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Nina
Nina

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Not Working is Death?

I feel I'm not alone in feeling like if you're not working on something productive, you're dying a small death. Each moment could be something new, but if you're doing what I've been doing the past two weeks (playing EVE Online), those moments are dying and you'll never get them back, is what it feels like.

Is it healthy to think a little bit of this, to try and get motivation, or is it all bad? I wonder if my avoidance of seriously working on code is due to some kind of burnout from months of thinking like this, but I don't feel particularly re-energized from my break, mostly just guilt.

What do you do you personally do when you don't feel like coding? What kind of feelings do you get when you aren't actively working?

Discussion (12)

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powerc9000 profile image
Clay Murray

You are not your productivity.

medium.com/against-productivity/yo...

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misnina profile image
Nina Author

I wish this was easier for me to absorb. So much of my life up to this point has been in anticipation of being 'worth' something. To let it all go is, very hard to say the least.

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powerc9000 profile image
Clay Murray

And I can't say I don't get caught up in this sort of thing as well. You also don't HAVE to absorb it all at once. But feeling okay about not being productive little by little.

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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited on

You are not alone Nina. I struggled with this for a long time. In fact, it felt like I depended on the guilt of not accomplishing for motivation to then accomplish.

The worst throes of this feeling were when I was unhappy in my job. However, I could not see that this was the root of the issue at the time. I internalized it as just my own selfish wants (to play games especially). When in fact, it was mainly because I was a builder in a maintainer's job. I felt miserable going to work every day, and passively did almost everything I could to get fired. All the while guilting myself over it and attributing it to some intrinsic personal defect. Laziness was a popular one to beat myself up over. However, it didn't fit because I could hardly be torn away from "interesting" work when it came up.

Eventually I realized the root of the problem was that the work I was doing was not fulfilling. And also that I was not responding to this in perhaps the most mature ways at my job. (A growth moment for me.)

The second revelation is that despite everything my upbringing taught me, it is okay to spend your spare time on your hobbies instead of working. Let yourself enjoy games on your own time without guilt.


Also curious how things are doing in eve-o. I stopped playing many years ago after an outbreak of "suicide bombing" in hi-sec. That and constant war-decs by merc corps. It got to be that one couldn't keep any nice things in the game because of "pervasive PVP".

Nowadays, I've been playing a lot of Warframe.

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misnina profile image
Nina Author

Things not being fulfilling, that resonates. I think maybe I've gotten to a level that my practice projects aren't fulfilling to me, and it's hard to guide myself into a project that would be. The other problem is that because I'm currently looking for and don't have one, there is very little separation between what could be work time and what should be play time. I guess I could try and keep my own hours, but I usually ignore alarms haha.

EVE is going great for me. I think I accept that the game is mainly a PVP game and some people will get their enjoyment from killing, so as long as I accept that I'm okay with the state of things. The number one rule that's been told to me by a very helpful community is "Don't fly what you can't lose". That being said, I've only been killed once. I stream it, and got enough viewers to get to twitch affiliate, and that's has lead to a share of stream snipers. But they're just having their own fun, and I've made friends with one who's now a regular chatter who tried very hard to kill me and just missed, hahaha. It's exciting to me. Though when I don't stream, I just moon mine in high security in my corporation and we collectively have enough gear and ships that if one gets blown up it's no skin off our back to just get another one for our corpmates. It's not a regular occurrence though, so we just relax and chat. I haven't touched being at war yet, I'm still very green in that.

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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited on

The only kind of side projects that didn't fizzle out for me were things that I found personally useful. For example, I used to be more careless about my finances. Then I would overdraft and get stressed. And I repeated this cycle a number of times. So at some point I decided to make a finances simulator app (front-end only) while at the same time trying a new tech. It really helped me to come up with a system that worked for me, and get a feel for the new tech.

Another example was that I created an EVE skill monitor widget for the Mac OS X dashboard. I was a heavy EVE player at the time (years ago). I eventually learned that EVE was not a fit for me because of the "pervasive PVP" and stopped playing. But the project was useful to me (and others) for a while.

One thing that I have been less successful at doing in my spare time is side projects (volunteer or paid) for others. I've managed to do it off and on, but my motivation for it is VERY low. (The exception being when there is an imminent need, like when things are down.) I work best when I am inside of an organization (rather than outside). And even then I enjoy work the most when I am exploring or pushing the boundaries of what I have done before. I hate busy work. My team likes me doing this, because I can trail-blaze and find helpful paths that the rest of the team can follow.

It took me a long time to realize that this is part of my personality, not laziness or simply chasing shiny things. I have a need to be "creative". (For me, this creativity must serve a useful purpose -- it must make things better. And my creativity is usually more of a synthesis of existing ideas rather than radically new and different.) But I am most fulfilled professionally when I lean into that.

All that to say, perhaps you haven't found the area of the profession that fits your temperament just yet? Be careful not to let other people's notions of what you "should" like about dev become a blocker from diving into what you actually like about it. Your body's own feedback loop (what resonates and doesn't) is a valuable indicator for these kinds of situations.

Thanks for conversing with me about this!

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misnina profile image
Nina Author

I've thought about making an EVE app for anything really, but their API recently changed and there's not a lot of documentation on how to use it so I'm in over my head haha.

I guess I do have ideas of useful apps for myself, I just feel like they might be too big to tackle. I won't know until I try it seems. Thank you too for this conversation! It's helping me think about what I should do next.

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mikeysanchez profile image
Mikey Sanchez

Great discussion topic, Nina. Right up there (for me, at least) with Impostor Syndrome...

Clay is right, you are not your productivity. Nor are you simply what you do. We are all a complicated, messy, mish mash of our thoughts, words and deeds.

Your worth is (or should be, I would hope) determined by the sum of all you are. Not just your occupation. Because, let's face it, coding/programming/developing is just our jobs.

Burn out is real, and I've fought it on and off for 15+ years. Weather the storm. You got this. And tons of help here from the DEV community.

I've found that having activities and hobbies outside of tech can have a positive impact on my mood and motivation for new and/or boring projects at work. I've got kids and dogs who keep me busy, so they definitely help me out in this capacity.

I hope you can get reinvigorated and re-energized soon.

Here's to finding beauty in the balance in between all the highs and the lows.

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misnina profile image
Nina Author

I feel like I go from high to low so quickly! But thank you for your comments. I wonder if I finally get a job being a developer I can start treating coding as "just a job" and not as my new creative outlet, which is prone to burnouts. That and having assigned work in specified hours would help me separate and enjoy my gaming time. Still need to work more to get there though!

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

How's it going in EVE?

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misnina profile image
Nina Author

It's going well! Have a nice corporation that takes care of me, stable income, though I occasionally go wormhole jumping to mine gas and that's exciting. : )

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evanplaice profile image
Evan Plaice

I must already be dead then. I've been dying a slow death for a long time now.