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The Reality of Developer Burnout (kennethreitz.org)
340 points by kenneth_reitz on Jan 5, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 176 comments

> Not only that, but I found myself censoring my own private thought processes, in the silent comfort of my own home, because of the public opinion of people I follow on Twitter.

I deleted my Twitter account because of this. I realized it was an empty echo chamber of inaction. If anything you say can be interpreted in a way that the hivemind can destroy you over, they will do it, even with incomplete information and little to no proof.

I've determined that the key for me is to limit the inputs. My inputs now are a few cultivated social sites (this one, one or two tech sites), books, and podcasts.

In my opinion, feeding my mind properly has lessened my feelings of burnout. If you have the choice to feed your brain digital junk food, don't be too alarmed when it starts taking of too much space, like fat.

It takes 10x the amount of energy to refute bs than to create it

Not only this but when the BS is an orthodox position it takes 10x the amount of energy per person who believed the bullshit.

The number of conversations I've had to have with friends and family about, let's say, the "Russian hacking of the election" or "the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" or "the bulk collection NOT mass surveillance by US intelligence" is greater than even the amount of time I've had to spend speaking to each of them.

Fortunately you do not have to refute all the BS in life. Just ignore it!

That's the thing with the people spreading bs. Especially if it's personal. They'll go to extraordinary lengths to remind you that it's always following you

It took me the same (1x) amount of energy to refute your comment as it did for you to create it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Your comment however contains very little in the way of actual refutation, as you missed the point and did not engage it in the least.

It is easy (1x) to create meaningless content, it is harder however to address it and to explain properly why the point was missed.

Building a sound argument, clearly and in a straightforward manner is hard. Understanding the non-sequitur of your interlocutor is hard. Extirping the salient part of the inconsistency will force you to shave off the useless fluff around it.

Adding that fluff is easier, as it only takes intellectual laziness.

I've been much happier since quitting the Twitter/Medium bubble. I've limited my HN time as well.

I find myself doing the same thing with HN. Most of the time I love it, but it seems once in awhile the contrarians come out to play, and meaningful discussions drop to zero.

HN is full of contrarians. Say anything blunt, not rude but blunt, and you will get down-voted to oblivion.

And not even that, say something in a polite way that people cannot discredit but still not like and you will get down-voted. I feel like you have to mold yourself to the hive mind if you want your stuff to be up-voted. Not sure if this is really how it is or if it is just me.

On the other hand, a lot of times when I say some feel good one liner BS I get dozens of up-votes.

With respect, you say this as though bluntness were a virtue.

I've found that putting a little bit of effort into form goes a long way in generating useful feedback.

Stated otherwise, it's about recognizing that we're not talking face-to-face, and that the characteristics of this particular mode of communication make it easy to misinterpret (often for worse) what is being said.

tl;dr: my favorite way to start a comment is "With respect, ...". It helps a lot.

Respect is not a given, it's earned. If you "respect" everyone it's the same as respecting no one.

I prefer to extend respect, trust, etc. to others by default, with the understanding that it can be unearned. This way, I counter whatever unconscious or "first impression" biases I might have about what "respect-worthiness" looks like, and I find it leads to a much more positive / open-minded relationship with the rest of humanity than demanding others prove "respect-worthiness" up front would.

There are also degrees of respect, and accordingly there are absolutely people I respect more than others. (It's not a total ordering, though, nor is it a zero-sum game.)

"With respect" has more to do with politeness than the form of "respect" you're suggesting.

And frankly, this brand of tough-love is really ill-adapted to semi-anonymous written discourse. I suspect the reason people appeal to it so much has less to do with its purported righteousness than the ego boost that follows from talking down to people.

Respect, in this context, is a measure of how much you give a shit about not hurting, embarrassing, or otherwise causing negative reactions for someone. It's also a measure of how much you're willing to attempt to understand their points of view, by extension of that. You can respect everyone by default in this sense, and you can respect certain people more or less.

the easiest way to collect upvotes is effluvient praise for whichever silicon valley company is currently the "great golden hope".

the easiest way to collect downvotes is to contradict any of PG's implicit or explicit biases. the weight of mass down-voting seems to have improved since sama has taken over and PG is blogging less.

interestingly, posts such as yours (calling out hivemind / mass up/down-voting) seem to easily get a large amount of upvotes as well.

They get a lot of eye rolls too, but we don't have any metrics on that.

No, it isn't.

That may seem like a flippant joke, but I assure you that my intent is that it only be about 60% that. I am not gratuitously disagreeing here, as it is my sincere opinion that when people here argue for the opposite of what a parent post says, it is more often than not because they genuinely believe that it contains an error of fact or because they wish to express their own, different opinion on the matter.

As for up-votes and down-votes, that's a measure of popularity, not correctness. You can be right about everything and still be unpopular.

> Say anything blunt, not rude but blunt, and you will get down-voted to oblivion.

I think that's because HN is full of pedants. Blunt messages don't cater to exceptions.

There are a lot of great things here on HN but people can be pedantic and the hive-mind mentality is strong. There are a lot of conversations that I avoid because of this.

All social media is like that.

I always wonder why people care so much about getting downvoted. I get downvoted all the time but who cares, these votes are just some meaningless statistic.

Why post at all?

For me there are 3 reasons:

- I want to formulate some idea in my head and writing down something in response to other people is a way for me to organise my thoughts. In this case, I don't really care about upvotes or downvotes.

- I want to help a specific person. Sometimes people post something and I think, "I'm pretty sure I can write something that will help that person out". Again I don't care about upvotes or downvotes. It's nice if the person responds and says that it helped them, though. It's depressing when they respond and you realise that they didn't understand at all ;-)

- To practice communicating. Ideally it's on a topic that I know something about. Upvotes are my measure to see if people understand what I'm saying. Downvotes are useful to show when I'm just plain wrong (which happens from time to time).

The problem with voting systems, though, is that it becomes a proxy for approval. People try to cultivate approval and it becomes important for them to write something that gives them that approval. I'm not immune to this, but it's something that I try to avoid as best I can.

I think it is reasonable to care about downvotes to the extent that it means you should probably examine your message or the way that you are delivering your message. Given that you want to communicate, excessive downvotes mean that you are not being successful to the bulk of your audience. That should be an inward process, though. Getting angry at other people for your own inability to communicate is understandable, but not productive (I'm not implying that you do that, BTW...)

P.S. This post can be filed in category #1 ;-)

You could say the same thing about half the things that piss people off. "Why do people care so much if a stranger flips them off?" Why do people care so much if a million people follow their blog?" When it comes to social interactions, irrationality is the norm, not the exception.

That is the rational approach, but we are emotional beings and we cannot always be completely detached.

Honest question: is anything supposed to happen when you get towards negative karma points? I use a forum where there's a limitation on how much posts you can write on a given topic depending on your number of "karma" points..

Thanks for the reminder.

Its a stupid system.

Its essentially giving the Internet a self moderation system for... the Internet.

I hate myself for have an impulse to read the comment section too, I don't know why I do it. There's nothing productive in it.

As someone who is feeling more and more contrarian lately in my comments here and regretting it, I think it's because after a decade of HN, everything starts to the look the same. Everybody is trying to sell a framework, a startup, a language, or their own personal brand and it turns into a big circlejerk of everyone patting themselves on the back because they've got some secret knowledge. Sometimes it doesn't seem like any real learning is going on as nothing is scientific or rigorous or anything more than an anecdote. You start to wonder how different some of this stuff is than hundreds of religions that have long since died.

This is a larger issue with developer burnout I suspect. You master one thing and there's someone standing on the corner saying..."well, actually, I've got something better" and there's a very real anxiety in that evaluation process. Does object-oriented programming suck? Are functional languages the future? Do you really want an SPA? Should you replace your C codebase with Rust... or Go? Is Bitcoin worth getting in on? etc etc

You will interact with some of the most brilliant people on HN, and most of them are friendly and mean well, but without actual disagreement nothing interesting gets said.

...that wasn't intentionally contrarian.

> Should you replace your C codebase with Rust... or Go?

Handy sanity tip: If your question begins "Should you replace your ____ codebase?", you can automatically answer "No." If you're really starting to hate your codebase, you're allowed to rewrite one module using a new tech stack, but only if that tech stack seems uniquely well suited to the task at hand.

Maybe it will suck. Maybe it won't. If it doesn't suck, you can use a bit more of the new technology in other places.

This will lower your stress and give you an opportunity to futz around with something promising every now and then. As a strategy, it will probably work best if you occasionally enjoy new technologies, but you're conservative about what you're willing to use in production. It also helps if you have occasional throwaway open source projects for trying out stuff that looks too new for professional use.

That's a really good measure. Thanks!

I've enjoyed arguing (debating?) who with people about OO and FP here. I don't get the downvoting backlash despite going a bit against current fashions (I still like objects and think they make a great foundation for computing in general).

The only time I get heavily downvoted for being critical is when I mention a certain programming language - which I happen to like.

The only time I've ever been heavily down voted here is when I've been blatantly wrong (although it sometimes takes me a while to figure out what was wrong about what I said).

I often enjoy your posts, which I find quite insightful at times. I was actually surprised that you found yourself downvoted, so I had a quick peek. In reviewing the posts which appear to have been downvoted recently I have to say that they seem to be unnecessarily inflamatory. Possibly some frustration you feel is escaping. I'm sure when you look at it, it doesn't seem so because your view is filtered by the context of what you meant rather than specifically what you said. Others don't have the ability to distinguish that as easily. Experimenting with other ways of expressing that frustration will probably help. My own personal experience has been that when I consciously tackled this issue, it really helped my professional life as well. I had a pretty bad reputation as being negative early in my career.

I think some places and people have a very low tolerance for bluntness. I have quite a high tolerance for it. I actually tone myself down here a lot (partly due to the fact that this is my real name). I enjoy opinionated and provocative communication that others just can't stomach. For example I find the 'rants' of Linus Torvalds completely inoffensive, even when I disagree with them. Colour and passion is a good thing and there's no reason to get too upset about our different preferences in pushing bits around, or shy away from strong language. I guess this doesn't sit well with this new breed of progressive programmer with their codes of conduct and all the rest of it. Oh well.

I often enjoy your posts, which I find quite insightful at times.

Thanks - I try.

> I realized it was an empty echo chamber of inaction. If anything you say can be interpreted in a way that the hivemind can destroy you over, they will do it, even with incomplete information and little to no proof.

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Seneca said that if you publish something you have to bear the critics. This should be clear to everyone before posting online.

I think Kenneth is one of the people who should be a bit more ignorant and arrogant. [1]

[1] https://m.signalvnoise.com/a-cocktail-for-putting-dents-in-t...

"I actually got that reference!" - Cap

I resisted Twitter (and most social media including Facebook) for various reasons.

There is a very real cost to this choice (especially depending on your lifestyle). For me as a huge introvert I could tolerate the cost of not having Facebook.

For Twitter I'm feeling the professional cost of not having an online identity or an outlet or following to once in a while be able to announce or promote something.

So I've been considering joining Twitter again after many many years.

Does anyone want to comment on that?

I have noticed all the time I'm hearing about people talking about deleting Facebook and Twitter and blah blah but I never ever see someone in real life who actually sticks to that.

I feel like I'm the only fool who has gone through and stuck with it and has paid the price.

Can you not delegate for those functions? If the point of promoting things is to get people to pay attention to it, maybe get a few people who have influence on board.

Not really as they are not that specific.

It just seems having a large follower base gives you a bit of influence and leverage and a voice that you can use when the time comes.

I have avoided having an online presence for a variety of reasons mostly revolving around the negative aspects of social media but I'm feeling like the cost is becoming too high.

At the same time I hear a lot of talking about how good it is quit it and how bad it is for you and all of that but very little real action.

It just seems like everyone's suggesting it to others but not doing it themselves.

I love the term digital junk food. Something I'd never considered until now.

> If anything you say can be interpreted in a way that the hivemind can destroy you over, they will do it, even with incomplete information and little to no proof.

I've found this to be true on Reddit, increasingly true on HN (if you look at my comment history you will see people trolling me and accusing me of being a foreign shill), and writ large in American politics.

Psychologically, people are anxious, they have little time, and they have a lot of information to filter.

They have an idea that because you are anonymous you very well may be a US information agent from the Fort Bragg propaganda center or a a propaganda agent from another country. They think that you may be from a different political party or from a group of people that you think are culturally a threat to their type of existence (cis white male, LBGTQ or urban, rural).

And so when they filter, they filter out the imagined adversary and anything that increased their level of anxiety. If they don't filter, they often attack it.

This is one of the reasons I will never get a personal Twitter unless it was for a project or other business. I've read too many times of a person harassed and suffered real-life consequences for a fairly innocuous comment.

The rest of the posted article is excellent. Going to re-read it from time to time to see if I'm falling into the ruts described there.

I've stopped using my real name when posting online for this exact reason. Less worrying about getting harassed because you said something that might offend someone, or that someone might look up something you wrote in the past and use it against you in the future. There's a certain freedom in anonymity in not having to police your own thoughts all the time.

Of course, if you're trying to build an audience/brand then being anonymous might not be an option, but I've discovered I'd rather avoid such things and just work on my own stuff.

I'm having similar thoughts about my social interactions. Since I moved to Silicon Valley it's like having junk food continuously comparing to my prior relationships. Now I can either keep eating junk food or choose isolation and try not to lose my mind. This is tough.

Can anyone suggest one or two good podcasts? (I'm particularly interested in programming-specific but any good tech podcasts would do fine)

> It happens to everyone that writes code all day long

More like "It happens to everyone."

I know this is a developer-focused site, but this isn't a problem unique to people in software.

An old joke, "Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar."

You're actually making the issue worse by conflating burnout with simple... I guess laziness? In fact the whole reason why burnout is such a fascinating phenomenon is because it takes otherwise highly productivity people who do not hate their job and turns them into minimal-productivity people who do hate their jobs. That's nothing at all like you're describing.

So people who love their jobs can also burn out? I don't buy it.

Personally, I've never heard of or met anyone who loves their job and has burned out.

Have you?


Burnout is a huge problem in the creative industries, amongst people who have fought, worked for years or decades, and clawed their way into a job they love and have wanted to do their entire adult lives.

For example, as Ron Moore (I think) says in the documentary "Showrunners", there's a reason almost no TV showrunner is much older than their early 50s. The job (which is insanely intense) burns you out, no matter how much you love it.

There's a difference between loving your work and loving your job.

I have met a large number of people who love their jobs and have burned out. I'm not really sure that anecdotal evidence is going to satisfy people in this thread of the conversation, so I suspect my volunteering of this is of little utility.

Maybe another way to look at it is the "burn out rate". Different companies have a tendency to turn excited new tech employees into minimally-productive ones in different time frames.

For example Amazon has a burn out rate of about a year, whereas Google and Facebook are about two years and Microsoft four years.

Why should this be the case? I think people above in the thread would argue that it has to do with culture and working conditions, with moral and with levels of individual autonomy.

I've experienced this first hand. It's a surreal feeling, because you know that objectively everything is awesome, but emotionally you want to throw it all away.

I have also experienced burn out with a job that I disliked. In both cases there is a feeling of not being able to focus on the work at hand, that more effort will make you physically sick.

The author's example of eating ice cream at every meal resonates with me really well. You do get tired of it, even if it's conceptually amazing.

"conceptually amazing"

doesn't mean you love your job. means it's great as an idea on paper maybe.

Have you ever spent too much time in a row with a best friend? You don't suddenly hate them, you just need a break. The same thing can easily happen with a job that you enjoy.

One's feeling towards their job is not some binary love/hate thing. I would say I do not hate my job, but do I love my job? Everyday? Do I never tire of my job?

Hi. I'm Jerome. Good to meet you.

Now you have!


Obviously you've never heard of Tim Harris.

This guy inspires me to always find a way to love what I do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6He0FWoFj0

Wish everyone was as happy as Tim.

Aw man, that made my day, thanks for sharing it.

I think we could all be a little happier, if we just tried. I'm not saying curing depression or burnout is as trivial as just trying to... But, you can certainly choose to be a notch happier than you are at this moment. Just one notch today, and try for another notch tomorrow. We can start by appreciating what we have.

I learned recently that if I list a few things I am grateful for, I will instantly feel happier. It seems like it works for others as well.

I'm pretty sure there's research to back this up.

Are you grateful for anything that doesn't make you happier? It sounds like you're saying that thinking about things that make you happy makes you happy, and that this is something you just learned somehow.

Yes, all things I am grateful for make me happier. But not all things that make you happier, are you grateful for.

Being grateful for something transcends being happy about that something. It's about holding in your mind, certain things that don't just make you happy, but resonate with you.

I don't, for example, think that just conjuring up the thought of a delicious ice cream cone, is going to have any lasting effect on your mood. Yet, ice cream makes me happy.

I do think that taking a moment to reflect on how lucky you are to have a family that is supportive, functional, and healthy... can definitely be a small bump, on the happiness scale.

Unless work is the difference between home and homelessness. I've been close to burnout (read:complete and total apathy at work) a few times before I wizened up, but I kept skating to a minimum because I needed the money.

Not everyone has the luxury of avoiding burnout. Sometimes life itself is one huge burnout.

software engineers love to pretend that their profession is totally unique and unlike any other, i've never understood why that is

Because most other people pretend the same.

I think burnout is a much more specific phenomena than just generally hating your job. It can happen in spite of you being very committed to your job (perhaps this even makes it more likely). I do agree though that burnout is not just confined to software developers. Hell, I'm about 1 year in and still recovering from some pretty serious burnout, and my job has almost nothing to do with computers.

I think it can happen in any job where: it's possible to care about the quality of your output, quality tends to be proportional to effort, and it's easy for your output to be discarded or ignored...

It's different in software, people can't do their jobs when this happens. Otherwise it shouldn't be called a burnout.

I realize you're not saying it's limited to software, but I think it's interesting to note that the term was coined by a psychologist (Herbert Freudenberger) trying to describe a condition he himself experienced.

You can say this about any field. A ditch digger loses "intrinsic motivation" and chooses to not dig a ditch. The ditch digger can't do their job because of burnout.

But somehow it is different in software development?

I'd argue that yes, it is different in software development.

The nature of ditch digging is such that given enough effort, it's probably still possible to dig a ditch. It doesn't mean you'll be motivated to dig the ditch, it doesn't mean it won't be ridiculously hard to dig the ditch, but barring seriously physical issues preventing you from making progress, digging a ditch is mechanical and doesn't really involve a serious need for critical thinking.

When you burn out as a software dev (and probably other fields that involve serious mental investment), it doesn't matter how much you try, there's a good chance you'll just fail.

I do agree that software development is not the only field that can be seriously impacted by burnout, but the degree of impact seems to be highest in fields involving knowledge work.

Hilariously I'm that person who was forced to dig ditches a few times and experienced a mild case of burnout as developer.

In both cases the performance was similar. With earthworks I simply didn't give a damn about the job, so just pecked the ground unenthusiastically. With burnout it was as if petard went off, but instead of earbuzz you get numb to planning, focusing and executing. I actually felt bad about it, but doubt you'd see much behaviour difference from the outside.

So I'd wager the lack of motivation is a serious handicap in both cases. Sure, "anyone can dig a ditch" but I dare you try doing it for a day if you are not into it. Similarly I was already an experienced developer at the point of burnout, and the job at hand wasn't challenging at all.

I don't think you understand the previous comment. Often, with burnout, motivation is not necessarily the issue. You try, or believe that you're trying, your absolute best but everything is falling down around you.

It's not just about motivation, it is just that your perceived ability to execute (going through the motions) and actual ability are completely at odds and you eventually lose all confidence in yourself to continue.

It's not motivation for the job, it's belief in your own abilities / capabilities that erodes your motivation.

Perhaps every case is different, but I hardly can imagine how one can remain motivated in a burnt out condition. It's not like the lack of motivation is the cause here. It's more like the lasting effect that holds your capabilities down.

E.g. I still could read the assignment, understand the problem, even estimate how long it could take the former me to complete. Then continue wasting time in front of the screen, sometimes dabbing here or there, at 1/20th or so of normal work pace. The confidence sure suffers badly, but really it was down to complete lack of will to do anything.

There was a grandsibling comment that you can actually force healthy person to dig ditches and do other menial labor no matter what. This is a problem well studied by prisons and armies of the world over millennia. Thing is, whipping isn't usually tried with burnt out devs, who knows it could have worked. It's not like your IQ drops 50 points or something. USSR and China had a fair experience of forced intellectual prison labor, and things were getting done.


You can whip a tired ditch-digger until they dig more.

You can't whip a tired programmer until they write working code. You'll only get broken code.

A good analogy might be to the division between rank-and-file soldiers in the military, and military officers. You don't need to think to shoot a gun. You do need to think to decide where to send people to shoot their guns.

I think it's all about creativity. When you burn out, your creativity dries up. Most of programming (and generally thinking) is done by your subconscious, and when it says 'I've had enough of this, I'm not helping any more', you are SOL, no amount of willpower will help with that. That's why digging ditches is different.

And you'll get uneven ditches...

an emotionally exhausted ditch digger can still use their arms and legs without impediment. an emotionally exhausted programmer cannot focus mentally and cannot write code at all.

That's a great point. It's not specific to software but knowledge work and creative work are nearly impossible to do without intrinsic motivation.

These comments here mostly speak for the fact that the commenters did, in fact, never experience burnout, depression or other heavily psychologically draining issues.

Because you literally cannot do things. Which things is completely and utterly irrelevant.

I don't understand why people still

a) think that "knowledge professions" are some kind of unicorn job where special snowflake sauce is required, and it's obviously totally different from those gritty "manual labour jobs" and you have to constantly set yourself apart (how arrogant is that?!)

b) purport this strange notion that psyche has little to do with the body. Digger won't dig? Just whip'em, it'll work for sure.

believe it or software is not the only job that requires thinking

I speculate that burnout is more psychological than physical. Ultimately, I think it stems from the shame arising out of the realization that giving 110% instead of 70% at your job accomplishes little but making things harder for yourself. A software engineer doesn't get more money giving 110%, and if they work to finish something quicker they're just rewarded with more work.

Often engineers (being human) will want to do a good job, give 110% on an important project, and when its over and their pay and work hours are exactly the same, they get angry with themselves for giving 110% instead of the bare minimum. They have this "I just wasted a month of my life because I'm a fool" feeling that completely zaps their motivation to do anything.

It is starts psychologically, but psychological problems can then turn into physical illnesses. A burnout can be stressful and slowly consume you life away with stress and anxiety until you hit rock bottom.

A million times this. Anything from ulcers, headaches, to heart attacks and even cancer can manifest if you are over-stressed and psychologically malnourished.

Getting enough or too little sleep is also huge so if you're reading this, make sure you get your (average of) 8 hours tonight. Think of it as a small way to unsure you live long enough to enjoy retirement.

There's burnout and there's burnout.

Some burnout is basically your mind slowly coming to associate some (class of) activity with negative feelings eventually building up to the point where it basically becomes an emotional net negative to the degree you can't push yourself to work on it anymore and you (have to) disengage.

Then there's the kind of burnout where you've been marinating your nervous system with extreme amounts of stress hormones for extended periods of time (months or more likely years on end) and when your performance starts to degrade due to this, as it inevitably will, you keep pushing yourself to maintain your expected standard of productivity up to the point where your body is basically trashed and your productivity suddenly drops precipitously to virtually non-existent levels which generally takes years to recover from.

The former is mostly psychological; the latter starts psychologically but most definitely crosses into the territory of the physical.

As an aside; the book The Upside of Stress [1] is a really good book on dividing 'good stress' which basically trains up your body and 'bad stress' which bathes you in damaging hormones. Many burnouts happen when someone with a high workload unwittingly switches from good to bad stress.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23281639-the-upside-of-s...

You're right, but it's not shame. It's just a raw reinforcement feedback cycle. If you repeatedly put a lot of effort into things that fail (or fail to achieve an expected reward - monetary, status, etc...), and then you train your brain to associate labor with failure, so it creates a mechanism to avoid labor.

It's why scientists burn out regularly. 9/10 experiments fail - and that's for a highly skilled scientist.

When scientists burn out, that has probably more to do with the continuous grant hunting, bureaucratic nonsense, and backstabbing they're exposed to.

When PhD students or postdocs burn out, it's because of underpaid boredom, lack of communication about their research or job uncertainties, and a generally ungrateful and passionless environment.

I've never seen scientists burn out over failed experiments. They know upfront that (basic) research is hard and that 90% of their stuff is not working.

> I've never seen scientists burn out over failed experiments.

It's never a single failed experiment.

I can't think, off the top of my head, of a scientist that I've known professionally that I didn't see burn out at some point or another (besides the PIs). For those that I have been watching their experiments, it usually happens after a slew of experiments fail (anywhere from 1 month - 6 months worth). I've probably met about 75-ish scientists that I've watched burn out.* Of these, about 25 or so I have working knowledge of what they were doing around the time of burnout.

*one guy, after three successive failed projects that his PI gave to him, had a very characteristic pattern. He would come in really late (4pm or so), then play game boy tetris on a java applet for about 3-4 hours, then do a little bit of science, and come back and do more tetris. Some of the things he would do - using pipette tips in geometric patterns.

I mean it makes sense. These little achievements provide dopamine hits reinforcing self-worth after completion of a minor task.

I've been writing code for a living for 11 years now and I don't think I've ever set out myself to give "110% on an important project", apart from the couple of tight deadlines which used to show up every 6 to 9 months (which required some weekend work). I regard laziness, "less is more" and YAGNI as real virtues for programmers.

> I regard laziness, "less is more" and YAGNI as real virtues for programmers.


An additional problem is a vicious circle: when there are first signs of burnout, even if you give 110%, you're just at your "normal" 50% or less.

I'm through some kind of burn-out experience and I realize it's really important to make myself feel good and that that is just fine. When I'm overworked I explain that I have limited time and stop working. When colleagues flood me with issues and problems I eventually stop talking to them if that's the only way.

> I speculate that burnout is more psychological than physical

Since programming is mental and not physical....yes?

No, I mean that burnout is not caused by physical things like lack of sleep, improper diet, lack of exercise, etc.

yeah! It's amazing how much people give fixing these things as a remedy for burnout, and yet (in my anecdata) it never works. One common advice is taking an unplanned vacation, but tha can be even worse, because it reinforces your brain's burnout by rewarding the burnout feedback cycle at a meta-level.

It's a mental thing that I believe has real physical side-effects.

The worst part for me was going from being a "rockstar developer" on the team to having to explain why I suddenly can't meet the overly ambitious deadlines handed down from above due to anxiety, depression, panic attacks and extreme insomnia.

Wait till you hit 35 and you have an actual life and you can absolutely still jump through flaming hoops but you just don't care as much. It's one thing to 'step back a little' - it's another thing to have people who've been coding for for only 18 months, but willing to work 14-hour days and lick the testes of the bosses move into 'status' position, because in the most short-sighted version of a project, they can actually developed something resembling code a little bit faster.

Sorry for the crude metaphor. :)

One option is to find an enclave that is not a fast-paced startup.

Do you know how many big dumb companies out there are starving for actual talent? A lot! If you don't mind working with mediocre people and moving slowly, you can find a job in 'not hot' industries where the pace is not so fast. You might feel a little numb though :)

>You might feel a little numb though :)

Isn't that exactly what hobbies and fun side projects are for though?

I feel you, man.

I've been burned out twice. The first and deeper of the two was right after I graduated years ago. It made the whole process of going straight into the workforce bittersweet, as I was mentally not ready to muster the energy to endure the rigors of professional development on-boarding for a new grad. I managed, but no where near at a potential I could of been. A brutal semester of final projects and endless nights had left me somewhat poisoned, so to speak. It caused the recuperation of my mental and physical state to be much longer (over a year) than if I took a 2-3 week vacation like I should have done, I imagine. I've always taken this as a likely scenario for a new grad when being brought on within a company.

The second, like the author, was when I was gung-ho into a new technology and went at personal projects endlessly for a solid 12 months before I came up for air and took a breather, with similar but more superficial effects than the first burnout.

I regret these mistakes, and I've learned the hard way to do work in moderation. However, I am not an entrepreneur for these very reasons, and I simply don't want that lifestyle for the long-term. I'm hoping my health will thank me 30 years from now.

You know the one about entering the workforce hits home for me, I feel like this is about to happen to me, but I feel sort of powerless to stop it.

It's much easier to back away and recharge when you're close to the edge than after you've already fallen off. So you should try and stop falling off if you can. Take a real break after you graduate, if you can, it'll help. Otherwise consider if you can last a few months at a new gig, that ought to supply you with enough savings to take the same amount of time off if not more and then look for a new gig.

I was excited to start working properly after school, regardless of what I worked on, it would be something that mattered enough that I'd be paid for it instead of paying myself. I started interviewing mostly after graduation and while it was stressful (must find a job soon to pay bills, and start paying student loans) I landed one after not too long. I was fortunate that my start date wasn't until a month after acceptance so I was able to chill for that whole month and really unwind after the stress of years of school. Looking back I was telling people during interviews that I was basically available to start "immediately" (because I wanted more money immediately) but I really should have pushed for at least a few weeks lead time before starting in all cases instead of lucking into it.

I recently came back from a 2 week vacation of just chilling, it's lifted a lot of work stress that has been accumulating. But some times I've entertained myself with calculations about how long I could go financially if I quit tomorrow. I even did that at the start more for fun than stress relief, since suddenly every two weeks you're getting a paycheck that covers 3-6 months of expenses if you keep your college lifestyle. It doesn't take long to save up for a year of goofing off and then a couple months of runway to find a job after that.

Talk to your manager - let them know. The first thing you should learn upon entering the workforce is the power of communication. Most people want their employees to do well, because it helps them.

In addition to what another commenter said about communicating: We (your manager and more senior colleagues) understand that you're just starting out. We don't expect you to know everything. We don't expect you to learn everything all at once. This one probably stings (if you're like me), but can be helpful to your psyche if you can overcome your pride and internalize it: We don't expect much from you at all yet, certainly far less than you expect from yourself.

If you are developing software as a life, you don't have one; if on the other hand you are developing software for fun, you are having it; if you are just developing software for money; leave it at work. It's hard to be buried 100% in software and realize the rest of life is more important.

The best thing I ever did for my professional life was acquiring new interests that had nothing to do with software but were still intellectually and/or physically stimulating.

Weightlifting is cheap, has proven physical and psychological benefits, and is eventually fun (sucks for the first few weeks/months though). I just recently starting taking lessons to get a private pilot's license. GA is expensive (relatively - anyone on here who isn't a student can afford it) but it's no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle and is a fairly rare skill. And it has the added benefit of being pretty mentally taxing as I am still very new to it.

Not everyone on HN earns SV money.

Best of luck in becoming a pilot!

And not every hobby is as expensive as training to be a pilot.

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply it's cheap. I know it's not, and statistically is prohibitively expensive for ~half of America.

What I meant was if it's a priority, you can do it without huge lifestyle sacrifices provided you make a minimum of $40-45k/yr depending on your COL. Obviously if you have a mortgage and two kids and make $50k it's probably not the best idea. If you're a single 22 year old making $45k and you live in a cheap studio? You can do it without breaking the bank.

> anyone on here who isn't a student can afford it

LOL come on now.

It costs $5-10k to get a private pilot's license which requires at least 40 hours of flying time. Most schools will recommend that you do at least 2 hours per week, which usually comes out to $200-$400. (It's easy to forget things.)

Shit's expensive.

Eh, it's a matter of priorities. By "can afford" I'm sure the OP meant "it's even an option at all" not "it's so cheap it does not require any real tradeoffs"

What percentage of USA residents would you say have spent $7k to $12k or more on a car, when only $2k is necessary to get you around safely?

But yeah, it's expensive, and someone earning more can afford to do it if they're merely interested in it, as opposed to having to be obsessed enough to make major sacrifices to afford it

That said, I have a friend who _is_ a (graduate) student and flies. He bought a gyrocopter for a couple thousand dollars, uses some license class that required minimal/no training but limits the weight of the aircraft severely (ultralight or experimental or something like that, sorry, not sure) and has ultimately spent relatively quite little over time on the hobby. Where there's a will there's (often but admittedly not always!) a way, but that doesn't mean it's not a way requiring sacrifices and tradeoffs

Industry average seems to about $12k (but that's from my flight school which obviously has an incentive to make the assumed cost just a little higher than it need be).

galdosdi is 100% correct that I didn't mean it's cheap. I meant if it's something you really want to do, you can afford it without selling your car or living in a hovel.

Fair points. I agree!

> (relatively - anyone on here who isn't a student can afford it)

I know you mean well but this is the epitome of living in a bubble. :)

Yes that didn't come off the way I meant it. See sibling comments here :)

I strongly recommend running as a burnout cure...

What is GA?

General aviation I imagine.

Makes a lot more sense to read it that way. Auto-pilot (...I guess I just did that) caused me to read it as Google Analytics.

That's expensive, but it's also pretty dangerous :)

TL;DR I experienced massive burnout after ridiculous working hours and a broken contract

I experienced terrible burnout around a year ago that I'm still working to get over.

I had taken a pay cut to join a startup with the promise (contractually) that I receive a raise to market value + bonus after 12 months. The latter 6 of those months were spent working 16 hour days ramping up to a massive launch. There were multiple times were I was in the office for 40 hours straight. Throughout this entire period I was locked in and producing top quality code.

A few months after launch I approached my boss about the contractual raise + bonus. After blowing me off for a few weeks I had a meeting with the president and CEO where I was told that I would not be receiving either because I was not coming into the office by 10 AM. Not only that, but they told me they didn't appreciate the amount of work I put in, nor the fact that I had barely seen my family and friends in that the period because "no one asked you to do that." Mind you, our CTO had quit with 4 months to go until launch so I had taken some of his responsibilities, and I was the sole developer on Android, and one of two for the backend. All the while the feature requests kept pouring in.

Within a week I was bedridden, and I stayed that way for the next 3 months. I've been slowly recovering since then, but I'm not sure I'll ever be the same again.

I know I could've sued for the money, but it was the lack of even a basic appreciation that did me in.

Some people have told me that I have no one to blame but myself. I sort of agree with them, however, I know that if I would've gotten my raise and bonus I would've been fine.

nah, you definitely have some other folks to blame, like the ones who reneged on contractual obligations. yikers. and there's a lot to unpack, but I'd definitely talk to a lawyer, and some kind of therapist/counselor. now go to http://thenicestplaceontheinter.net/

I eventually got the money (a few months later), and they had enough decency to keep me on payroll while I was incapacitated. I believe they learned their lesson, and have made serious gestures to show that. But the damage is still done.

I've been in a similar situation and all I can say is I feel you. I've become very distrustful and suspicious of people in this industry, especially the fast-talking "we're changing the world" kind.

Ultimately, if people want to renege, they will renege. Unless you have a ton of money and energy to throw at lawsuits, it's better to structure your deals in a way that clips your potential downside (e.g. work on a retainer basis, don't accept stocks in lieu of cash etc).

A lot of my friends working in the industry have limited interest in coding (or computer science), but look at it solely as a job... something that guarantees decent financial freedom to pursue other goals.

For me, it's the opposite. Since I first played Super Mario on the NES and wrote my first line of C a decade ago, I've wanted to have a career with computers. But that means I never get to switch off. If I'm not working on something cool at work (and no, I'm not in a dead end job... In fact love my job and team), then I'm at home trying to code something awesome (Was just setting up a DCGAN when I saw this post).

I have no financial worries and should technically be living the good life, but I always feel that if one day all computers in the world shut down abruptly, I have absolutely nothing to do... for work OR for fun. And when I got close to burning out a year ago, the hardest thing was to find something to do.

The route back involved calling people I hadn't spoken to in years, Reading (and smelling) a dozen books, Quizzing and quite a bit of travel. It was hard at first, but since getting back, has provided a much clearer view of life!

So please, plug off for a bit. Don't wait till you start hating yourself/your life. Life is about so much more. :)

I think the key is to not put pressure on yourself, and don't allow other people to do so. One person can only do so much, you can't make a baby in 5 months. Work a stable amount each day, on tasks in descending order of priority. I never work past 6 pm, and never work on weekends. If a deadline isn't met, it's the fault of the people that set the deadline.

You are right on. I learned a long time ago there is always more work and it always needs to be done last week. I work hard, but there is only so much a person can do. I'll put in extra time, but only when it really counts. Some deadlines were meant to be blown by and when you quit stressing yourself over things that are out of your control and focus on what you can do - life is better.

True true. With deadlines, if they're unrealistic, you've just got to compromise and either

a) reduce the scope

b) fail to meet the deadline

c) compromise the quality by frantically hacking things together over long nights and weekends.

Always go for option a), if you can't extend or get rid of the deadline.

A few years back I had a short interaction with Kenneth Reitz. I sent an email about some issue in requests and got a reply within a minute telling me that the issue had been fixed in a release published a few hours prior.

Considering how hugely popular requests is I imagine my message was just one of so many he answered on day to day basis and he did all this without really needing to do any of it.

I guess I understand how he and other people in similar situations get tired of it all after a while. For whatever its worth requests is an amazing project and has made my life easier in my personal and professional hacking.

One of the amazing things about software that we all write is how well it integrates with many other aspects of life, particularly (though without a doubt not exclusively) intellectual pursuits.

This is, of course, why it pays what it does: Software for software's sake pays about like math for math's sake, with the same people paying.

But unfortunately it seems that despite the deep integration with other facets of work and life, most professional developers seem to basically write code 80-100% of their time (including associated activities like meetings etc.). Far fewer developers are also domain experts (or at least domain enthusiasts) and spend, say, 30-50% of their time coding and the remainder working within the domain or on integration.

I wonder if this separation between the coders and the domains contributes to burnout. Maybe it's more economically efficient (specialization and all that) and we all like our abstractions. But having a lack of meaningful contexts to switch to, i.e. eating ice cream for every meal for lack of broccoli, can't be great. Directly gaining the benefit of the software should also help with perspective, motivation and an appreciation of the work invested.

But maybe it's too hard to find people who can fill what are effectively 2(+) roles in given field? In what areas other than science/engineering do people actually do this?

I really can't make sense of this post. Perhaps you should re-read it and try to type it out in a more fluid manner.

I see what you mean and I'm thinking about that as well. In there startup world there is this "focus mantra". So everybody things that everyone should work as focussed as possible. Somehow this is highly efficient for some time but on the long-run I'm sure it strongly contributes to burn-out or some kind of bore-out.

Not sure how I should feel about this, reading a post about no longer reading posts, while I should be writing code.

This is not developer burnout. This is Twitter burnout. "So, I unfollowed everyone on Twitter" he writes, which apparently fixed his problem. That has nothing to do with development.

IMHO not exactly. I feel the same and decreased list of following people couple times. Couple days ago I've thought about switch to HackerNews & Publish only mode because I feel like everybody around has great life, skills, projects and work for awesome companies.

There's too many successful stories around that sometimes can cause depression more than stories about failures. It's a bit hard to explain properly in single HN comment. I'll try to blog about it during the weekend. If You're interested - follow me on twitter (@lukaszkups), cheers!

When you're depressed, the last thing you want to see is happy people. They are infuriating and depressing. It is much better to see other people with problems, because it makes your own look less terrible in comparison, and because you're not an odd beast in their eyes, that one should pity or avoid as if you could be contagious. The problem, then, is not to stay locked in this circle forever.

It's like all the suicides in springtime: that's the time when the people and the nature are full of energy and joy and life and everything. And you are not, so the contrast is extremely painful and hopeless.

Yes, exactly - not only depressed but also just in 'bad mood' or something - in my case it is often caused by feeling that I have too less time and want too much to do (and partly because of reading lots of social media news, so it is somehow related).

Very often I catch myself of being angry because of lack of time, but instead do something with that I mindlessly scroll through my news feeds.

Prompted by this, I went through and aggressively pruned my follow list.

I was struck how most of the most interesting people I was following pretty much don't tweet any more.

Not sure if that speaks to how they became interesting, how much Twitter squandered what was once a special community, or both.

On the contrary; in this case, Twitter is a symptom. Instead, the problem is bubble-based news. The platform could've been something else, like Facebook, or RSS.

Platform has nothing to do with it. If you keep reading unrealistic marketing stories and believe what they say... well you are the problem...

A lot of people read the same things, should we all burn out?

> A lot of people read the same things, should we all burn out?

Eventually? Would everyone burn out at an equivalent speed?

I don't know the answer to your question. I do wonder if it has to do with being closed or open minded. The difference of a person enjoying being in a bubble, and one who wants to think outside of the box.

Also, there are platforms where people gather who think outside of the box. However at some point they become so popular, that the status quo of the masses takes over. (Reddit seems an excellent example of this.) To me, it seems akin to the principles of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporary_Autonomous_Zone

Twitter can contribute to developer burnout when your feed is mostly tech-related.

> So, I unfollowed everyone on Twitter. Every single person. I stopped paying attention to tech trends and reading hacker news. I went into publish-only mode.

The "publish-only mode" is a great, pragmatic solution to this problem. We need some sort of revision to the Tao of the IETF: "Be conservative in what you send. If you have time and energy, be liberal in what you accept."

I solve developer burnout by playing videos games and paying for hookers. Alcohol only causes more depression.

Not sure "solve" is the right term there. ;)

"stress releasing" is more accurate

yeah, not sure about hookers, because I've never met any (and I think it actually CAN cause depression in some way IMHO), but playing games can help - especially multiplayer ones.

> not sure about hookers, because I've never met any

WHAT? 2017 and you haven't met or saw a hooker in your life? you are kidding right? well if you want to meet some without leaving your room you could just search escorts in your area, it's pretty much the same as an a hooker just more expensive, don't be afraid to try! just remember to paid them after not before.

I work in software and also run some pretty active open source projects, so I worry about this happening to me. I've felt somewhat burned out, or felt close to a more serious burn out, on a few occasions. What has helped me is to remind myself that ultimately I don't owe the open source community anything. I do it because I enjoy it, and want to create things for people to use. But if it's creating stress, I take some time off, spend a few weeks playing video games or spending more time with my partner, and that in turn reminds me that the world does not end when I stop programming for a few days. In other words, I haven't stopped, I've just slowed down, and participated in free time open source development with better moderation.

This describes me well, today, right now. I have dev'd software my whole life, chucked it in to dev apps, have been successful, I _love_ developing apps but for the last 4 or 5 months I can't do it, sit and write code - I don't want to do anything to do with writing code. I can't stand that I have to sit in front of a keyboard to do anything these days - even research a non computer related activity! So this is a real thing and I'm happy that others experience it too. I interviewed for a casual customer service related role yesterday simply because there are no keyboards involved and I have the time!

I've had several periods in my career where I "felt" like I just couldn't get things done. Some weeks ago, I faced panic attacks and anxiety for the first time of my life due to unmanageable workload combine with nastiest politics going on a my workplace.

This actually changed it for me. I still feel fear that I'm broken permanently.

So, yes, another anecdote. Everyone just needs to really take care by managing themselfes. Working fixed hours only instead of trying to get features by the end of the day / week has done did it for me.

Last spring we had a few developers leave from my student development team at my university and I had to do 30 hour weeks on top of school in order to finish our projects.

My summer internship was a much needed break but even now it's hard to go back to work.

Its much easier to avoid burnout when your projects are popular. Whats really hard is to avoid burnout when you put hundreds of hours of effort into a project that only you yourself uses.

Does the Gary Bernhardt quote about ice cream come from one of his talks or something? (I thought I'd seen them all.)

It was an interesting read but the solution reminds me of pyramidal "scams" (of course the scam part is where the analogy breaks): the way you avoid burn out, is by delegating it to others and once they too get burned out they have to delegate too. Or they quit and you have to find someone else or let the project die. I'm not disagreeing nor judging, just sharing the thought.

In a reasonable setup, going from 1 dev to 3 devs will alleviate the workload. A more apt analogy would be with a load balancer.

am I the only one who read this and didn't really take anything new away? yeah social media, like anything else is not always a good thing. okay, sure... but i'm sorry developer burnout happens for a lot more reasons then stated in the write-up.

Huh? This sound more like social media burnout than developer burnout.

I expected something more like maintaining a big ball of mud or dealing with unrealistic expectations or struggling against the inertia of a large company.

If we all just listen to Epicurus. And of course, Marx too.

In my experience a huge part of burnout also comes from deriving all your sense of identity from one source. If you only identity yourself as a developer then you will probably sooner or later start questioning whether what you do is all that meaningful. You will also be seriously exposed to criticism as questioning your abilities becomes questioning of your worth as a human being.

You are also someones child, maybe a father or mother and only one step away from being a pianist, boardgamer, hiker, traveller or whatever.

Identity diversification.

Interesting subject. When WWII was over women in the UK and Europe who had lost their husbands often had to rebuild their homes, look after their children and had to put food on the table each day. All that after having lived/suffered through 6 years of war. However, none ever mentioned burnout except perhaps when referring to their homes...just saying

This is a provocative piece of information, but I think there's some truth in it.

When I burned hard out at my last job, I resigned and decided to take some time off. Writing code felt disgusting. I had a timeline when I was going to get back in to work and the hope was that I'd be good.

Welp, the one month I gave myself turned in to two, and that turned into three and I still felt just like garbage. I normally work as hard as anyone and yet the inertia to write even the simplest code was insane.

My cat got sick and was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the vet trips and treatment obliterated my savings. Within _two_ days of this starting I found the mental blocks removed. This is fortunate because I was starting to get pretty scared I'd end up homeless and starve to death.

Necessity caused by crisis seems to have cured my burnout. I've paid the rent on GARBAGE upwork jobs, most of them have paid minimum wage or worse while looking for full time work. All my clients have given me 5 stars and, while it's not fun, rewarding work, it's necessary and I can do it. I can say with 100% honesty that I physically could not have done it back in September when I was flush with cash and still reeling from my last work experience.

> Burnout is, unfortunately, a very real phenomena in software development

These people sound like they are bomb technicians not software developers...

> "I'd rather do anything else than this right now" — even though writing software is one of your favorite activities in the world.

So? Does this mean you have burnt out? How does this compare to jobs like algorithmic trading or mission critical software?

Burning out over stress of writing a web site? I call BS on all these burn out blog posts.

You have other problems in your life that make you depress, coding might be little part of it but I don't see what levels of stress can you be under while doing mostly non interesting jobs.

You are calling bullshit based some vague feelings of "job difficulty"?

Do you have a robust mental model of the day to day experiences of these people who you are calling bullshit on? If not, I would be careful with your words. It can come off as fairly snide, ignorant, and callous.


Having burned out a number of times, I think that perhaps you would benefit greatly from investigating what burn out actually is, and the causes of it, rather than making broad assumptions about it.

For instance, burn-out has less to do with what you are doing, and more to do with the stress and effort required. It doesn't matter if you're disarming bombs ("bomb technician," huh?) or grading freshman assignments. What's more relevant to it is the value you place on the task, the recovery time (off hours) you get, and level of stress placed upon you. Even the most dreary job can burn you out if the employer demands near-impossible targets.

Educate yourself, then you won't seem as much of an arrogant arse to the rest of the world.

> Having burned out a number of times

So this more like a being sick of doing things temporarily?

What you are doing and the effort you have to put in is what puts stress on you isn't it?

> ("bomb technician," huh?)

Huh what? Wrong term? Are you seriously saying that job that puts your life in danger causes the same amount of stress as grading papers? Sure, grading papers can take effort, but come on... That is just plain wrong... Have you ever been in life or death situation? Not much compares to it...

If your employer demands near-impossible targets and you are aware of this and not living in the country where it is impossible to find another job you are the fault.

Maybe I am seem like arrogant arse but you seem like you are totally disconnected from reality.

> Also unless you are doing really stressful work what is it that makes you burn out?

I think you are making too many assumptions about what kind of work and what work environments are stressful for different people.

Could the term "burn out" be abused? Of course, it's something that is difficult for others to verify. That fact doesn't make it less real for those actually experiencing it.

Maybe I am, but really stressful environments are stressful for everyone.

If you are unable to cope with some levels of stress it is not the coding that is the problem, it is you. Or do we just go around blaming everything else for our problems?

Should I blame you or me for my karma score? Come on...

He's not blaming others.

He took ownership of the situation and made specific changes in his life. And guess what? It was a good thing. He said he is doing better now.

Sure, often times people struggle with making these types of improvements in their lives, but I think it is pretty antagonistic to view that as some sort of shameful moral failing, as you seem to be describing. For some, they might not have a lot of great options in the near term, and dealing with that can be difficult.

What's your main point here? It seems like you have some sort of axe to grind.

> Also the words "burnt out" sounds like one those buzz words people come up to feel like more special snow flakes...

I dunno, based on his accomplishments and how much I rely on his work on a daily basis, I consider the OP to be a special snowflake if snowflakes exist.

True, I also use his work, and I am not saying he personally is a bad person, but these burn out posts come so often lately that it makes me wonder if people even know any definition of it.

Quick google search tells me this: > ruin one's health or become completely exhausted through overwork.

And the only thing the post saysis

> It happens to everyone that writes code all day long — the sudden feeling of "I'd rather do anything else than this right now" — even though writing software is one of your favorite activities in the world.

This is not burn out... I'd rather do something else does not mean your health is ruined from overwork... But maybe I am just nitpicking...

read Ken Reitz' original article more closely. he actually did attribute the causes of his burn-out to various problems that weren't simply "too many hours of coding". the emotional drain from the politics and communications overhead of doing high-profile OSS projects seemed to be his primary problem.

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