How to Be a Better Programmer: Take Care of Yourself!
We need to talk about our excessive work problem.
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A decade ago, a book called Death March was listed as a bestseller. The book described how insane hours of programming led to health issues:
“Death March is a type of project in which the employees need to overwork for unsustainable number of hours. The project starts feeling like an actual death march as the superiors force their employees to keep on working against their better judgment. The projects had so many parameters that the only way to succeed was by coding more than 16 hours a day, seven days a week—with no break until the project is finished.”
Some years later, another story went viral from a spouse of a programmer who worked at Rockstar games. She said the company expected the developers to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, damaging the programmers’ health.
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This is no news in the coding industry. Software development companies are growing like mushrooms everywhere, and are striving for profits—now, not in two or three years. And in this case, coders are working like slaves where they have to deliver no matter what.
The technology industry tends to exhaust coders with excessive work. It is like an endless marathon. You keep on running, getting exhausted, and you never reach the finishing line. You are asked to deliver, again and again.
But, how does this end? Well, it doesn’t, no matter your designation, achievements, or previous work. It is a never-ending industry.
So, how can you tackle this situation? By fighting back coding fatigue and taking care of your health.
A healthy programmer is a happier and more productive programmer. So, let’s take a look at some tips that can help you take care of yourself.
Reduce your sleep debt and feel more rested
Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you need and what you are getting. It is very common among coders not to get the right amount of sleep for a few days in a row. This is a surefire way to bring on mental fatigue.
Sleeplessness has a negative impact on our health. As research claims, you cannot train yourself to be a short sleeper. Another sleeplessness issue is that the more tired you get, the less tired you feel, which makes you feel you are not shorting yourself.
So, it is important that you get back your sleep. Start by getting your sleep routine on track, and give your body the rest it needs so that you can stop your mental fatigue.
When it comes to repaying your sleep debt, go slow and steady. Begin cleaning up your sleep hygiene by maximizing the hours of snooze time that you get during the week.
And if you work for a company that won't allow you to do this because they really do expect you to work all the damn time, do yourself a favor and find another company. Here's some inspiration in case you need it. Better jobs do exist.
Be kind to your eyes
Staring at the computer screens for long hours while you work causes eye fatigue. It can tire you completely and negatively affect your ability to focus. Fortunately, there are a lot of things that you can do to avoid eye fatigue.
First of all, adjust the monitor to the proper settings and position—that is, lower the monitor brightness, and adjust its position so it’s neither too low nor too high.
Also, remember to look away from your computer screen every now and then, focusing on distant objects or taking a minute to stare out of the window. Don’t forget to take regular breaks.
Following these tips, you will feel less tired and your capability to focus will be increased.
Stop questioning your skills
Coders tend to make this huge mistake. They compare themselves with others, and each time they reach the same conclusion: They feel weaker when compared. Stop yourself from thinking about it, because it is killing you!
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As we get more experienced, we realize that we know less about our own industry. But, you know what, it is totally fine. The real question you should pick is: “Where have you landed yourself in the past year?”
If you do not find any significant improvement in the past 12 months, then there is something wrong. And if your surroundings are the reason, then it's time you look for a change in your career.
Use the timebox technique
Timeboxing originates in the software industry itself. It is defined as a period of time during which a task should be accomplished. Most of the entrepreneurs use timeboxing as a way to manage their tasks.
Timeboxing limits your time per tasks and forces you to complete them in a specified time frame. It avoids any perfectionist approaches to the wrong tasks and ensures that you do the best job you can within a set time frame.
There is life away from coding
Work can sometimes exhaust us mentally and physically. But we can improve our health by wisely choosing our working environment and lifestyle. A collaborative environment can help coders to become stronger and overcome their daily obstacles.
Furthermore, you should always remember to take care of yourself. Get up and walk around once an hour, and don’t forget to stretch—it takes two or three minutes and can make a world of difference.
But even away from work, there are things you should do to stay healthy. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and eat properly—fruits, nuts, and veggies are excellent options. Remind yourself to also drink lots of water.
A hobby such as hiking or biking can also be a great choice. Conversely, avoid caffeine and any other stimulant.
In order to relax and offload some stress, coders must get some good sleep, exercise, go for a vacation, and take some “me” time. Do not forget that there is life away from coding, and you are responsible for keeping a proper balance between these two worlds.
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