I know what you’re thinking; “Sixty?! That’s not really a lot, I give a hundred and ten percent, I give almost twice as much as this guy!”. Well give me ten minutes of your time and see if you feel the same by the end of this article.
Let me give you some context first. I am somewhere between a designer and developer who is heavily inspired by punk music and the DIY ethos. My qualifications centre around graphic design & UI design, but while at school I taught myself how to code. I found myself having quite a unique skillset, as once I started my first job I found myself being the communication bridge between teams. During all of this I did a lot of freelance work. I would happily burn the midnight oil as I genuinely enjoy what I do as a career. I would also describe myself as a perfectionist, agonising over all the little details making sure my clients would be getting something that is high-quality. All of this sounds admirable and pretty standard right? Well this is where you are wrong, the funny thing about burning the midnight oil is this: It burns out.
Side note: I know I’m not the only 29 year old who has been through this, and I know I won’t be the last, this is why I felt the need to write this. I know this won’t only relate to people in the web development industries either, and I can imagine in other careers it is just as bad if not worse e.g. junior doctors anyway I digress.
People who work in fields like design, art, music, or development tend to feel this is what defines them as people. This is due to the skills usually having to be self-taught as traditional education systems either haven’t taught these subjects or don’t place the same value on these types of subjects  . The hard work these people put in becoming awesome at whatever they love, is later exploited when they translate their skills to a career. This is mainly because society doesn’t teach you how to pause or take a breath and enjoy other aspects of life.
I have seen expectations of people rise significantly in the web development community. With people who work for free on open source repos dealing with constant demands, developers in general having to learn the latest and greatest tool and also employers expecting that people will work for free or get paid in another way (e.g. free pizza) to stay late. Let me put it bluntly, that badge of honour we have all worn at some point in our life that shows off how much we work is nothing to be proud of; that badge will kill you.
A lot of people over time will say “oh you have to find a work life balance”. This kind of advice sounds helpful, but without actually being helpful at all. It’s kind of like saying to someone who is trying to lose weight “oh you should eat healthier”. People who give this sort of advice seem to think there is one answer to these types of problems, and there isn’t. What works for you might not work for someone else. The advice I will always give people is this: If on average you would work 60% of the day that you’re awake (assuming you do actually sleep. If not, then yeah... sleep), you’re probably already working 2 hours longer than most people who work 9am-5pm. If this sounds like you, then great: we’re almost there, but one more thing, do you care about what you do? If not then you might want to rethink what you are doing. This 60% should be something you love and find fun, you’re not going to get this time back and you don’t want to regret the time you could have spent with your partner, friends or just by yourself playing Destiny.
So far these steps have helped me maintain a good balance:
Learn to say no. Say no to your boss and/or clients, it’s natural that you want to make these people happy and you don’t want to let them down. However if they are asking to much of you or are making unrealistic requests, you don’t have to feel obliged to do what they say. Through learning to appreciate your own time, this will reflect back upon the people you are working for, and ultimately the time you spend working for them is likely to be more productive.
Consider how well you spend your working time. Don’t procrastinate until the deadline is around the corner and try to make sure your estimates are accurate to give yourself enough time to create quality work.
Appreciate you own abilities and charge what you are worth, and make sure you get it down in a contract where if anything happens you will see some return for the efforts you have put it. When you don’t have to worry about finances you will sleep easier knowing your clients respect your time, your skill, and they have validated it by paying you for it.
Finally, just let go of your ego, I have seen far too many people posting things just to get likes or approval from their peers rather than producing work that is based on information. This mentality is about being happy and satisfied and you will never achieve this by imitating others and comparing yourself to them.
I know you might be reading this as a graduate or someone who is just starting out in their field. I’ll be honest it is going to be a tough, especially if you haven’t had any previous experience: you will have a lot to learn. However just because you are new to your job or you are young, there is no reason the people you work for or with to treat you unfairly, but you have a responsibility to stand on your own two feet. No-one else will do that for you.
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