Work-life balance, avoiding the burnout


Let's be real, the developer life can be awesome. We're constantly learning new stuff, building cool things, basically coding ninjas with superpowers. But with great power comes great responsibility, right? The responsibility to take care of ourselves and avoid turning into burnt-out developers.

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June 4th, 2024
3 min read

I remember that time during a One-on-one, I told a coworker during crunch time, "The backlog never ends, there's always the next feature to build, but your mental and physical health don't have an infinite to-do list". Being "on" all the time might seem hardcore, and probably the norm, but it's a recipe for disaster. Here's the truth: a balanced developer is a happy and productive developer. So, here are some tips that I do, and that has worked for me so far, unfortunately, I learned by hard, so here they are:

To-Do, not to-keep-doing:

  • Prioritize: Not every bug is a five-alarm fire. Use tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to sort your tasks and tackle the most important ones first. Discuss this priority with your manager, and set clear expectations, always take into account your bandwidth and availability.
  • Time Blocking: Schedule specific chunks of time for coding, meetings, and (super important) breaks. Treat these blocks like VIP appointments and stick to them! Even a five minute break will boost your productivity.
  • Learn to Say No: Don't be afraid to politely decline extra work if your plate is overflowing. Your well-being is more important than taking on more than you can handle.
  • Learn to Negotiate: If your plate is already full, and you get new assignments that can’t wait because of the priority, then negotiate your other assignments, there’s always a trade-off, if you get new tickets, others in the list won’t be completed during the sprint. Negotiate them, and set new expectations with your manager.

Setting Boundaries

  • Work Hours, Not Work Lives: Set clear work hours and try your best to stick to them. This lets you disconnect from the code and actually have a life outside of work.
  • Silence the Notifications: Constant pings and notifications are productivity killers. Set specific times to check emails and silence those suckers during focused work periods.
  • Communicate Your Boundaries Clearly: Let your colleagues and managers know your preferred communication channels and response times outside of work hours.

The Power of Breaks (Seriously)

  • Step Away from the Screen: Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to get up, move around, and clear your head. A short walk or some light exercise can work wonders.
  • Vacations Are Mandatory, not optional: Don't be a vacation martyr! Take your paid time off and use it to actually disconnect and recharge. Explore new places, hang with loved ones, or just do absolutely nothing.
  • Find Your Off-Switch: Develop hobbies and activities that help you truly unwind outside of work. For me, that's CrossFit! Those challenging (and totally rewarding) workouts leave me feeling energized and ready to tackle anything, including the nastiest coding problems. Find what works for you, whether it's reading, playing music, spending time in nature, or pursuing a creative outlet.

Here's the thing: This developer journey isn't a sprint, a marathon, or even a race. It's a long road, and you need to find your own cadence – a consistent and sustainable pace that lets you perform at your best. Think of it like finding the sweet spot in Crossfit, or working out – that zone where you're pushing yourself but not burning out. Sure, there will be times you need to push harder, put out fires, and code through the night. But those times should be the exception, not the norm. By prioritizing your well-being, setting boundaries, and taking breaks, you'll create a sustainable pace that lets you be a happy, healthy, and productive developer for the long haul. And hey, if you're ever feeling the burnout monster creeping in, maybe I can talk you into joining a Crossfit class – who knows, you might just discover your new off-switch!

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By Jonatan Juarez