Dealing/preventing burnout?

How do you guys deal with or prevent burnout? Or probably a better question, how do you moderate? I mean generally, this isn’t specific to coding.

Whenever I do something I go at it foaming at the mouth until I black out from exhaustion (several times literally). It’s almost as if I become single-minded, to the detriment of everything else (socializing mostly).

I’m pretty sure it’s not healthy behavior!

For me it’s hot and cold. I either do the crazed thing you’re discussing - there’s times on freelance or side projects that I’d find myself coding basically the entire night before realizing it - or I sit here at my desk, fighting to punch out tasks and complete items that need completed, and feeling very unproductive.

To be honest, I’m not good at it. I think that for me, organization helps the control a bit in either direction. Having a clear list of tasks/issues/etc helps with motivation (just do this one thing for now) and it also helps a bit with control (at least I’m not haphazardly coding pell-mell, I’ve got direction). I’m not sure that’s really a moderation technique though. I need to be motivated but only to an extent, and no particular way to change it.

Definitely interested to see if anyone else has any ideas :smiley:

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I code for about 10 - 20 minutes, then open a browser to SPF. Look around a bit, help where I can, maybe learn something new, then get back to it.

Also, I’m a smoker, so every hour and a half to two hours, I get up, walk away from my terminal, step outside, light up, enjoy the sun for a moment, then come back in and back to it.

Having some nice (ie, tasty, yet most likely unhealthy) restaurants nearby is nice, so that I can really unwind during lunch. :smile:



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Smoking as a coding moderation tool - I actually see how that would work lol.


When you find something, let me know. :smile: When I start a new big project, I usually dream about it and it’s the last thing I think about before bed and the first thing I think about when I wake up. It’s not healthy and I don’t sleep well.

Usually I have to just get those ideas out of my head and get to a point where I can stop, then find some other activity to occupy me for about a week. Usually a game or exercising does that trick. If it’s work related, then I start finding piddly little bug fixes to do instead of b***s to the wall coding.


Sorry I’m kinda in and out, didn’t get a chance to read everything.

Smoking worked well for me too. But… I don’t have an exact day but sometime around this time period (mid Feb) 2yrs ago I quit using Chantix. I smoked a pack a day for about 12-15yrs. I started sneaking them from my parents when I was pretty young, started smoking regularly shortly after.

I really miss smoking because I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the flavor, the reason for being outside and taking breaks, and talking with people in smoking areas. But I don’t crave it at all and am very happy without it, I hated the cravings and smelling disgusting all the time. My wife still smokes, but she’s been trying to switch to a vape for a little while. She hasn’t had a cig in about 2months or so.

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Yeah, I’d never actually want to be a smoker for those reasons, and the negligible “elevated risk of death” thing… but as a coding tool? Awesome? lol.

I used to regularly hangout in smoking areas or with smoking friends on breaks and such, and it doesn’t bother me, but it bothered my wife - she’d want to know if I was smoking. Actually never smoked anything in my entire life, as lame as that might be.

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That’s not lame. I do wish that I had never started; but you can’t un-ring a bell. And I’m not at the point, yet, where I’m actually ready to quit, so any attempts to quit will only fail. I might get there; I might not. It depends upon a lot of things.

But the PRIMARY reason why I get up and walk away every 1.5-2 hours is… (drum roll) my chiropractor advised it!! Apparently, sitting for more than 1.5-2 hours at a stretch is very bad for not only your back, but posture in general. It also can lead to blood-clots in the legs that can then travel to your brain and cause a stroke. So… yeah… even when I’m driving from STL to Chicago, I pull over every couple of hours to help my back and cut down the risk of stroke. :smile:




I actually quite smoking a couple times in the military, once for almost a year, but when you have the choice of joining your friends for some BSing or doing some detail like mopping the floor or cleaning the bathroom, the choice is pretty obvious. :smiley:


@jeffreylees Todo’s definitely help with direction, but like anything else I end up overdoing it. In fact, I figured I’d track exactly how I spend my time and that in itself turned into an epic project haha:

@WolfShade I actually do this (obsessively of course), it’s called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s crazy effective at improving productivity, but I’m strangely more concerned with being less productive (?) if that makes sense. Not that I’m really all that productive, I just need to not be doing stuff so obsessively haha

@mawburn Wow that’s exactly me! Eerie. In fact, last night I was “in bed” for 5.5 hours but one of those hours was actually spent reading. I actually used to spend more time on my projects than work (40-50 hours of work and even more on my own).

Thanks guys! Actually since I originally posted this morning I’ve been more aware and able to divert myself. I think just being actively aware of it helps. Anyways I’ll pool together all your suggestions and see how I do over the next week.

I feel a little awkward telling you guys all that, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one (in fact I think some of you might be crazier :stuck_out_tongue: )

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I’ve actually had to become an avid user of task management tools primarily to remember things and get anything accomplished. I’ve got a bit of an attention issue, and having organized lists is my only saving grace. When I think of something (an item I need at the grocery, a stray thought I should ask my spouse or mother or friend about, a question I have for the marketing meeting tomorrow, a task I should perform on my home network) I immediately open my task manager and inbox that item, even if I don’t have time to add times/projects/etc to it. If I don’t, it’s going to be lost. And I can be derailed while in the act of recording the item, so time is of essence :wink:

Pomodoro I’ve never tried, but read tons of glowing reviews of the technique. Maybe I should do that…

I’m curious as to what the program / app / site you are using for time management is - the list of daily activities etc?

I have an annoying piece of software that makes you pause your work every 5-10 mins, and tells you to have breaks every hour or so.
You can check it out - Workpace . You would be surprised how well it works to get you in the habit of moving around and taking breaks from the constant grind, and I’m pretty sure there are other free software that do essentially the same thing


I use Workrave, set to a rather longer interval than 5-10 minutes, which would drive me insane. It gives 30-seconds warning of an upcoming break, and you do get an option to postpone, so if you’re in the middle of something complex you can get to a suitable pause point. (Of course, you have to ensure you don’t always hit postpone/cancel… )


hahhaha, yes, coders need to concentrate for long periods, but even so, its unhealthy to sit in one place with absolute concentration and not move for hours.

I have mine set at five minutes and often cancel it, but even if you just looked away from the screen for a short while helps.

Some really great points here — I’m definitely going to check out a bunch of those apps, which look like they’d help with non-coding stuff.

I reckon @tevko did a really good job discussing this issue last year.

One of the sites he suggested in that article was, which has a pretty great step-by-step guide to dealing with burnout and info overload.


I used to use a plugin in FF for that. From time to time it popped up and remind you how long you had to wait for your beer o’clock :smiley:

it showed little reminders in the status bar with silly messages like “2 windows update till beer o’clock” or “10,000 silly customer questions till beer o’clock”

It was funny :slight_smile:


There’s no global cure for this and there are different type of ‘burnout’. If you’re passionate about the project you’re doing and get burnt out then it’s usually a good thing. If you’re burnt out due to ignorant customer or boss whipping then it’s bad.

In a way, ‘burnout’ is a necessary experience for doing things you love. Rule of thumb is to ask 'Am I having fun?" If not then try to find something else.

Thanks everyone! I took all of your suggestions to heart and just took 9 days off and I feel more motivated than ever. I was actually developing depression from it.

@AirFor - Oops I should have gotten to this sooner. The tools I couldn’t live without are:

  • Toggl - Time management
  • Trello - Project management
  • Todoist - Task management (more for personal stuff)

With those three (all free) you should see noticeable improvements with productivity after the first day. Trello will take the most getting used to, but if you visualize and use like a stack of index cards (which it basically is) then you’re fine.

I made this bookmarklet for Toggl to so that the current time is always shown on the tab. This is great because you don’t need to switch tabs to see how much time you’ve spent on the current task.

Just make a bookmarklet out of the following (create a new bookmark and use this as the link). To use it, simply click the bookmark from within Toggl after starting a timer.

javascript:(function()%7B"undefined"%3D%3Dtypeof togglet%26%26(togglet%3D%7B%24:%7Btime:%24("%23js-new-task-region .input-duration")%7D,update:%7Btitle:function()%7BclearInterval(togglet.timers.title),document.title%3Dtogglet.%24.time.val(),togglet.timers.title%3DsetInterval(function()%7Bdocument.title%3Dtogglet.%24.time.val()%7D,1e3)%7D%7D,timers:%7Btitle:null%7D%7D),togglet.update.title()%3B%7D)()%3B

@MrMarkDobson - My coworker used to use something similar to the one @molona mentioned. 5-10 minutes is a little too frequent (you can spend that Googling syntax) but it works…if you stick with it :stuck_out_tongue: About the sitting for long periods, you should consider a stand up desk. A benefit is an abundance of energy (maybe too much)

@Adam - That’s a great link! I didn’t read through all of it, but definitely worth looking at later

@sg707 - If burnout is work related then that’s definitely a bad thing. If it’s hobby related, I personally think that’s worse. True burnout can lead to depression (physical burnout - or overtraining - can even lower your immune system)