In software especially, we lose more talented, hard-working folks to burnout than almost anything else. People who love their job and feel rewarded for doing it almost always stay. However, the tech industry is fast-paced, labor intensive, and the projects are seemingly endless.
The question remains, how can we stop treading proverbial water and get a healthy, positive outlook on our work life?
Make a list
If you do more things than you can count in a day and struggle to remember any of it, you need a list. Often times we feel the most stressed when we are feeling overwhelmed, and yet we still guilt ourselves for not doing enough. There will always be more to do in our ever-connected, feedback-driven world; especially in the tech industry.
By making a list of what you plan to do and crossing it off as you go, you have something to look back at and say, “wow, I really did get a lot done today”. This creates a positive feedback loop in your brain. Ending every day on a high note can make you more positive and less likely to imagine greener pastures elsewhere.
If you are too cool for an analog list (even though crossing stuff off is way more fun than tapping an app), you can do the same thing with the Reminders app on your phone or a tool like Asana or Todoist.
There’s a lot written on agile, so I won’t go into the details here. The key takeaways for any project are as follows:
- Break your project into bite-sized chunks
- Pick a few of those bite-sized chunks and set a regular deadline (every week or two, usually called “sprints”)
- Track your work as you do it
- When your sprint is over, celebrate all the hard work you did
- Rinse and repeat – learn from your mistakes and try to do a little better every sprint
This applies to software, home improvement, getting into shape, you name it.
If you never celebrate the work that you’ve done and never take a moment to breathe, you would feel endless, daunting, and - you guessed it - leads to burnout. If you have a big project in front of you, try being agile and see what happens.
This should go without saying but… take a break. Seriously.
I’m not talking about a three-day weekend every other month. Take at least three days during the week and incorporate doing something you love; whether that is traveling or immersing yourself in a new video game.
Oh, and while you’re at it…
Turn your phone off, hide your laptop, and throw your pager in a river (if you still have one). Flipping the switch from ‘always-on’ to ‘off’, and taking a real vacation has a significant impact on your happiness. How can you really enjoy a camping trip if you are checking Slack? Or, how can you spend quality time with your family if you are surfing Reddit?
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and you have a long, necessary relationship with your job. Take a break, write it a postcard, and be ready to jump back in on Monday.
One of the best tools we as humans have for creating a sense of stability and safety are routines. If you constantly struggle and feel like a uniquely chaotic snowflake, then establishing a few routines can add a sense of normalcy and familiarity no matter what pops up on your calendar.
Good morning, sunshine
Start by establishing a morning routine, whether it be a cup of coffee in your favorite chair or quick workout if you’re the active type. Starting your day with a little thing just for you can put you in a good mood before clocking in. Try to avoid distractions like Facebook or your inbox before doing something you love.
Time to eat
It may seem like you always have to push out your lunch till 3:00 p.m. or skip it all together, but do you? Taking time to eat is the healthy thing to do. Especially, if you are the hangry type. Making the time to eat may just save you from being a grumpy cat to everyone you come in contact with that day.
Don’t be a grumpy, hangry cat. Block out lunch on your calendar, and if someone double-books you, politely ask if there’s a better time to meet. Your stomach, and probably your whole team, will thank you later.
Before crawling into bed, consider shutting off all electronics an hour beforehand. Some studies suggest blue light can decrease melatonin production and lead to a lower quality of sleep. I also recommend taking a moment for yourself and establishing another routine that makes you happy. You could put on an album you love, dive into a book with your kids, or give yourself a few minutes to doodle. Giving yourself a chance to genuinely relax before sleeping helps you sleep better and wake up ready to tackle the next day.
Find your happy
This article is full of tips and tricks, but the most important thing is to find what works for you. Take time to figure out what makes you happy and do more of that.
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