by Ryan Yurkanin

How to get back on track after you’ve burned out programming

Being a great programmer is so much more than great programming. Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Our brains can only take so much. We’ve all had to handle a problem so complex it broke us. We’ve all felt like imposters at our jobs when something just wouldn’t click.

This all makes us frustrated and angry, so our code becomes worse. Our code being worse makes us more upset. We are now in a cycle of self-loathing and dev tears.

Where did it all go wrong?

Some would say that problems are just going to be hard, and you need to do one of the following:

  1. Give up and find an easier problem. (If only) ?
  2. Become smarter and better at our job. (This definitely won’t lead to crippling depression and anxiety) ?

Yeah so, those options suck. If we’re really struggling with code, I don’t think the most therapeutic solution is to code more.

Do you have to remind yourself every 5 minutes of the code style guide that lives in your lead developer’s head?

Did you have an hour long argument with a coworker about the space complexity of your React code?

What can we actually do to improve our workflow?

Let’s talk through some non-programming ways to make us better programmers. Opinions ahead, pick what works for you and your team.

You deserve to be happy, so find what makes you happy and do it more

Okay, so this one seems like it should be a no brainer, but is it? Let me repeat that: you deserve to be happy. Stop programming, and do what you love more. I promise when you come back not only will you code better, but your mood will influence your coworkers as well.

When you’re in a good state of mind, it’s easier to pick your battles. You’ll be more likely to let the little things slide, and you’ll be harder to bring down.

Automate all the style guide rules you can. Be wary of those you can’t.

Solving a core problem is hard enough. The last thing you need is to disrupt your line of thought every 5 minutes over whether you need a semicolon or not.

Look for tools like Prettier and ESLint, and use common configurations found online. There are some sick benefits here:

  1. If a coworker hates a rule, there’s no one on the team to confront. You can shake your fists together at whoever came up with the common ruleset.
  2. You can have auto fix on save in most editors, so no more fixing code by hand! Mash save and focus on what matters!
  3. You can set up automated checks when someone submits a PR, reducing nitpick overhead.

Ask yourself “If I just let this go, what will happen?”

If there is one thing that I’m guilty of, it’s arguing about stuff that doesn’t make a huge difference at the end of the day.

I prefer premature optimization of my coworker’s mental health over computer memory.

Computer’s are getting bigger and faster every year, while human’s can only take so much.

Understanding what you might get out of winning an argument is important. On one hand, you may save heap space, on the other, you may ruin your coworker’s day and that negativity will ripple out.

Of course there are times when you need to value the code and performance. That’s when you’ll be grateful that you didn’t fight to the death with Ayesha over inlining objects in props.

Use a powerful editor, and value Intellisense and Typings.

How often do you find yourself having to switch files just to figure out what order a function’s arguments are in? What about if it takes a string or a number for the size argument?

Being knocked out of your workflow leads to mental fatigue. Having to look up documentation to see what functions are available to you stinks. I personally use VSCode and TypeScript, but use whatever works best for you.

Spend some time spreading positive energy to those around you

Have you ever wished that while you are sitting there struggling that someone would come up to you, and just ask you how you are doing? Maybe just to grab a bite to eat?

You can’t control if others do that for you, but you can control if you do that for others. Not only will it make someone’s day, but I guarantee they won’t forget your kindness.

Influencing good culture is just as valuable to me as good code. Empathy and kindness scale, douchebaggery does not.

If you have any questions or are looking for one-on-one React mentorship, feel free to tweet me @yurkaninryan any time!

If you like my writing style, here are some other articles that I’ve done.

Good luck and happy coding! ??