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Dwayne Charrington
Dwayne Charrington

Posted on

You don't need to work long hours to succeed as a developer

On both sides of the coin, whether you are front-end or backend, some people are of the opinion in the formative years of your career, you need to burn yourself out. That to become successful in your chosen field, you need to "invest" additional hours into your job by working overtime.

As someone who did this during the early years of their career, I can tell you that even if I didn't, I truly believe I would still be where I am today. I didn't get here because I did 14 hour days, I got here because of passion and drive. I got to where I am because I chose this field, I chose to do what I am doing and it's my love for the industry that keeps me here, even when things get tough.

At times in my career, I became burned out and disillusioned in my chosen career path I love so much. Let me tell you, there is no worse feeling than waking up one day and feeling like you don't love what you do anymore. To go to bed with passion, only to wake and be filled with dread and anxiety for no apparent reason.

Well, there is a reason. People don't just stop loving what they do. Long hours and crunch affect your mental health. Even if you feel like they don't, even the strongest people will eventually burn out and it can happen without you even realising it.

For some, there are warning signs (whether you choose to listen or not), for others, the effects silently build up over time and like an explosion, they'll detonate inside of you. No symptoms, just the devastating effects of repressed constant tiredness and mental stress.

Where the divide happens in the community and those who continue to spread this dangerous advice is, not everyone burns out. Some people are wired differently, their brains are wired to seemingly weather any storm that comes their way, hardened to the harsh realities of our industry and so, these dangerous opinions continue to be spread. For every person who doesn't burn out, numerous people do.

Lack of sleep leads to exhaustion and exhaustion has disastrous consequences. Sleep boosts your immune system, without sleep your ability to fend off the cold and flu is lowered, as well as other bugs. Lack of sleep has also been linked to anxiety and depression.

Fortunately, I have always had a good support network with my wife, my family and friends. By all accounts, I should be lonely and friendless. I invested so much time early in my career, relationships suffered for it. I did lose some of my friends because I stopped making an effort, but not all of them. I can't say I blame the friends I lost contact with for giving up.

And I am not trying to be pitied here, I am one of the lucky ones. While I worked long hours for quite a few years of my career, I came out on top. In the end, it all worked out. But, what about the people it doesn't work out for? What about the people who were driven out of the industry, driven to hate the thing they once loved as I did? I am sure there are many.

Spending excessive hours "investing" in your career comes at a cost. For some, it is greater than others. I do believe that developers should invest in their skillsets, but I do not believe that working overtime for an employer is how you do that.

If you want to advance as a developer, it should be of your own free choice and on your own terms not because someone else is asking you to stay back and help get that project completed by the unrealistic deadline placed upon you and the team.

Start an open-source project, contribute to an existing one, start a blog, write and publish a book on a subject you're knowledgable on. Do something that is wholeheartedly for you and only you, not somebody else.

Or better still, once you're finished for the day, do nothing at all. It is your choice. Sit down and relax with some Netflix, read a book or get a good nights sleep. Your career and your life should be in your own hands. Don't listen to thought-leaders, gatekeepers and managers who say otherwise.

You can rest assured that if you burn yourself out and fall apart, your employer isn't going to stand around and let you pick the pieces up and watch as you put them back together.

Top comments (6)

rolfstreefkerk profile image
Rolf Streefkerk

This is more a general matter of ambition than anything else. You want to go beyond regular people, that means you have to deliver more than regular people. Usually that means more hours worked and more effort delivered then the next person.

Ask anyone that is successful and that is generally what they will tell you.

It's fine if you don't want to do this, but also don't expect big salaries and everything else that comes along with success.

The message is hard, but it's the truth

xurei profile image
xurei • Edited on

Disagreed. The successful people are the one that can do more with less time, not the one that burn themself down.

Granted they are crazy dudes like Elon, but it's actually an exception. I know a lot of successful entrepreneurs that don't work much more than others.

They just found a way to be crazy efficient in what they do.

rolfstreefkerk profile image
Rolf Streefkerk

Elon Musk is not an exception, him sleeping on the factory floor to get those cars out. That is high performance and guys that are on his level all work crazy hours.

What you're mentioning is leveraging other people's time, which you can do if you can pay them a salary to do it. You first must have the money acquired to do so and even then, that doesn't stop the work.

It's effort that makes the difference not so much intelligence.

You don't have to believe me, look up guys like Dan Pena and Dan Lok (popular these days). There are plenty of other examples out there.

Thread Thread
xurei profile image

I believe we don't use the same definition of success here.
I'm referring to having a comfortable income, being happy with your job and your relationships. You seem to be referring to "being at the top".

With your definition, I would agree with you. Although I think mine fits better with the article here.

I'm not talking about leveraging people's time (which is actually what Elon, Steve and Dans do BTW).
I'm talking about being clever enough to optimize / automate your job, so you can do more with less time. Sharpening the saw.

omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

I also hate this idea we have in our community that you gotta do a bunch of "extra curricular" stuff to get ahead and succeed. Ugh

peledzohar profile image
Zohar Peled

Related: Eric Lippert's Fabulous adventures in coding article called Work and success

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