it’s me again, the burnt out hacker. Although not as burnt out at the moment, I’ve actually had a string of productive weeks recently. I also had a week-long business trip last month which was good because it:

  1. Provided me a rock solid deadline by which some deliverables HAD to be complete
  2. Broke up the monotony of sitting in the same chair every fuckin’ day.
  3. Gave me a reward in that I got to go to a part of the country I’ve never been to before, and catch up with colleagues, family and friends in those parts. Sure I was still working during the day, but it was out of the office, which was a major help.

In general though, I have to say that although I’m getting stuff done, I’m probably one bad week away from burn out and inertia. There are a lot of things about my current work that I’m unhappy with, and as much as I agitate for change, things move too slowly for my liking.

Still, I’m continuing the path I described in my last post in late February… although the early mornings are not so early these days, it’s too cold for that shit now! Staying in bed til 7:30am is far more inviting.

I have taken on some more diverse projects with other clients to spread my load, and give me some variety, which no doubt helps keep me motivated.

In summary, I don’t feel like I’ve defeated this yet, but I think I have gotten to the point where I can manage it and not let it slow me down too much.

It sounds funny to say you can live with burnout, but that seems to be what I’m doing now.

I’ve been…

February 27, 2007

… working. Unbelievable. Something changed somewhere last week, and I found myself actually getting stuff done. I’ve got a few tricky problems on my plate to deal with, but since I’m actually productive, this will probably be the last post I make until I get stuck again.

A few thoughts on what might have helped to get me back on track:

  • Accepting there was a problem. For about a month, I was in denial that I literally couldn’t do work, instead I was beating myself up over being lazy, procrastinating, still in holiday mode, etc. Once I started to figure out that was more of a symptom than a root cause, it was a relief.
  • Realigning my expectations. Following from above, I have deliberately tried to reduce the amount of work I have, and to steadily work through the backlog of “stuff” that I had waiting for me, rather than biting off more than I could chew.
  • Reflecting on how I’m feeling about work and my progress. That’s this blog. It gives me a way to assemble my thoughts in some sort of vague order. I’ve never been one for journalling, but it’s quite cathartic writing this at times.
  • Sleep. Not that get to bed at 2am, wake after 10am stuff, but getting to bed around 11pm and up at 6am. Regularly.
  • Early mornings. Not sure what this is about because I’ve never been a morning person, but the 6am wakeup seems to let me get a lot of housekeeping out of the way, by the time 9am has rolled around, I have nothing to distract me, so I turn off my email client and RSS reader, close any non-work web sites, and crank some code for a bit.
  • Positive reinforcement. Letting myself actually feel like I’ve accomplished something, rather than just kicking myself over what remains to be done.

So there it is. That worked for me, no guarantees it will work for you though, but I’m going to keep doing those things, and I’ll check back in when either they stop working, or about a month’s time with a progress report!

Procrastination Monday

February 19, 2007

Bless me, #{Deity} for I have sinned, it’s been 12 days since my last confession….

It’s Procrastination Day today. Can’t get started. Hot and sticky here, bad night’s sleep, up at 6am. Plenty to do for clients, but none of it challenging, nor urgent thankfully. House is a mess, it was too hot to do all but the basics this last weekend.

More excuses than usual today, hey? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I did get quite a bit done last week, still dragging my feet, but there was enough work to at least give myself a small pat on the back and enjoy a fairly guilt-free weekend – at least on the paid work side of things.

Reflecting on the past week, I can see that if I have a task that is a.) uber-urgent, b.) really interesting or c.) both, it will get done. Eventually. Someone commented a while back as to whether work was challenging enough, and right now, evidence says that no, it’s not, judging by the difference I felt when I had a couple of problems I dug my teeth into and actually solved last week…

I find it difficult however to transfer that enthusiasm to the horrors of maintenance programming, especially when it’s code I didn’t write, isn’t documented and therefore I don’t really understand.

Maintenance programming is a peculiar type of hell that most programmers find themselves in on many projects. You only have to spend a few minutes browsing to see how downright painful this can be. I’m honestly surprised that software engineers don’t beat dentists out in the “profession most likely to top themselves” stakes.

I’ve been doing this for too long, I need to find more greenfields projects. Something… anything to take my mind off crappy C++ code written by some mong who’s since fucked off to parts unknown and left me with his shit to clean up.


Clouds lifting a bit…

February 7, 2007

but it ain’t all sunshine and lollipops yet.


More productive work today!

Yesterday was a write off, even though I tried to salvage the afternoon – my output is still pretty low compared to my previous workload, but at least I seem to be getting back to a place where I feel, if not bad about work, at least ambivalent.

I think the biggest help has been to acknowledge the situation and to be honest with myself. I have a problem, and sitting here berating myself about it doesn’t improve the situation.

So I finished a couple of loose ends for a client.


Overall, I think I’m managing things to an extent where they don’t realise that I am struggling – from the outside, it looks like I’m run off my feet, whilst inside, I’m stuck in the mud. The down side for me is that I’m billing based on my usual output levels, but I’m just not getting the work done in that timeframe.

I think I am almost through the backlog of commitments I have, so perhaps when that’s done with, I can start working on strategies to get my productivity back to an acceptable (and PROFITABLE!) level.

It’s been one week since I came to the realisation that I was burnt out.

A not so good day

February 6, 2007

Tried to reproduce yesterday’s effort with the early start and lots of coffee, but nope, seems I can’t sneak up on myself two days in a row. I’m going to have a bit of a think about how i can make use of the afternoon over the rest of my lunch. I can still salvage half a day at least.

Post mortem of the day…

February 5, 2007

I give myself about 6.5 out of 10… the morning was good, but we had quite a few interruptions this afternoon that started to get to me, however i managed to back up and do a few more hours of work, tidying some loose ends from last week.

Still struggling to find my flow though, but today is definitely a step forward… i need two weeks worth of days like this however, just to get on top of my backlog.

Not cured yet, not by a long shot…

3 hours later

February 5, 2007

30 SLOC written. It ain’t much, but it’s progress.