Developer burnout is real.
I've burnt out twice in my career, and neither time was pretty. I'd be incapacitated for weeks, barely able to string two lines of code together. Deadlines would slip and colleagues and co-contributors would be disappointed. I'd feel like a failure myself, almost abandoning the career that promised (and sometimes delivered) so much.
I've had some solid conversations about it with other people on here and in real life in the last while and this post shares what I know, including how to prevent it. Burnout is a serious state of chronic exhaustion that can have a whole range of negative impacts on your mind and body, and hence your entire life, including your ability to write code.
(1) Learn to detect the signs. Burnout generally comes about through long-term chronic stress. Check regularly for these signs.
- Trouble getting started with your work (or even getting there in the first place).
- Feeling constantly irritable or impatient with clients, teachers or co-workers.
- Your achievements bring you no satisfaction.
- You’re engaged in escapist behaviour through drugs, food, alcohol or entertainment (gaming, TV etc).
- Your sleep habits or appetite have changed.
If any of these signs are present you’re potentially close to burning out.
(2) Learn about true resilience. The grind and hustle mindsets can be your enemy - you are not a machine and have mental, physical and emotional limits - respect them and learn to take care of yourself. Exercise, watch your diet, relax with meditation or creativity, sleep enough and well, and step away from the keyboard every so often. Try to operate at 80% of you realistic maximum, at that point in time - it will change, so honour it.
(3) Have a team to check in with. Make sure you have someone in your life who will listen to you without judgement, without trying to fix things either. Talk to this person or people and tell them honestly about two things - what part of your life are you struggling with? What parts are going well? Getting problems out of your mind and into a conversation is a game changer. If you don’t have immediate access to a human, use a journal. Or get in touch!
Have you ever burnt out, or do you feel close? Let me know and I'll point you in the right direction.
Update - since this is proving useful, I'm putting a link to download my Coding Burnout Checklist
Or you can read the results of the Developer Burnout Survey 2020.