Tips to Avoid Burnout
Burnout is an industry epidemic, as we connected IT professionals face screen time most waking hours of the day. First read this post from Arianna Huffington. Next here are some initial ideas on how to avoid it, fight it off, or minimize it before it's truly a problem.
Some of the classic approaches to pile on the hard work in the morning and preserve later day time for more mundane tasks/tickets is a good way to keep the fuel balanced. Another important one is to avoid long hours - it’s been proven over and over that after 8-10 hours we humans are rendered into a fairly useless state of productivity. Peaks in workload are common in the industry, but if you pull heroic hours on a constant and long-term basis you’re guaranteed to eventually burn out. It’s easier to be ruthless with you’re time while you are working, screw around less, and make the core 8-10 hours (or whatever you work) truly, truly count.
One of my first exciting career episodes was writing a Redbook for IBM at the Almaden Research Center outside of San Jose. The program lead would religiously go for a 1 hour fast walk outside for lunch, and never appeared to lack energy. Routines like this won’t get you fired unless you decide on a walkabout instead. Prioritizing health and injecting this periodically into otherwise long workdays take a lot of stress out, and ironically return mental energy in dividends. Some of the best problems can be solved in a lap pool...but that's not going to happen unless you manage your time smart.
Mixing it Up
The environment you work in can have a lot to do with how you feel, and if you’re pushing long hours and under pressure it can be easy to fall into fairly rigid and arguably boring routines. Moving locations (when feasible), rotating roles (e.g. rotating scrum master duties), changing what you eat, bringing plants to work, are all minor but meaningful adjustments to break it up. Modified approaches to creating code (e.g. Extreme Programming) are also super cool ways to still be productive but mix up the approach - plus you get to learn how other people work and think, which can only help fight the tides of long-term burnout plus make the daily grind more of a daily flow.
Take a Break
Heros often croak, at least in the movies. Here in mortal land, it's important to take the occassional break, and plan your break effectively so that you can truly disengage. New Zealand offers great expanses of territory with poor mobile data coverage if you're in dire straights and need to force the disconnect.