constantly learning and problem solving has to be something that appeals to you. For me, I couldn’t stand being a bartender… I would be extraordinarily unfulfilled, and insanely bored. But, the poster enjoyed being a bartender/chef: “Over the next couple years I began working as a chef, and as a bartender to make my living and I was fairly happy with that lifestyle.”.
Environment wise: where (and how) you work matters a lot. The author apparently was mainly a “line developer” closing tickets and working on others peoples code, 40 hour work weeks, etc. I personally can’t imagine working in that type of environment for multiple years. Prior to becoming a founder I did a mix of start-up work and contracting work. I always ensured I had flexible scheduling and work from home options – not because everyone needs that, but because I needed it.
Burnout generally doesn’t sneak up on you – it is a slow building thing, and if you find yourself building towards burnout, try to arrange a sabbatical and recharge your batteries. I am honesty curious if this “new life” for the poster will end up being just an awkwardly done sabbatical after he learns the farm life isn’t really for him, or that he has material needs far better met by being a programmer versus a farmhand.
Create the opposite of what you would at work, if you create boring business apps at work then create games at home, if you write in Java at work then writing in Java at home could feel too much like work so you could change that too. If you program for the man at work then program for yourself at home. At work I maintain a library where I fix bugs/implement features for other people, at home I also maintain a library but I implement exactly the features I want to implement in the way I want to implement them, sure I waste time reinventing the wheel or writing code I won’t use, but I have fun doing it. If all I did was chores for people at work and didn’t do any programming at home then I would probably feel burnt out.
Thank you for the thoughtful comments. My personal strategy for this summer is to go overnight backpacking or bike riding every other weekend in the summer. I also do open source or blogging when I get home from work because I enjoy it, but if it feels like too much in the future I can drop it.