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Matt Upham
Matt Upham

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Fixing Burnout: an unproductive cycle that will hold you back

Burnout in tech is common:
As a software engineer, I find myself overworking due to imposter syndrome, sitting at a desk all day, grinding in high-pressure situations.

After dealing with this both when I was learning the ropes, and on my first job as a web developer, I decided to take a new approach to the way I work to avoid burnout.

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Burnout | Fixing the unproductive cycle

I've found myself setting ridiculous arbitrary deadlines and forcing myself to do anything to get my work done before that.

This results in staying up late, sleeping in until the very last minute, rushing to work / the office, having a less than ideal day with productivity, and then beating myself up mentally for not doing as well as I'd like.

This is a continuous cycle that happens over and over, until I get depressed and then lose days of productive work to depression.

I'm taking a new approach to the way I work / live, which has been working out well lately:

  1. I'm only staying focused on the things that matter to me right now (work, learning advanced technologies, health, social life, and sleep).
  2. I'm using my time slots more productively, taking breaks when I need to, and listening to my body when exhaustion hits
  3. I'm focusing on wrapping up work at midnight, and waking up around 7:30am consistently (I've found that my body needs 7.5 hours of sleep)
  4. Focusing on the overall process of consistency, and growth over the long term. Rushing everything (at least for me) usually ends in burnout.
  5. Being grateful for the small things, being proud of accomplishments, decoupling self-worth from my work, not comparing myself to others

I've been trying out this new system for a week, and feeling a lot better about the work that I'm doing.

Do you usually fall into the burnout trap? What have you done to overcome this?

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Discussion (5)

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bwb profile image
Ben Fox

I got hit by burn out after a crazy intense year. I think it took a good 6 months to recover if not 12. I was such a mess. Your tips are spot on for what got me back to some level of normal. Meditation and sleep helped a lot, as well as a lot of reading for pleasure.

What was weird too was when I got back in the groove my tolerence for intense focus was so much less. I had to build it back up.

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Matt Upham Author

It's really interesting how mindfulness is becoming "trendy" lately. It's been pretty effective at keeping thoughts in check, even though it's challenging. And hmm, interesting about the tolerance! I've found that when I'm less stressed, I generally can focus more without my thoughts racing, but it also is a challenge for me to give laser focus to something - I've been trying to train it

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Ben Fox

ya i used headspace for 400 days when i was super stressed and it felt helpful, but then i dropped off as just didn't feel i needed it and replaced it with just some quiet time on bike rides. Def a hot thing right now :)

i just did 10 min and tried a few of the ones on headspace until i found one that worked for me.

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Stephen Smith

Matt great read. I am going through this currently. Not necessarily staying up late but doing so much during the day that I am really drained by evening. I am working on structuring more time for rest. Sleep is really important I am finding. I know I need 8.5 hours of sleep to feel like I am functioning well.

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Matt Upham Author

That's awesome! Yeah it's been a challenge - I feel totally drained by the end of the day as well. Sleep is so crucial for the long term!