What are some techniques you folks use to prevent burnout ?
I find that ignoring all friends and family, and sublimating any personal emotions or desires, tends to do the trick.
Seriously, though, I find that my worst source of stress is constantly shifting between projects and priorities. When I glue myself to the keyboard for 10 or 12 hours, I can tell when I'm reaching a point of diminishing returns, unplug, shake it off, and go do something else. Spending a day "putting out fires", getting interrupted by random phone calls, emails, texts, instant messages, etc. all while trying to remember my main goals for the day, I can get burnt out in less than half the time, and still feel like I have a million things to do and can't possibly unplug for a much needed break.
So, counter-intuitively, a long day driving hard at a few large goals doesn't burn me out. More focus, not less, tends to make it easier for me to shake it off at the end of the day and re-acclimate to meatspace.
With that in mind, here are some things that help me:
-silence all electronic devices. Even my laptop doesn't make any noise unless I plug in a headset for music or a meeting. No error noises, beeps or boops.
-turn off the ringer to the phone (if you can). We have someone who handles answering calls, but we're not afraid to let something go to voicemail. That way, we can schedule and prioritize. We still hop on the urgent things (more on that below), but this keeps us from getting pulled into a dozen "just a quick question" calls throughout the day. Queue them up, schedule them, respond all at once when you're not distracted.
-turn off automatic email checking (even though the "boop" when emails come in is already shut off). This one was hard for me. What I found, though, is that I'm unlikely to go more than a half hour or so without hitting send/receive anyhow. This way, though, I don't see email until I'm at a natural stopping point in what I'm working on, or at least need a break anyway.
-When I do check my email, I clear my inbox. I apply the three s's: Send a response, Schedule a task, or S**tcan it. That way, I don't have this huge vague list in my inbox calling out to me for distractions and stress. I apply this to other things besides email, too, like snail mail or just general tasks that are looming. Do it now, get it on the schedule, or write it off.
-Likewise with tasks. Set a due/followup date, and forget about the task until that date comes. At the end of the day, anything left over (if there is anything) gets a new, realistic date.
-We created an email (urgent@) that we give out to clients that may have a legitimate, server-down, work-stoppage need that requires us to drop everything. That email goes to everyone on the team, and is automatically received.
All these things combined help to ensure that when I'm on a task, I'm really on it and not thinking about all the other things that I could be working on. That really limits my stress. When I'm off work, too, I'm more likely to really be off, in that I know that there's nothing that can't wait.
Of course, it's not for everyone, and I'll admit that stress still finds a million other ways to creep in, but these practices take a nice chunk off the top.
Go to Vegas for Devcon and partying on the strip in the evenings <grin>.
Actually, I'm not much of a drinker or gambler. So I like to do other things like snowboarding in winter, air wheeling, playing ping pong, or going to the movies, eating out nice food.
I think once a year IT people should take an entire week off from computer, cell phones, etc. Maybe go camping with no electronics for a whole week!
Yes sir.....only took 3 days to visit Colorado and hit the trails, but still not 100%. Next time going to take a full week for sure. So much work and the pressure is draining me....
Every Tuesday night I go dancing and I always go. Answers to problems mostly appear after relaxing.
In weekends I dance as well. Rest of the week I play a lot of guitar, just go out to the park whenever I can. Mainly try to avoid using a computer at home.
On the commute to work I meditate :-) or listen to really nice groovy music.
a couple of times a week, I go out for lunch/coffee - about 20-30+ kilometers - with my bicycle. Breathing fresh air, activating non-brain-functions... helps a lot!
In the evening I do cooking - handling real-world stuff like vegetables, spices and all the things you need for good cooking is a real brain-refresher. Mountain hiking provides physical activity and lots of fresh air - and new ideas.
Sailing the Chesapeake Bay every Wed night in a race series does it for me. Last night brought us gusty 25 MPH winds and lots of rain. Have not had that much fun in a long time
Cooking works for me too...
Most of my burnout comes from the non-social environment of working from home. So I do a number of activities to keep me occupied and out of the house.
-Piano Lessons once a week
-tending to my reef aquarium
-Cocoa developers usergroup every two weeks
-monthly movie nights with friends
-date night once a week with the wife
-woodworking at my local makerspace
-brewing (and drinking) beer
-hanging out with sports clubs on the weekend
and more recently, ski trips with taylorsharpe
As for actual programming burnout, I'm fortunate to get such a wide variety of projects from work I don't suffer from "same old syndrome" there. If you do in your workplace though, I would consider freelancing to get a wider variety of projects.
Get involved in politics. After watching that sausage being made it won't be long before you will be looking forward to the calm and sanity of programming.
Being an in-house developer, I sometimes suffer from what Mike described as the "same old syndrome". I take on the occasional freelance project to mix things up which not only benefits me by having a new objective, but some of the freelance work gives me refreshed ideas on how to add or revamp things with our in-house solutions.
To avoid burnout of everything all together, I make it a point to get out on my mountain or road bike 2-3 times a week, I enjoy fishing and scuba diving at least once a month and set aside one day a week as a family day to enjoy time with my wife and kids without electronics.
Woodworking helps me, especially using hand tools rather than power tools. I find some comfort in knowing that the techniques I use to craft a piece of furniture are 100+ years old and still relevant. Completely different from coding where the tools and techniques are in a constant state of change.
This doesn't actually avoid burnout, but I've got a little utility on my Mac called BreakTime, and I've got it set to go off every hour, sound a tone, and dim my screen for 2 minutes to remind me to get up and walk around. Otherwise, I'd just sit there databasing away for hours on end without coming up for air. (Yes, I'm addicted.)
Sounds a lot like pomodoro as well, which I've used on and off.
had that running while low back pain issues, great!
Thank you for all the wonderful ideas. It seems to me that the key here is having a weekly activity to decompress. I guess watching tv and developing is not considered decompressing. Going to step-up the date nights for sure or start going to desert raves again !!!
I was hoping for a magic-pill to break on through, but on the same note I started taking prescription vitamin-d pills and almost instantly I felt more focus. Today I'm adding vitamin B-12 to the mix and washing it down with a cold-brew coffee. I'm also adding apple music to the process, new techno beats to help with the motivation. Being an in-house developer I'm also required to answer phones at times, so at this point I'm going to disconnect from that.
Let me know if anybody has access to the limitless pill. thanks !!!
Don't forget another activity: helping people here .
Man, I don't know how you have for all those activities LOL .
I take 2 measures:
Proactive: Change of scenery while programming ( read that I find my favorite local burger joint, and hope they have wifi close by ).
Semi-proactive: Get away from the computer and talk to PEOPLE. I generally avoid this one, unless it's family. lol
cooking is great for me too.
This doesn't directly affect stress levels or burnout, but it's a test I use to determine whether I'm too pooped at 2 in the morning to trust my work any longer. I take on a game of 7x7 KenKen, and if I can complete the puzzle in <10 minutes with no mistakes, I know I'm still alert enuf to keep on databasing. Otherwise, it's time to hang it up for the night before I do serious damage.
Oops, KenKen requires Flash.
Thank you for a very engaging thread.
Perhaps it's not all that surprising, but I nonetheless found it interesting to note how my personal list of items for this topic all leave me less time in a day to either work or sleep. Given an un-ebbing workflow, it might be tempting to think that having less time to work/sleep would imply more stress in life. Fortunately, I find it works exactly the opposite.
Below are a few things from my list of what helps me reduce stress...
1) being outdoors, in fresh air and around trees
2) exercise (long bicycle rides)
3) being around or playing music
1) I do my best to have regularly scheduled down-time.
Real down time -- not time which is being used to catch up on chores/errands.
2) I start each day with 30 minutes of playful activity.
For me, this means 30 minutes with a musical instrument -- every day. The big plus that I've found with this is that, even if I have a marathon or tough day at work, at the end of the day I still feel like I enjoyed myself somewhere in there -- I may be super-tired, but the satisfaction of those 30 minute is still with me at the end of the day.
Mindset regarding work:
1) I try to keep a satisfying vision in mind:
Sometimes I may be working on something tedious, vexing, or not that interesting. Especially in such cases I try to keep in mind a vision that I'm working towards. Usually I try to imagine the happiness or relief of an end user who is going to be able to perform some task with ease such that their workflow feels really enhanced. I'll try to do more than just tell myself "oh, try to be happy doing this -- it's for someone's good". I'll actually stop and take one or two minutes to actually imagine them at their desk, using the script/layout/etc that I've just created or fixed up, and I'll imagine them feeling really happy and appreciative of the work that I did, and the care that I put into it. And then I'll get back to work with a much greater desire to be working on the task at hand.
2) Personification of everything involved with the Task/Project/Challenge:
I'm sure this one might seem a bit more out there to some folks, but I've been doing it for a few years now, and I'd never turn back:
I imagine/pretend that all parts of the problem/system that I am working with have their own intelligence, and rather than regard something as a problem that must be defeated, I pretend that it's possible that I can talk to everything involved: the database schema, existing code such as scripts and calcs, the under-the-hood-design and code, long-gone developers who created the original code, the workflow itself. I'll sit down with this mindset, and playfully imagine myself talking to all of these things and asking them how I can create a good solution to whatever I am thinking about, perhaps talking about ideas that I've already considered. Before long, I will find myself engaged with the project at a very intuitive level, and in many (if not most) cases I will find both ordinary and highly creative solutions coming at me right and left. The result is an enjoyable interactive state which I definitely experience as an antidote to stress. This state will not typically sustain for a full day of work, but its impact on the work day is very positive, usually leaving me eager to return to work the next day.
Ironically I do FileMaker to refresh from burnout from my regular job, which is a business owner.
But to answer your question, join a service club. Lions, Kiwanis or Rotary. Many think service clubs are a thing of the past and our membership is struggling. However when you get a letter from someone who had their sight or hearing restored in part because of your efforts it puts life into perspective.
There is a service in your town, we are everywhere. Yes this is a gratuitous plug.
Enjoy family and/or good friends.
I go to my cottage in the Swedish forrest (I live /work in Denmark), I enjoy the wood fired sauna, take a dip in the creek when I get to warm in the sauna. I will make a good dinner on the grill and enjoy with good friends. And then I will go Windsurfing on the lake that is only 900 meters away and in the winter go cross country skiing.
But seriously (although I was also serious before):
Do not work with FileMaker in a vacuum. In my small company we are a group of dedicated FileMaker developers. And we are in touch with other developers in Denmark, Norway Sweden and other European countries and in the US. And even better: We are working with our great friends and FileMaker Experts in Codeo Norway.
If you do not want to have a company setup with other people, consider joining a FileMaker developer group - locally or virtual.
In Denmark we have something we a little bit jokingly call "Stammtisch Copenhagen" where we meet and discuss FileMaker and eat together.
We have been in contact with other companies (competitors) in our region for many years and we are taking initiatives together with them and FileMaker.
And we do of course take part whenever FileMaker is taking initiatives and if we can we give our support and take an active part.
We have also met with other European, mainly Scandinavian, developers and with FileMaker Inc for traning seminars arranged partly by FileMaker and partly by us to become authorized trainers when a new version came out.
Also: Keep developing your self, start by taking the Certification test, does not matter if you fail ... now you know it, work through the material and with the knowledge about your weak points and then retake the test and pass:-)
Attend developer conferences and smaller arrangements like the Pause on Error. Here in Scandinavia we have arranged our own annual FileMaker Devcon Scandinavia for many years and now even FileMaker is taking part sending some of their best people to join and help us every year. Two years ago we even had Dominique attending and speaking.
corals die in calm water, be active.
And then the combination
8 years ago hen I bought my cottage that is in the middle of nowhere in a Swedish forrest I choose the place because I knew that I wanted to be lonely in the nature (with family and friends). The first time I went to the small "landhandel" shop to buy some milk for my then 11 year old daughter a strange fellow stood behind me: "Carsten, what are you doing here?" he said. Lennart is a superb FileMaker developer, Swedish of course, and he live with his family 6 kilometer away from my cottage on the exact same lonely dirt road where my house is. Lennart and I had met at FileMaker activities in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenborg and at the FileMaker developer conferences. Lenore also has a daugther the same age as mine ... Danish/Swedish is so close that they understood each other from the first minute.
Talking FileMakerish in the sauna with Lennart and making dinner with his family is not bad either.
Burn out: No way!
It seems that what everyone is saying here is:
1 make sure to have a life
2 organize your work
I thoroughly enjoy my work, but when it comes to stress and tough job-choices: I work for a living, not the other way around
get a cat - it will teach You to follow another workflow...
I don't have cat, but do cat watching with comics. (Sorry written in Japanese)
ねこのこはな/藤沢カミヤ 【第1作】 上弦の月を喰べる猫 - モーニング・アフタヌーン・イブニング合同Webコミックサイト モアイ
I am getting a cat from my friend and FileMaker developer from the deep and beautiful Swedish forrest. I will pick him up next week when he is old enough to take away from mother and siblings.
His name will be Pushkin.
And I think the question: How to avoid burnout is crucial and that the answer must have many facets and will be individual from person to person.
But one thing for sure: Continue making your self a stronger and more experienced developer by an ongoing process involving being a FileMaker Certified Developer, attending FileMaker meetings/activities and whenever possible also FileMaker Devcon's, Pause on Error and the likes.
Btw ... I am sharing this with you just because you are FileMaker people ... I would never share a private photo, a picture of my self or the cat on FaceBook!
That´s what Chinese do ...
What Chris said, plus find your best hours in the day. Mine are early morning. I'm sitting here since 7:00 am and this week I've arrived earlier than that.
Lots of great ideas. Find what works for you.
One thing not mentioned is having good clients. Almost every time I start to feel stressed it's related to a problem client. I'm working with one right now. He wants a time estimate for every change, essentially tuning the all of the work into mini fixed price bids. I can't stand it when I spend more time in emails giving estimates and getting approvals than it takes to do the programming. For me at least, this creates a lot of stress.
We picked them up for an original development project. Once I've got him stable (and his billing is current) I'm going to become too busy to keep working with him. I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of long time clients who are a pleasure to work with.
Just to update you folks.... in addition to the wonderful feedback I also started taking injections of b12 and getting more sleep. Best result ever, hope this helps someone... take care !!!
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