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burning-out preventing process

Kelahcim Kela
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 17, 2007
Posts: 29
I am not sure if this is a good place to start this topic.

What do you do whe you feel that you are starting to burn-out. Is there any software development process that deals with that stuff? Is there any agile process that apart from all that cooperation, development, tools takes burning-out factor into the matter as well?

What are your concerns?
Robert Martin
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2003
Posts: 76
Originally posted by kelahcim kela:
I am not sure if this is a good place to start this topic.

What do you do whe you feel that you are starting to burn-out. Is there any software development process that deals with that stuff? Is there any agile process that apart from all that cooperation, development, tools takes burning-out factor into the matter as well?

What are your concerns?


Crop Rotation!

What I do is read Science Fiction, or go camping, or dive into a political topic, or go for a good long bike ride.

I think burnout is a very personal issue. Managers need to be aware of the symptoms, but individuals are responsible for addressing it in themselves.


---<br />Uncle Bob.
Jeff Langr
author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 14, 2003
Posts: 762
I like the question. I have gone through feelings of burnout from time to time. I don't know that there are great answers.

I always suspected that week-in, week-out delivery could lead to feelings of "it's never going to end, there's constant pressure!" I think introducing a week of other activities, perhaps between releases each quarter, can help. If you have many groups pairing, then switching groups becomes easier, and that's a great way to make things more interesting.

Ultimately, I find that the best thing to keep one from getting burned out is the ability to deliver high quality code. The challenge to keep code clean is always satisfying to me, and seeing working code out there is extremely satisfying. In contrast, the work where I've felt most burnt out was where we were unable to deliver high quality code on a regular basis.

Jeff


Books: Agile Java, Modern C++ Programming with TDD, Essential Java Style, Agile in a Flash. Contributor, Clean Code.
Kelahcim Kela
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 17, 2007
Posts: 29
In fact there are few factors that, recently, make me feel bured-out:

1. constant need for acquiring the knowledge - I simply compare myself to old-school craftsmen and I find that within IT it is almost impossible to become an expert. It is said that one needs ~10 years of work with single activity to become an expert. What I can tell is, that we (IT guys) became an experts in a field of change, only (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expert)

2. you can't tell that there is ontological safety within IT. You can't feel safe, because the change is coming, it awaits just after the conner and it wants to get you. So, you have to be always prepared. There is no chance to say - "OK. I am done with this one, I can finally take it out of my mind."

3. "New stuff is, oh so cool" - which forces you to learn it (let's say a new IDE), while at the same time you start forgetting the previous stuff.

In my IT carer I have gone (among the others) through the following path: NetBeans -> eclipse -> JBuilder -> NetBeans (not counting other things in). This implies that I can't tell of myself as an expert of any of these - and I don't mention the upgrades here - does any of you guys have the same feeling?

In fact, the only application (editor) I can use with my eyes closed is "vi" - which doesn't change much over the time and can be found almost everywhere (in the "unix" world).

The question is. How do you guys deal with the change - the instant change? And how do you deal with the feeling that you always stay, at some way, "dumb"?
Jeff Langr
author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 14, 2003
Posts: 762
Some good points. I think as a true craftsman you have to find a way to view change as a good thing, and find a way to spend at least a few hours *every week* looking at the new things. I think you have to find them exciting, but at the same time be a bit cynical about them and not just jump on every new bandwagon. I currently feel overwhelmed with all the new avenues out there.

I am indeed dumb, compared to how much information is out there. :-) It's the world we live in, it's changing at a monstrous pace. The best thing you can do is learn how to design things--your code, your desktop, your life--to incrementally accommodate change. I do think that with some of these there are areas you can consider "closed off."

As far as being an expert, the technologies will always change. The better things to be an expert at are solving problems (both people and technical) and at learning new things, as you suggest.

I've given up trying to be an Eclipse expert, for example, but I have learned how to be very effective with it, partly by pairing with others. As long as you're incrementally improving, that's what matters. Expertise on technologies is overrated.

Jeff
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Preventing burnout has been an important topic for me in the last few years. Today, I feel that I have a very good handle on it. And I agree that it is a rather personal issue. Here are a number of things that have helped me:

* watching Kent Beck's "Ease at Work" talk: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7830246530742207581 - it was very inspiring to me
* finding a number of people who have a similar problem and meeting them regularly to talk about how we are doing. At first I did it online with a couple of friends, now I'm doing it with two teammates. We meet every other week for 90 minutes and use the Wheel of Life (http://www.transitionslifecoaching.co.uk/resources.php) to identify worries we have. We then talk about what we can do to address them and commit to actions.
* finding some sport or other physical activity as a compensation for all the mental activity at work. For me, it was swimming for a while, then Qi Gong, now Badminton. You don't need to do it a lot - I find that already doing it once every one to two weeks helps.

At the meta-level, I've found that when I start taking care of my own physical and mental well-being as much I do for my job at work, burnout just doesn't get a chance. And when I'm not at the edge of burning out, I'm actually able to do a much better job.


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Kelahcim Kela
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 17, 2007
Posts: 29
Ilja, Jeff thanks for your answers.

Jeff, you are saying that we should:

"... find a way to spend at least a few hours *every week* looking at the new things"

and that's exactly what I am talking about. If I want to look at new things, I have to have few hours extra. If I look at the stuff that is not directly related to my work I have to do it at home - which implies additional time spent for work - but not paid. I know I can treat that as a some sort of investment, but still - these are over hours.

I have heard that Google has a policy that 20% of work time can be managed by the employee - they can do their own stuff as long as it is accepted by manager. Is that true? Does anyone have an experience with this kind of "free time at work"?

"The better things to be an expert at are solving problems (both people and technical) and at learning new things, as you suggest. "

That's a good point. Being able to sketch the problem quickly without explicitly describing the solution is an advantage.


Ilja, your suggestions regarding sport activities are a good point!
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by kelahcim kela:
I have heard that Google has a policy that 20% of work time can be managed by the employee - they can do their own stuff as long as it is accepted by manager. Is that true? Does anyone have an experience with this kind of "free time at work"?


I have a blog entry about something that our team does at http://radio.javaranch.com/ilja/2008/05/18/1211134388241.html
Jeff Langr
author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 14, 2003
Posts: 762
Originally posted by kelahcim kela:
Jeff, you are saying that we should: "... find a way to spend at least a few hours *every week* looking at the new things" and that's exactly what I am talking about. If I want to look at new things, I have to have few hours extra. If I look at the stuff that is not directly related to my work I have to do it at home - which implies additional time spent for work - but not paid. I know I can treat that as a some sort of investment, but still - these are over hours.


Greetings Kelahcim,

If your workplace does not permit this investment, then yes, these are "over hours." It's your choice, of course, but I made a decision a long time ago that I would try to treat my craft as a true professional. While not seeing patients, doctors spend time keeping up with new advances in the field, sometimes through reading journals. They spend many of their lunch hours meeting with drug reps to find out what new drugs are on the market; they go to similar meetings in the evenings, spending dinner time with colleagues.

*Should we,* as software developers, strive to be professionals in this manner? Uncle Bob says yes. That's an underlying principle of Clean Code.

The alternatives including (a) finding a place that accommodates 20% time, like Google, or (b) not worrying about it, which means I would then belong to the 80%+ of the work force that are ok with complacency, status quo, and just going to work in order to get a paycheck. I should probably choose a different career if I choose (b). There's also (c) work in an agile environment that promotes heavy pairing (with accordant frequent rotation of pairs), which will at least help you keep up on all the technologies used in the shop.

Jobs are become more scarce. This attitude of "putting in a little extra" is indispensable in terms of keeping you ahead of the rest of the competition.

And linking back to the topic of burnout, I think it's very important to have a mindset that finds learning, or at least problem solving, invigorating. I get excited at the prospect of actually getting to work with newer technologies. My occasional burnout is instead related to other things (such as the frustration of dealing with people who *don't* want to improve themselves).

Jeff
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30130
    
150

Originally posted by kelahcim kela:
I have heard that Google has a policy that 20% of work time can be managed by the employee - they can do their own stuff as long as it is accepted by manager. Is that true?

I've also heard that people work more than 40 hours a week regularly at Google. Managing your own time isn't quite the same thing as doing what you want. If a developer wants to learn C#, I suspect Google wouldn't be receptive to that. The policy of working on pet projects is a good one. It's just important to remember there are still deliverables and the like.

That said, what's the big deal with learning on your own time? You are responsible for your own career after all. Personally, I make sure to have a line between personal and work. What I do in my own time (like JavaRanch) is up to me. It doesn't require my manager/company to approve. Which means I can do things that have to business value.

which implies additional time spent for work

I don't consider it time spent for work. Time spent on technology sure. But not for work. If it was for work, I'd be doing it at work.


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