Burning out

Newsletter Issue #6

Photo from my last trip to Granada. The photo was taken from “La Alhambra” and the city in the background is Granada.

Hello again, back in Berlin. I’ve been a few days at home with my parents, girlfriend and friends. I hadn’t been in Spain for a long time and I missed a lot of things from there, cold beer, Spanish mood, friends. I also missed my girlfriend a lot because she was on holidays in Spain and I couldn’t meet her that often. Like all the good things, they passed quite fast and it’s time to go back to the routine. These days I’ve been catching up with everything, work, side projects, conferences… And I got a bit overwhelmed. I got to that point where I’ve many things going on and I don’t know how to manage all of them.

Developers would call it concurrency problem. Many things happening simultaneously that lead to inconsistent states and race conditions.

I’m right now facing that inconsistent state. How do I know? I can’t concentrate, I don’t give my best in each of the things I do. I can’t switch off my brain. Before, I could sleep, a short nap helped a lot. But now, when I go to sleep I continue thinking about everything. That thing I have to do the day after, that task that I couldn’t finish which depends on something else, the slides that I have to prepare for the next conference… I wake up the day after like a zombie. I always need some fresh morning air to clean up my mind but sometimes it’s not working and happens one day after another. I also noticed a lack of motivation doing sport. Before I was able to go running everyday, I was able to wake up at 7:00 AM in the morning and go running. But lately if the alarm goes off then, I snooze and continue sleeping. I try also after work and the only thing I’m willing to do is sleeping to disconnect from the day.

I blamed the caffeine for this feeling but after decreasing the amount of coffee I took, I’m still feeling the same. The lack of sport is making this worse. I only disconnect when I’m on holidays, when I put the phone aside, when I enjoy the present and forget about all the distractions that might come. I noticed that every time that I’m the family or my girlfriend I feel better and with no pressure. I got to this point also due to my personality. I should learn to say NO, or said in a different way, to not say YES to everything. Listing some of the stuff that I’m concurrently working on:

  • Work at SoundCloud, 8 hours every day. From around 10 AM to 6 PM.
  • I‘m going to speak in 3 conferences between September/October. I’ll have to prepare the slides and practice.
  • Kicking off some side projects with my friends.
  • Maintaining open source projects. Developers open issues, the language gets updated and so does the project.
  • Running, between 3–5 times a week.
  • Reading. I’m currently reading “Peopleware”, a book about how to manage people in software projects.

I had to sadly put a few things aside like learning a third language or writing a book that I started a few months ago.

This is not healthy for such a important muscle, our brain. If you have felt that before you might know that the feeling is very weird and makes you feel a zombie 24h every day. You move up very quickly and suddenly you notice it it’s a bit late to control it and you have to stop most of the things. Adding up, I can’t live with Maria José, my girlfriend and I have to wait for a long time until the next time I can see her again. Motivation got stuck and I’m getting burned out. What I’m planning to do to prevent this?

  • Conferences: I’ll attend less conferences. It’s better one good than a lot not so good. I’ll prepare it with more time and pick up a very deep and not so common topic.
  • Concurrency & Trello: I’ll move concurrent stuff to a queue. For me that queue is Trello. Let’s say I get an email, or something to do (not urgent). Instead of moving into that, I’ll put it in a backlog that I’ll prioritise at the end of the day. I have an open Growth Board, feel free to check it out. I have to learn a lot about Trello and how to use it effectively. If you are already using it for organising yourself do not hesitate to reaching out to me. I’d be pleased to chat with you about it.
  • Open Source: I’ll do the same with issues from open source issues. They’ll be in the same backlog and they will be prioritised regarding its impact for the community. The ones with a bigger will have the highest priority.
  • Sport & Health: I’ll bring back the routine of running almost every day. It helped me a lot in the past and I’m sure I’ll help me with the pressure that I’m feeling nowadays. Freeing my mind, and spending some time thinking about myself is very important. I’m sure you already know about the benefits of having a good health and doing a bit of sport every day.
  • Work & 8 hours: I personally think that 8 hours is too much. I could accomplish the same I do in 8 hours in 5 hours if I had no distraction. I’ll work on having a workspace without distractions. That means enabling the “Do not disturb” mode on the phone, closing social networks and mail and opening it in a very short time windows. Also I’d avoid concurrency and have a daily backlog. As simple as opening a text editor note. Writing 3 things that have to be done, 2 that would be great to have, and crossing them out as they get completed.
  • Side projects: Since I’m learning a lot with them, this is something I don’t want to stop doing. I’ll invest a couple of hours every day before going to the office, when my mind is still fresh from sleeping. I’d like to try kicking off some projects with my friends and making them profitable. I’d apply there everything I’ve learned so far as a developer and learn in other areas.
  • Reading: I’ll read every time a have a few minutes, either on the metro, at the park. I always have a book with me. Instead of turning on the telephone and spending my time scrolling up and down through feeds I’ll consume a more valuable content.

I’m not good drawing but I drafted how the day would look like preventing concurrency.

And last but not least. Weekends are for leisure. No computer, just leisure and fun with friends, family and girlfriend.

Have you been in a similar situation? I would like to hear about your tricks and tips. Reach out to me by Email or Twitter.

”Burning out” is part of my weekly newsletter Developing life. If you are interested in similar publications do not hesitate to subscribe to it. You’ll get a weekly email every Sunday.

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