Rapid Burnout

Definition

the point at which your internal tank is empty and has nothing left to give.  No matter how much caffeine you put into your body, there is nothing left to give.

Symptoms

  • You find yourself unable to put in extra hours to accomplishing a particular task, diminishing returns is rampant in everything you are doing.
  • Your Passion has drifted from where you could think of all the new things you wanted to do, to simply thinking about how you are going to get through this week.
  • Nothing phases you – this is not the same as being calm, cool and collected, this is about watching big problems appear in your email inbox and waiting for someone else to handle them.

As you can see, not a great condition, however it affects many developers around the world.  The push to finish the current release only sustained or increased by the next service pack?  Or perhaps even the travel after travel while coding in hotels on a laptop (really a laptop will never beat a desktop).

Whatever the cause it’s real.

Known Cures (pick what works for you)

  • Exercise – make the time, be active and take yourself out of that zone.  And I’m not talking about walking – that is all fine, but I’m talking exercise – running or a sport, something that fully distracts you for 1 hour while you start to worry more about your knees buckling then your last check-in.
  • Passion – if you’ve lost it, you need to bring it back – this is the hardest one and I don’t have an answer.  All I know, is when I’ve seen Rapid Burnout this is the Developer Killer, I’ve lost my way, I’ve lost my path, I have no idea where I’m going or what I should be doing, I don’t know what interests me.
  • Focus – From my medical observations (very much not), Rapid Burnout occurs when we have a lack of focus, we are split between too many projects and too many objectives that we simply can’t focus on what we are doing.  We start to feel the nag at the back of our necks and the worry that we are going to miss something.  Fixing focus is hard – all those things still need to get it done, perhaps in a different order, grouped together, shared out by others, but one thing is sure, it can’t all be you.

Again, not being in medicine, Rapid Burnout is one of those things that you can start to diagnose early, but fixing it is not easy, takes time and significant commitment.  The best cure, like many other things, is preventative – how do you avoid it all together when any one of the above symptoms start to crop up!

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