Coding Burnout… and How To Work Around It

It’s inevitable. Everyone experiences burnout at least once during a project — yes, a project. And by project, I’m referring to any sort of new work, whether it’s a literal project that you thought of, or a project at work, or a program at school… it happens way more often than you think!

Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to completely avoid it. So, I’m here to give you some helpful tips to work around the burnout.

Let’s go!

Take a Break

Seriously. It’s self-explanatory, but it needs to be said. I can’t stress how important it is to rest your brain, especially when you’re on a time crunch or having to code for hours at a time. You are not helping yourself if you decide to code for an hour or two straight — your brain needs to rest or you’ll reach burnout much quicker.

Even if it’s for five minutes or for an hour, step away from the screen. It’s best if you don’t step away from your computer/laptop screen just to go to your phone — your brain (and your eyes) need full rest.

I recommend following the Pomodoro Technique! You set a timer for about 20–30 minutes and work until the timer goes off. When it does go off, you’ll take a 5–10 minute break. Then you will repeat the process 3–4 times, which then you will take a longer 15–30 minute break before you start all over again until you’re done for the day!

Taking a break is especially important when you’re fixing bugs! Stepping away from the code will help you refresh your brain and eyes from seeing the same code repeatedly. Oftentimes, you’ll think of a solution during your break!

I’ve noticed a majority of the times when I’m stuck on a bug, taking a break has helped me realize that I’m just missing a character or I misspelled a variable/function.

Just take a break.

When You’re Not Working, Don’t Work

I know what you’re thinking, “If i’m not working, why would I work?”

Well, oftentimes people will work outside of their normal work hours or spend hours and hours outside of coding too focused on their project.

But similar to taking a break, it’s important to do things unrelated to coding.

Spend time with friends/family (socially distanced and safely during the pandemic, of course), watch a movie, start a new television series, pick up a new hobby, hit the gym, learn a new recipe… do something you enjoy doing! But seriously, just stay away from coding.

At most, read docs or blogs, but do not look at your code! You’ll just fall into a pigeon hole back into working.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Whether you’re working on a team project or a personal one, it’s important to get over your pride and ask for help!

First off — google. Googling is such an important skill for software engineers! Being able to ask the right questions and being able to convert docs/stack overflow answers into your own code will help you tremendously.

Second — ask a friend or a teammate. Having an extra set of ears to explain your code and thought process to and an extra of eyes to take a look at your code will be extremely beneficial to you. There are so many times while working on my final project at Flatiron School where I had such small errors that were picked up so quickly by my cohort-mates and coach.

A good rule of thumb is if you’re stuck on something for about 30 minutes. Google. After 15 minutes of googling and nothing has helped you, phone a friend. You’ll save so much more time compared to working on a bug by yourself for hours.

And seriously — don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one will judge you. Everyone asks for help. Everyone.

Know Your Limits

This is something that will come to you with time and experience. I’ve noticed that once I start getting a headache or get distracted super easily, that’s when I need to take a break and just step away from the screen.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having to take more breaks than someone else on your team. Mental health is extremely important and very understandable!

Look Back at Your Growth

Something that always helped me when I felt like I was on the verge of burning out — or even during my burn out phase — was to take a look back at my journey as an engineer. It’s super awesome to see your growth!

Being able to revisit old projects and seeing the work you’re producing now makes me proud of how much I’ve learn and grown since the beginning.

It also indicates to me that despite all of my previous burn outs, I’ve made it through and I’m always in a better place than I was before.

Tangible Fixes

I also found getting a pair of blue-light glasses has helped my eyes with staring at a screen for hours a day, multiple days a week. You can easily buy a pair on Amazon without a prescription, or you can use other online stores like Firmoo or TIJN, or even speak with your local optometrist and optician.

Investing in good home-office equipment is also beneficial in the long run! Standing desks, comfortable office chairs, posture braces, iPad/laptop stands, computer monitors — these are all things you should consider purchasing. Some companies even reimburse you, so speak with your manager or HR for more information.

Something that has helped me a lot too with focusing and overall health was investing in a good insulated water bottle. I have both a HydroFlask and a Yeti, and both are very useful in keeping a constant supply of water for a longer period of time compared to having to refill a cup of water constantly.

I am also a huge snacker so I tend to keep my snack supply stocked all the time.

Find what works best for you!

The overall message of this blog is to take a break. It’s seriously okay to take a break. No one will judge you because everyone takes breaks and everyone understands the importance of taking one.

Burnout is inevitable in your coding career. Sometimes, you just have to embrace it to understand how to work through and get past the burnout stage.

And with that, I’d just like to say ‘Good Luck’ with your coding career and stay healthy! We’re still in the prime of this pandemic, at least in America, and mental health has deteriorated for many people but the resources to help has increased.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Software Engineer | Flatiron School Alum | Dancer | Looking for Work!