How to develop software and not depression

Greetings. My name is Kirn Hans… but you knew that from the byline. I am a software developer but not a very good one. I like to write but I don’t do it often enough. I studied at Carnegie Mellon University and was constantly afraid of screwing up my classes. I graduated on time and had several breakdowns (per year) doing so. I love how many cool things you can do with code and I am afraid that I will never do any of them. I love helping others and fear I am incapable of helping myself.

There, now that I’ve completely drawn your attention to my self-invalidation, let’s get started.

I have depression. I have a bent towards engineering. How can I combine these two?

It’s a problem I’ve been wrangling with for a few years now, with varying degrees of success.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books/articles about productivity, mental health and communication. I spent several years asking peers, Resident Assistants and professors how they handled workload.

One of the hardest aspects I’ve found is that most of my knowledge is undocumented. I’m very aware of what’s good for me — I can’t not know that exercise is good, isolation is bad — but it’s really hard to force myself to do the good things when I’m overwhelmed and just want to curl up and watch anime until stresses are less stress.

So this is the start of a yearlong project documenting what I’m trying and what I’ve tried for treating depression. I intend to write a blog post about it once a month. Let’s set a date for it — the, uh, 25th sounds nice. 25 is a nice square number.

That right there is the first skill I’m planning on using, called SMART goals. The classic acronym is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. I prefer to think of the S as Self-Contained, an idea I got from a blogpost on writing (link).

The blog post explains the concept better than I can, but I’ll explain how my idea follows the model:

  • Self-Contained/Specific: I know exactly what I’m aiming at — a blog post. I don’t really require input from others aside, so unlike a processor waiting to be given work, I’m not spinning in circles waiting. I’ll be citing materials in this series, but they’ll all be articles, videos or books available from my local library. Mostly articles because I’m a millennial and what is paper? ;)
  • Measurable: I can measure with some precision how much progress I’m making. Progress in software, as in fighting depression, is nonlinear, but writing, thankfully, is less so in my experience.
  • Achievable: I believe I can write a blog post a month. This interval gives me room for a margin of error — i.e. what if things come up that get in the way? Having enough time budgeted allows me to work around this.
  • Relevant: I strongly believe that this blog series is relevant to my goal of fighting depression. I’ve shown I do well with external goals in college and I’m leveraging that.
  • Time-bound: Once a month is once a month. The 25th is a great specific time bound, because that allows me to come up with a topic in the early month, draft around 20th-22nd, edit and publish by the 25th.

I do not have an accurate prediction of how this will turn out, but here’s to hoping. See you later this month! :)

References:

  1. Writing About Writing: http://www.chrisbrecheen.com/2013/03/using-smarts-goals-in-writing.html