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๐Ÿ“š To Every Developer Close To Burnout, Read This

๐Ÿ’ก Newskategorie: Programmierung
๐Ÿ”— Quelle:

Are you feeling exhausted? Overwhelmed and unmotivated?

With no willingness to code, work, or even wake up? Feeling like you lost your passion for the craft?

Then you might be close to burnout.

Burnout is extremely common among software developers.

Some statistics claim that up to 80% of programmers feel burned out. With the developer job market getting more competitive these days, I can only imagine that number going up.

And the worst part?

Burnout will not only damage your career but also your health and personal life.

Getting burned out can even lead you to quit being a developer. And it will put you at risk of dozens of life-threatening diseases, from depression to diabetes.

While the software industry is constantly losing great programmers because of burnout, almost no one seems to care about it. Instead, most articles on software development are only making the problem worse by adding more frameworks and libraries to your learning list.

Image description Software Developers in 2024 be like: "Nah, I am not burned out". Image Credits: theSeniorDev

Today, I will share a Senior Developerโ€™s perspective on burnout and six things you can do right now if you feel burned out as a developer to get your career and life back on track.

But, to fix developer burnout, we must understand why it is happening in the first place.

Why Developers Burn Out

In my experience, software developers get burned out because of many reasons.

First of all, software development is a very stressful job. There is so much to learn and so little time. Anxiety and fear of missing out make you feel like no matter how hard you work to stay ahead, it will never manage to catch up.

This constant state of fatigue can stress the hell out of you.

Second, a lot of software teams are โ€œtoxicโ€.

Ask any Senior Developer and they will tell you the same, the people you work with can kill your motivation and damage your mental health.

Nasty colleagues attacking your work, managers who donโ€™t care about your needs, or an overly competitive culture will drag you down quickly. Combine this with extra working hours, and it will be a miracle if you stay sane.

Image description A burned-out Senior Dev can damage a lot more than code. They can make the Junior Devs burn out faster as well.

Finally, some developers burn out because they feel lost, demotivated, and stuck with no clear path for the future.

The solution here is simple: Be intentional about what you want to achieve in your developer career. Set goals and quantify them. Add a deadline, write it down, and make a plan to achieve it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some have too high expectations. If you have the wrong expectations, no matter how well you are doing, you wonโ€™t be happy.

I burned out more than once during my developer career, and the consequences for my life were always negative. I ended up in the doctorโ€™s office. I hated writing code and everything related to it.

I found myself bitter all the time, doubting my choice of becoming a software developer and thinking of what other things I could do for a living. Here is my burnout story.

๐ŸšจP.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. ๐Ÿšจ

My Burn Out Story

A few years ago, I worked as a front-end developer for a small startup in Berlin, Germany, building software for the crafts industry.

Deadlines were tight as the craft industry gets together at yearly events. We were also dealing with a massive pile of technical debt and only had two other junior developers on the team.

Initially, spending an evening with the team pushing features felt exciting. We were all doing our best and going the extra mile.

Yet, late evenings in the office became the norm.

To make things worse, after working too late, our first stop was a fast food restaurant, and after that, the bar.

There, we would drown our anxiety in alcohol. The next day, I would wake up messed up, sipping coffee and trying to catch up. Only to repeat the same cycle later that evening.

Working long hours also caused frequent conflicts in the team.

Everyone was constantly pissed off. Management believed a few team events and a bunch of beers together would help. When, in fact, they only made things worse.

In only three months, I gained 15 kilos of extra body weight.

Image description Totally burned out after another 12 hours of coding. I took this image as a memory just before my breaking point.

This affected not only my self-esteem but also my metabolism. No matter how many Red Bull cans I drank in the morning, I still felt exhausted. I lacked the energy to get things done, and I was nervous and anxious all the time.

One Friday morning, I remember not wanting to wake up to get to work.

I just didnโ€™t want to get out of bed, work, or talk to my friends. I wanted nothing, just to lay in there for hours. I was afraid to call in sick because I knew my boss would get angry.

But I had no choice. So, I called in sick for the day.

I got some rest during the weekend and went back on Monday. Yet, the same happened. I seemed to be drained by everything. I didnโ€™t pay attention in meetings and code reviews. I was constantly waiting for the day to be over so I could go home.

Next Friday, the same thing happened.

But this time, it was much worse.

A huge skin rash appeared on my left hand, and I started to have nausea. I rushed to the doctorโ€™s office. They told me it was just stress and I needed to take it easier. I was only 25 then, but trust me, my body felt a lot older.

Thatโ€™s when I finally decided to pause and rethink the whole thing.

๐ŸšจP.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.๐Ÿšจ

How To Get Back On Track If You Feel Burned Out

After my short trip to the doctor, I promised myself I would not let that happen again. I started reading more about what causes developers to burn out and fixing what was happening. And I implemented what Iโ€™ve read.

In about three short weeks, I was back at my usual pace. My burnout was just a distant memory. Of course, the problems in my company were still there. Deadlines were still unrealistic, requirements were fuzzy, and working hours were crazy long.

But I was smarter. This time, I knew how to deal with it.

These days, whenever I feel like I lack energy and motivation or that I am close to burning out, I take a series of steps to prevent it from happening.

1. Force Yourself To Stop

It says "force" in the title because, as stupid as it sounds, many burned-out developers canโ€™t stop working no matter how bad they feel. They are addicted to work.

I remember the doctor telling me that I had to stop working. At the same time, I was asking him how soon I could get back to workโ€”not because I wanted to go back, but because I had no choice.

My boss would soon find a replacement, and that promotion Iโ€™d been working so hard for would be goneโ€”just because I was sick. Sad, but true. It happens all the time.

Yet, my mother kept insisting as she was worried about my health, so I decided to take a break.

Image description Stop coding for a bit and take a break. Donโ€™t worry; your computer will still be there when you return.

That weekend, I didnโ€™t even touch my laptop. No coding for me. Not a single line. Instead, I visited a friend in Munich. We enjoyed some tasty German food and the spring sunshine.

Here comes my first piece of advice: force yourself to take a break.

Forget the billionaires that sleep in the office. You are not them. I am not them. I donโ€™t want to be like them. Sure, you are a software engineer, but first, you are a human.

Image description It might not make you look younger, but stopping from coding occasionally will give your body and mind a much-needed break.

Humans have not been designed to work 80-hour weeks all year round, and they havenโ€™t even been designed to do so sitting in front of a computer.

Close your laptop. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Go out in nature. Catch up with some friends. Work less hours. Pick up a new hobby that doesnโ€™t involve coding.

It might sound counter intuitive because you have a lot to do. But that is when you need time for yourself the most.

Trust me, everything will be here when you decide to come back to work. The earth will keep on spinning, and you will realize that no matter what "tech influencers" say, technology doesnโ€™t change that much. You will be able to catch up.

๐ŸšจP.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.๐Ÿšจ

2. Confront People And Set Boundaries.

The second thing you must do when dealing with developer burnout is almost harder than the first. That is, confront your tech lead, product manager, and developer colleagues and set some real boundaries.

Boundaries mean that you come into the office at a particular time and that you are gone afterward. They also mean no late commits at night and no coding on the weekend, at least not for your company.

Image description The key to avoiding burnout? Learn how to say NO.

Sure, your boss might get annoyed. The product manager might go crazy. Be chill about it and address it directly. State your boundaries. Be respectful but direct. And donโ€™t expect them to take it easy. Is that or a hospital bed.

*Remember, you teach people how to treat you.

By the way, donโ€™t worry about getting fired.

You are safe as long as you deliver enough and do not create any issues. If they quit your contract, they need to replace you. They need to go to the market and find another developer that is fit, which is very expensive.

Sure, they might threaten you, but they wonโ€™t fire you. Dogs that bark donโ€™t bite.

3. Get Your Body Moving: If You Can Pump Some Iron

The third thing Iโ€™ve done was to get my butt out of the computer chair and go back to the gym. I started lifting weights. This wasnโ€™t easy to stick to, but it is one of the habits that paid off the most during the last few years.

I look, feel, and am in better shape now in my thirties than when I was 25.

Why? I kept working out, and I stopped eating so much KFC. I still indulge in some grilled chicken from time to time, though.

Physical exercise has been proven to work, as well as medication for treating depression and mental health issues.
If I had to choose between moving my body or filling it up with chemicals, I would always choose the first option.

The point here is that if you are feeling burned out, do something physical. It is a much better way to deal with a bad day than eating fast food and watching Netflix.

๐ŸšจP.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.๐Ÿšจ

4. Fill Your Cup

Taking care of my health has already greatly improved my mood and motivation. I was energized and rested. Yet, despite my better mood, I felt I still lacked the passion I used to have when I first started coding.

At my job, I counted the minutes until the clock hit 5 and I could go home. At home, I was constantly looking for distractions like video games and trash TV.

Thatโ€™s when I realized I needed to fall in love with coding again.

Without passion, work is just grinding.

You go through the motions but do not enjoy the moment. Thatโ€™s a poor way of living. I had to get that spark back, or I would end up doing something other than software development.

When you get burned out, your motivation cup gets empty. Before returning to the game, you must fill your cup again. And make sure it stays full.

For me, I had to remind myself why I chose to become a developer in the first place. Catching up with some old developer friends also helped. I also paired programming with some Junior developers and let their enthusiasm infuse me (I still do this every time I get the chance).

Image description Hanging out with other devs at a hackathon, getting the passion for coding back.

In my free time, I visited some engineering museums. They reminded me that no matter what kind of code I was writing, at its core, I was solving humanityโ€™s problems.

Image description At GraphQL Berlin, making friends, and filling my cup of passion for software.

More than coding, I was building a better future for the world and adding my little grain of sand to the collective history of programming. And thinking of all that was like getting my heart beating again. Finally, I was back.

5. Win Big, But First Win Small.

Now that I had regained my passion, it was time to accumulate some wins. I needed that dopamine shot you feel when you get things done.

Yet, my energy tank wasnโ€™t fully recharged, so I realized it was better to stick with small steps. Complex tasks would require way too much mental effort.

This meant no big tickets and no two-week releases. I looked at our Sprint and searched for low-hanging fruitโ€”tasks that required little effort but had a lot of value.

Image description Small steps are even more critical when recovering from burnout.

In my case, I decided to focus on optimizing the performance of our front-end application. This involved a lot of research and testing and not too much coding. Plus, results would be clearly visible.

If you have recently recovered from burnout, I advise you to do the same. Look for the "low-hanging fruits" in your project. This can be writing one more test or fixing a small UI bug.

The point is to put one step in front of the other. To build momentum by having small victories.

๐ŸšจP.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.๐Ÿšจ

6. Switch Projects Or Jobs

No matter how many changes I made in my personal life, how much I pumped myself up before going to work, or how many breaks I took, my job was still draining me.

Itโ€™s been weeks since my burnout episode, yet nothing changed. Technical debt was still there, deadlines were still unrealistic, gossip and politics were on the rise, and my CTO was running from place to place like a headless chicken, unable to fix any of these issues.

Thatโ€™s when I realized I needed to jump ship.

No matter how much advice you read about "not burning bridges" and being professional, the truth is you have to take care of yourself. Sometimes, the problem is not you; it is them. There are toxic companies and toxic software teams.

You need to find a better company to work for. To do that, you need to improve your skills and get better at technical interviews.

If your company is big enough, it might be easier to switch teams or projects. You wonโ€™t have to go to the market and interview. Yet, I still recommend keeping your technical interviewing skills sharp.

Finally, you might have to switch jobs completely.

The hard part is that jobs that burn you out leave you with little energy left to dedicate to technical interviews and getting a new job. Regardless, you will have to organize yourself somehow, push through, and make it happen.

At this point, many developers get discouraged. They think switching companies wonโ€™t make any difference because all software companies are the same.

I get it.

You have had some bad experiences in the past. Yet, if you let them hold you back, you might miss out on some great opportunities.

In reality, software companies are very different from one to another.

Some are big, others are small. Some are toxic, others are not. Some are very political. Others are meritocratic. Find one that matches your standard, and you will minimize your risk of getting burned out.

In my case, I ended up switching jobs to a much better company. They offered a better salary and a much better schedule.

Image description Celebrating the new job with a spontaneous trip to Prague. Burnout was now just a memory.

Itโ€™s been one of the best decisions Iโ€™ve made in my whole developer career, and I like to think of that time getting burned out as the trigger for me to improve myself and get to the next level.

Finally, if you feel burned out, a mentor might help you.

Talking to a mentor about whatโ€™s going on at your job will give you an unbiased opinion on how things are going. A mentor can help you understand whether the situation is your fault. They can give you tips on how to navigate a toxic environment and share their own experiences to put you at ease.

If you want my team and I to mentor you to get to the next level in your developer career, book a chat with me here, and let's talk!

We can help you identify your technical gaps, develop a plan to achieve the next level, and give you feedback as you implement it.

Because the mentorship program is highly specialized, we can only work with a limited number of people at a time. Apply here now to join our next batch of mentees!

Image description

I hope this article helped you understand why developers burn out and what to do about it.

If you are experiencing burnout right now, implement these tips, and you will be back on track in no time!

Take care,


๐ŸšจP.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy.๐Ÿšจ


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