The past year has been an interesting one for me. I switched jobs again, back to the place I used to work for. I overcame a severe coder burnout and have been trying to get more motivated. I guess it all started in 2007.. so 18 days ago, but it was something that I was really trying to accomplish.
If you have been coding for any period of time longer than 2 years or so you will know what I am talking about. You come to work, stare blankly at the screen, you know that things need to get done and yet you do nothing but surf digg.com and do about 25% of the amount of work you could be doing during the week. The thought of writing another line of code or dealing with yet another request makes you ill. You are tired, easily irritated and wish you could head back to bed. The problem is that even if you did head back to bed things wouldn’t get better.
I for one require at least 8 hours of sleep to function, that is unless I do a morning workout then its more like 5 or 6. Problem with this morning workout thing always seemed to be the fact that I could never wake up in time or have the energy for it. So I tried a few other things yet nothing seemed to ever work. I found this article / post on digg.com ::
Overcoming Coderâ€™s Block:
Feel free to read that at your leisure however to summarize what worked and didn’t for me:
“Create a work environment with as much artificial light and as little clutter as possible. I donâ€™t know why, but sunlight is actually more laziness-inducing than darkness for me – I keep the blinds closed. Unfortunately Iâ€™m a bit of an ogre by nature so often removing said clutter could be as much of a day-long distraction as anything else. ”
â€¢Â Two problems there, one I love sunlight and it actually helps my mood so I get more into coding. Two I hate artificial light, it gives me the headache of a lifetime. I had the light on in my cube the other day and I felt like someone just hit me in the head with a machete. Whatever makes you feel more comfortable and work-ish is what I would recommend.
“Go full-screen and kill any processes that intrude by popping up. Setting the taskbar to auto-hide (if you use Windows) may also be helpful. ”
â€¢Â That actually is a great suggestion. I do not find myself having too many such distractions since I am on a corporate machine. However, if you work in a smaller shop and you have more freedoms keep in mind that MSN Messenger, AIM, Yahoo, Google Chat … whatever. They really are affecting your work.
â€¢Â I actually made an effort and have no IM programs open or running. This isn’t just because the workplace blocks them, very easy to get around that, but when I had IM programs running I was chatting more than I was coding. This goes hand in hand with the next suggestion.
“Avoid social news websites (such as digg) at all cost.”
â€¢Â I think that thus far digg.com has cost my employer more money than can be measured. One fatal mistake I made is putting their widget on my Google.com homepage( we’ll talk about the google homepage in a bit). I have found myself thinking: “Well I will only do this for a bit and then get back.” Guess what? That little bit turns out to end at lunchtime.
â€¢Â As far as your homepage goes DON’T EVER HAVE A PERSONALIZED GOOGLE / YAHOO / MSN PAGE !!!! These pages are uber distracting since you normally pack them with crap that you find interesting. If you have a company page available keep your home page at that since those are usually boring as hell anyway you will most likely stay on track. I constantly found myself opening a browser trying to accomplish something work related and I saw some catchy digg headline or “OOOOHHHH !! I have e-mail!” Not cool. So keep it plain jane or set your homepage as the standard ol’ google look one textbox & 2 buttons.
I would recommend reading Logan’s blog post since I only picked off 3 of his suggestions to talk about. At any rate, the other thing that works for me is a morning workout. I know that finding a unicorn in your basement may seem easier, but trust me you can do it. I started working out in the morning and I have been way more energetic, require less sleep, I am happier( yea yea sounds gay I know but thatâ€™s a big deal when you are forced to sit in front of a machine the whole day), the list goes on.
The point is not to overexert yourself. If you go all out the first day you are never going to stick to your program, because it will tire you out and have the opposite effect. So when I tell you to start out with 5 sit-ups and 5 pushups and that sounds like I am a giant sissy, trust me there is a reason behind it. There are 2 reasons to start slow:
1.Â It takes 21 days to form a habit and one day to break it. If you go all out and bust yourself up during the first few days there is no way that you will make it through the 21 days. So take it slow at first, you will have plenty of time to add to your routine.
2.Â If you overexert yourself you will be more tired and want to head back to bed instead of work.
If you find that 5 sit-ups and 5 pushups is too easy for you, increase the amount you do by 1 every day. It is very important not to increase this amount astronomically since you could end up doing too much.
Try this for 3 days and before long you will find yourself much more productive and energetic. I have been on this â€œprogramâ€ for 16 days and thus far I am up to 25 sit-ups and 25 pushups( I started out with 10 and 10 ), and 40 jumping jacks. The whole workout takes less than 2 minutes. You donâ€™t even have to leave your bedroom to do this workout. If you need something to hold you down while doing sit-ups use your bed, dresser or any other stationary object that you wonâ€™t tip over. The pushups are the easiest since you donâ€™t need anything to hold you down or help youâ€¦ its just you and gravityâ€¦ mano-e-mano.
If I get any sort of decent response from friends/family/co-workers/whatever to this I may even do a â€œworkout-routine seriesâ€ since once you graduate past the pushups and sit-ups you may be at a loss for things to do.