Some people are really good at that initial torque boost on projects and can sustain it longer than others, but if work doesn't get easier it's because you're doing something wrong.
From a market-fit perspective, I think startups that drive around in first gear never get very far either. Things are only hard because we're being stupid. Nobody ever looks at a person driving a ferrari and thinks, "wow, they must have washed a lot of dishes to afford that car," and yet we still think "if I just wash these dishes hard enough I'll drive a ferrari one day."
I'm guilty of this as much as anyone, but burnout is my body intervening to tell me I'm being stupid.
I'm saving this quote to tell people this later on.
Also check out my dishwasher-sharing service Dishdash.
It's the difference between "hmm, washing dishes is hard, I will do it better until someone notices and rewards me," and "average person buys less than one dishwasher in their entire lives...but they have to eat every single day...they could skip the dishes altogether!"
One day, a guy come in and ask for a jug of water for his car, which had overheated. It turned out to be a yellow Ferrari, I got him some water and he headed on down the other side of the gap. Neither the fancy car nor needing water for an overheated vehicle was too far out of the ordinary, but the combination was curious - a sports car should be able to handle that road easily.
At the time, I lived with my dad. That evening, he mentioned that he had been in town and a yellow Ferrari had driven by with the engine revved way up like it was stuck in first gear...
Is it though? What if you are (always) on call? What if you get a message from your boss late evening asking for stuff for early morning? What if you have late night meetings or very early morning meetings (and what if both are present)? What if coworkers from other timezones are messaging you outside work hours (if you even have defined work hours) with 'urgent' requests?
Often, the time mismanagement is external.
I’m trying to learn to push back more forcefully against unreasonable behavior by coworkers.
It can be very socially stressful to stand up against powerful folks in the organization. But if they aren’t called out, it will just continue.
There are several problems with your statement:
- find a better job: the job market is not ideal right now from the worker's perspective. Not to mention the difficulty of onboarding remote employees which is a stressor in itself. Not to mention the stress and the added workload of joining a new company/role while you have to build trust in a short amount of time.
- finding and landing a job is stressful. Assuming we're talking about jobs in CS, the prep is long, takes a lot of your personal time and ultimately you need to deal with a good amount of rejection. Stressful af.
- after landing a job, figuring out if it's a better job is hard. You really can't. There are yellow/red flags you can notice during interviews along with other intelligence you can get from insiders but more often than not the situation on the ground is more or less a crapshot.
- respecting personal time is subjective. Also a thing which you can't really figure it out unless you're in the specific situation and see if it matches your expectation.
This is not the case for many (most?) people.
 Or forming a union and demanding better conditions, but, y'know, programmers.
I want to use that analogy of endless busy work to break away from your analogy in saying that:
Maybe there is a breakaway in replacing parts bit by bit to build the fast car you want that can shift into the gears you need at the moment.
IDK, sometimes you're just going to be washing a lot of dishes.
Stuck in a job completely burned out, there is nothing worse than the realization of the futility in any struggle to either escape or improve. The knowledge that your output has dropped, the feeling that it's your fault combined with nobody interested in helping you because they are annoyed about your lack of output. There are no doorhandles on the inside of this washing machine.
My only advice is to meow as loud as you can.
The second time, I was run into the ground repeatedly as I tried to manage it. That time, I was dropkicked by my manager far over the line, and exited myself.
This last job, I left the moment I felt it happening.
My struggle now is to not make it a reflex, and a huge amount of my personal and life work has gone into improving communication (aka yowling techniques), and drawing lines in work/life/etc balance to sustain myself.
Currently, I'm just avoiding the washing machine entirely.
"Finding motivation" from finding the joy in things is what I hope to recover. Also starting new habits and not tying so much of myself to my work/current company is something I have to learn better to do and is a goal of mine during my break.
When you care deeply about the area you are working in, it is hard to turn off. This combined with a very ambitious company lead me to crash and burn about 18 months ago. Tried to recover with short breaks and while that helped, it kept going back to the same pace and have decided if I want to kick this exhaustion, I need a longer break to form better habits and try to find that joy in what I do again.
Whether or not I'll be successful, I don't know, but need to try.
Exactly that combination of "you care deeply about the area you are working in" and "hard to turn off" (even with less of "very ambitious company") - will eventually bring you back to the same situation, unless you change habits/approach/etc.
Instead of focusing/pushing for "not tying so much of myself to my work/current company" and "motivation" - perhaps it's better to focus on training yourself when and "how to turn off" and not slowly drift towards old habits?
And I think I know what you mean by "depression hits pretty hard and you stop doing things for yourself due to lack of joy/seeing the point in doing anything". Though in my case I realized that it originally started from myself feeling guilt where I was nagging to myself how I can't do whatever fun thing while there was some other work thing/project where I thought I'm behind.
So slowly over time that guilt made fun things less fun, and combined with stress started to skew perception of how productive I am, and how long something will/should take ...etc. Eventually that skewed perception spilled from work to personal life - so for those things/projects that were still at least somewhat fun/enjoyable I also started to be annoyed by them taking longer than what I thought they should take.
I've talked about it some in the past, re: MKP and other men's support groups along those lines (or just a solid group of friends). Much of it is just recognizing the emotion(s) and putting myself into a place where I can express/vent it properly.
Along those lines actually, has anyone else noticed a boost/burst of energy/productivity/etc after the elections last week? I think thats a malaise that hasnt really been talked about much (yet).
What is the yowling technique?
Some people I know can sleep sitting on a plane, and others can scarcely sleep at night, horizontal, in a quiet room, on a soft bed.
"The plasma clearance of cortisol is rapid, with a half-life of 66 min at normal hormone levels. With large steroid loads, however, the half-life increases to 120 min."
If you work out in the morning or afternoon, avoid working ~3-4 hours before bed, you should be able to sleep just fine.
Psychologists have to study for 15+ years...
The HN crowds cleary knows more than psychologists.
I feel like the cycle is almost finished and I'm about to be hung out to dry.
I can't imagine moving countries/continents on top of being burned out would be a good idea.
Though you and others that mentioned being prone to recurrence should seriously consider moving somewhere else. Like one of countries in Europe where employers are responsible for employee well being, putting in effort on reintegration, re-training professions ...etc.
On top of "there is nothing worse than the realization of the futility in any struggle to either escape or improve. The knowledge that your output has dropped, the feeling that it's your fault".
At least for me the case was that there was also months/years long period of me thinking along the lines of "This shit is almost nothing compared to all the hard things I've been though in my life" (things spending summer break mixing concrete by hand with shovel to earn/save enough money for 10 or 15 years old computer, or living though a war ...etc)".
So for those months/years I was trying (and at various times seemingly pulling off) to keep the level of my output by trying harder/smarter/better and lot's of good old burning of midnight oil ever longer.
That is until part about being ever more annoyed about lack of output despite extra effort/hours/etc, which itself makes output kind of recursively worse - I got to a point where (with some encouragement from increasingly more and more physical symptoms that start like headache, bad stomach ...) I just couldn't keep doing that anymore.
And basically every other thing/hobby/learning/etc that was previously fun/relaxing/entertaining/interesting (including playing with my kids) - stopped being fun/relaxing/entertaining/interesting/etc somewhere along the way.
While you might be right about "Stuck in a job" and "with nobody interested in helping you because they are annoyed about your lack of output. There are no doorhandles on the inside of this washing machine."...
Also keep in mind that under burnout/stress your thinking/perception/evaluation/etc is severely impaired/limited and generally skewed towards negative.
So instead of just wondering/thinking and meowing somewhere where others might not hear/notice you, or notice your but not realize what your meow is - I would really (in scientific/objective sense) check if you're "stuck in a job with nobody interested in helping you".
Perhaps clearly/officially ask for (hopefully paid) sick leave due to stress/burnout?
OK I've seen/been at places where even that might be enough to get one fired. And sure there might be reasons that you can't risk that.
Though again - actually do some research and compile a plan of "What else could I do to cover rent/food/etc until there's something better?" (cliche example of waiting tables is not working great during Covid-19, though many people are painting/renovating/extending their homes, food/groceries delivery services need more people ...).
Since if you're completely right about everything including how much are others "annoyed about your lack of output" - you'll probably need to look for another job soon?
PS. Although it's a throw away account because regularly used one often gives too many details about me and employer - I'll keep an eye on this thread and respond with same account for a while.
We should all have that option.
I would take a lot less money (-$50k or more) if I got to take a quarter off every year.
Four day work weeks would be another compelling alternative. Two days a week are not enough time to get chores done. There's no time for relaxing.
If I ever create a company, I'd love to offer these options.
I set it up so I had zero obligations at the start - no vacations planned, no "to do" lists. I would get up in the morning and ask myself "what do I need to get done today?" and the answer was "nothing". It was really glorious.
After a couple weeks of doing whatever I wanted - reading, going for a walk, meeting a friend for coffee, I felt my background anxiety level had diminished a lot. Then I started into the phase of "what do I want to get done before I start working again". None of it was "must do", but rather cleaning up the garden, fixing the car, taking care of financial paperwork. The next few weeks felt incredibly low pressure and highly productive.
It's a great way to get into a healthy mindset, at least for me.
You had to spend the time doing some sort of work, but it's flexible. It could helping another team out (intern style), focusing on a useful side project, taking a trial run at a new role (or just walking a mile in someone else's shoes), or volunteering with a non-profit ("technology pro bono").
You needed 5 years of tenure to qualify (it's not an annual thing). I think the bar is a little too high, but I understand the intent – looking forward to it was definitely a source of motivation and factor in retention during my fourth year.
Seems like a really great idea, but I completely agree, five years seems like an eternity at a tech company.
Sure, it takes some planning. You can't just do it tomorrow. But it seemed pretty easy for them.
Personally, I would sooner go for a four-day work week, which would probably be an easier sell to most companies. Similarly, I would be fine with a pretty sizable pay cut for the benefit.
It will take time and hard work, and it will pay off for the rest of your life.
I'm sure this is obvious but that would exclude a huge group of people from the outset.
So you either play the overwork game or don't get to play at all. That's all part of the golden handcuffs routine, along with stock holdings etc. Give your life to the company or bugger off, no middle ground.
That's why I wanted to point out that it's entirely reasonable. It's just a different work/life weighting, people should be able to still work in tech and not have an 80/hr week.
In this space, I see that most people don't have what they want, mostly because they're not REALLY willing to make those compromises. I see a lot of people saying these things but they mostly want everything on top of everything else they take for granted.
Contracting has it's own set of challenges and it's distinct from a full-time job. I take on the risk and additional challenges of contracting in order to be able to manage my own time, but it's not for everyone.
I think you're right about compromise too. Working for FANG has become a bit of a social institution and I think some people get into the false assumption that FANG and startups are the only logical options in tech. If you're willing to compromise on location, salary and prestige, you can definitely find tech jobs outside of the various bubbles.
I didnt realise it at the time, or as it was happening.
I have ADHD, and can be amazing at work. But over time corporate offices destroyed me. I sought help for depression, and my ADHD. But no one suggested burnout.
I had to have a fully nervous breakdown and six months off work to even work out what was going on.
It's taken a full two years of recovery, and now I guard my mental health like the crown jewels!
But I'll never be the same again. I'll never fully commit to another company, manager, workplace or team again.
I choose to validate myself outside of what makes me money, and choose my friends and acquaintances carefully. I don't assume people I work with are my 'friends', and I certainly am very careful who I trust! (which is never anyone at work!)
Currently getting properly burnt out for real right now and debating whether to stay and try get things back to normal after this project or just leave early next year with this job having been nothing more than a shitstain on my career.
I'm so torn.
I have a big project on me, and there is no way I can get the rest I need to recover properly. I took 2 days off, and my colleagues are rallying to help as much as they can, but some of the info is silo'd on me so I need to work on it.
What's preventing you from sharing this information or making it accessible to your other colleagues?
I mean, obviously at some point you need to cut down the tree, and sometimes you're just carving down your ax without making it any sharper, but still.
I spend time researching, investigating, figuring out the best way to do it, implementing the solution and potentially being pulled off to something else in the meantime. And then comes along some spiffy "throw hammer at the problem" person that can't stand spending too much time on a problem, who then proceeds to solve it in some crappy way that "kinda works". Then goes ahead and convinces everyone to go with it because "hey it's already done and kinda works and why throw away work", nevermind the "work" you did figuring it out and them not even bothering to ask you for your info (or downright ignoring it because it wasn't quick enough for their way of operating).
And then when you raise it with management, you get told to "call a meeting" to discuss the issue with the team in such a way that precludes the need for management to get directly involved and tell that other person to sit down and listen - because hey "they're a code ninja that gets shit done" and look at all these things they've done.
Oh and we generally have to spend weeks afterwards fixing all the corner cases they never bothered to think about or investigate. And more meetings get called to discuss it instead of them just listening to you telling them what the solutions are. Because hey, the whole team has to have a say right? We wouldn't want them to think their opinion doesn't matter. 50/50 chance of that, or we end up rewriting it after we come to the realization that the solution sucks, but that code-ninja has already moved along to the next team where "they urgently need help of someone that can just get things done".
Maybe I'm stuck in first gear :)
I've made this mistake plenty of times and been in situations where it was easy to prevent early in the cycle, so I'm sure if this was an easy environment it would be, well, easy.
I did a lot of work these past months and now my team is able to use that code, fix bugs and get things done faster and safer. That's the motivation you want to feel.
My mood worsened because I felt like I was failing all the time. Being in a shitty mood and feeling deeply ashamed made the quality of my work (meaning: the way I treated my team and stakeholders) worse. It was this terrible loop of failure and frustration and shame. My bosses were inept but empathetic to my position for a while, until they also succumbed to the burnout/failure process that shitty companies usually cascade downward. My team hated me, because I was tasked with firing some of them and fundamentally changing the way that they worked. My manager, who I replaced as my team's manager, was very open that he didn't have it in him to fire anyone, and that my job was awful mostly because of the amount of things he didn't feel comfortable addressing while he was in my role (but needed addressed). This meant some employees had spent literal years exhibiting bad behavior, and I (a new hire) was being tasked with addressing it. It was awful. To make matters worse, as soon as my manager stopped managing the team, he seemed to totally forget what it was like working with that team, which meant that my requirements and performance were measured off of totally unobtainable feats of success with the team we had. I was expected to get a team that couldn't ship a feature in 10 weeks, to ship features in 2.
Ultimately it culminated with a meeting between me and my grand-manager, where I told her there was an opening as an IC on a neighboring team/product and I intended to take it, and she responded by saying "Maybe, I'm not sure we'll be able to accommodate that request." Which I responded for the first and only time in my career with the ultimatum of "In 30 days I will not be on this team, one way or the other." I felt sick going into that meeting because it felt like I was admitting that I was a total failure, but also that sickness was 1/1000th of the sickness I felt waking up every day getting crushed by my actual job.
Now, some time out, I am on good terms with everyone other than that grand-manager, who I haven't spoken with since. I even work at a new company founded by former coworkers.
When I look back at times I was burnt out, I wish I had cared even less than I did. Every part of the result would have been better. I would have felt better, and by avoiding the failure loop even my work would have been better.
As a result, the "work more efficiently" comments from management/etc are just incredibly unhelpful.
Most of the discussion so far seems to center on "work more efficiently", not "find a way to be supported". The latter is usually the only thing that will help, in my experience.
In comparison, I've had periods of greater workload but where I've had full control, and enjoyed the challenge.
The time comes where you have to go back. How do you do it? How do you shed this feeling of being broken goods in the eyes of yourself and (most likely) others? How do you heal the infected wounds of burnout? I can’t figure it out.
- Data Engineering: various DB technologies' pros and cons (AWS Athena, Snowflake, MS Sql Server, Elasticsearch, Redis), Airflow, AWS S3
- ML Engineering: AWS autoscaling clusters, EC2, Spark cluster set-up & management, IO/CPU bottle neck identification, optimizing workloads (like how large chunks, how many Spark worker processes, how many threads on Python's libraries, ...)
- Umm Web Engineering?: HTTP API design, load balancing, Docker & Kubernetes, partial results caching for real-time responses
I have understood that on larger organizations each of these could have a dedicated team behind it. Anyway I've been lucky to find this company & role and gotten an opportunitu to learn and apply so many technologies, but I must admit it is getting a bit tricky to keep (shall I say pickle) all that in my brain :D
This is one of the weaknesses of government. A fundamental law that governments should have is that your employer cannot harm your health. Even in mental cases like burnout, the employer is almost certainly trading the employee's health for money. An employee's health is not something an employer should be allowed to trade.
In more physical injury, someone lifting 200lbs hurting their back or some ancient machine that lacks any safety features leading to injury. The employer is trading their employee's health in place of profits in not having safety.
Even with workplace safety measures, who ultimately pays is the government and therefore tax payers for these injuries. These bad employers get to keep their $.
The reality is that there are many jobs that require a sacrifice in terms of health and safety. Until we're living in a post-scarcity economy, they always will. We can do things like make those jobs as safe as practically possible. Or make sure workers are aware of the risks before they sign up.
But, it's unrealistic utopian thinking to believe that no one will ever be asked to sacrifice their health or safety for their job.
You're completely right.
>The reality is that there are many jobs that require a sacrifice in terms of health and safety. Until we're living in a post-scarcity economy, they always will. We can do things like make those jobs as safe as practically possible. Or make sure workers are aware of the risks before they sign up.
I disagree. The point I am making is that we must make that illegal. We should require the employers to solve that problem. All of these have known hazards that which can be solved. We simply decide that we let employers profit off it. That's wrong.
>But, it's unrealistic utopian thinking to believe that no one will ever be asked to sacrifice their health or safety for their job.
There are some exceptions that obviously do need to exist. Military or law enforcement for example will have harms in their life that are by definition.
I look at your list of examples of higher mortality employers and I agree they exist, I even understand what makes them dangerous. Truck drivers for example is simply the Diesel Exhaust. Electric semi trucks is a thing now, but HEPA filters have existed for how long?
There's a fix for every single one of those industries.
There is definitely not a fix for every industry - and some people are happy with taking that risk for more money than a lower risk job/profession. "Just make dangerous job conditions illegal" is a naïve view of the world. Even if you could pass such laws, you'd get a massive skills drain and/or black market work to get those jobs done.
I think there's a better way to deal with this. Rather than legislate that certain abuses of health aren't okay, let's instead make it so people aren't stuck working jobs if they don't think it's worth it. Right now, the main reason workplaces can abuse employees so much is that employees can't quit, or else they'd starve on the street.
If we had a livable universal basic income, that would allow anyone to, at any time, decide if their job's extra income + the meaning it gave them was worth the stress and other issues.
We already have good evidence that this wouldn't result in no one working since, well, quite a few of the people born wealthy enough to never need to work do work anyway.
Why not both?
I know where you're going and I'm a fence sitter.
>If we had a livable universal basic income, that would allow anyone to, at any time, decide if their job's extra income + the meaning it gave them was worth the stress and other issues.
Here in Canada we have tried basic income systems and even have a current system for some of our people. It's a disaster. It single handedly increases poverty and crime like no other policy.
Have you ever heard of a negative income tax rate? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtpgkX588nM
>We already have good evidence that this wouldn't result in no one working since, well, quite a few of the people born wealthy enough to never need to work do work anyway.
Only when you exclude systems that arent by name which is common for socialist/communist/collectivist/postmodernist or whatever the new brand is that they go by today as the old name becomes tarnished.
There's tremendous evidence that welfare system in general have never been successful. When we have a problem that which the welfare system is proposed as the fix. The problem gets worse as the welfare system is implemented. Then the fix is that the welfare system needs more money and as they get more money the problem becomes worse.
In fact many of these systems are not designed to help the poor even though by name they are supposed to be.
A small note: Germany does have a law like this. (I cannot find anything about it in English though.)
The more I know about Germany's government the more I like about it.
I'd really expect every democratic country to have some form of law requiring employers take care of their employees -- they should expect to do something in return for leeching off ones production of value.
In addition, you have to show a causal relationsship, which again is a lot more difficult for mental health as there are usually several factors at play even though work might be the pre-dominant one.
At least in the US, I believe that employers are required to pay for workers' compensation insurance to cover injuries on the job.
Some are still hopeful that they'll own a home & raise a large family like their parents and grandparents did, but the rest of us aren't so sure.
I honestly wonder how I did not listen to all the advice of other people about not getting married. Even at this same job I was much happier years ago. Part of that was because I hadn't been disillusioned yet, but I think part of it was also that I had the option of just quitting and taking a lower paying job or moving. Now I'm not allowed to try either of those options.
Please, for god's sake, make sure you are using a condom and don't take her word for it that she's on birth control.
(I'm a woman and a former full-time homemaker, fwiw.)
If you approach marriage antagonistically, you're going to have a bad marriage.
Is it really believed that housework is as hard and stressful as a tech job? I feel like we're not really supposed to voice that aloud, but how else is that to be challenged?
Certainly its a sign that much better communication is needed in the relationship (and probably, honestly, should have happened before the relationship proceeded to either children or marriage, but aside from warning to people not yet in the situation , that's kind of moot.)
That communication probably needs to be a lot more nuanced than "tell wives [...] to get jobs themselves".
> Is it really believed that housework is as hard and stressful as a tech job?
Having done both, I believe it. Of course, there's probably people for whom housework is less or a tech job more "hard and stressful" than is the case for me.
> I feel like we're not really supposed to voice that aloud, but how else is that to be challenged?
Why should it be challenged? Winning some abstract argument about the generalized relative strenuousness of different activities doesn't seem particularly useful.
What is needed in a relationship is mutual communication and working arrangement that functions well for the two parties involved. Abstract generalities are mostly a distraction.
I don't presume to know what the right move is for you, but it sounds like you need to do something. Your situation is not normal. Have you considered couple's therapy? Divorce might also be on the table.
I don't think therapy would help. I would not be happy paying money for someone to just facilitate a conversation. I'll just deal with it until I can't, then I'll quit my job and she'll have to start helping out or listen to me about moving.
Do what you want, but none of that makes sense.
To me it sounds like me paying money for someone to facilitate a conversation. We aren't hostile, so I don't think that's necessary.
Check if your insurance covers it, some plans do.
Among other things, figure out why your wife isn’t hearing you
I say take a stand one way or another.
For example, she says that I should pursue my expensive hobbies too, like track nights with the 1LE Camaro (which I felt I had to sell when getting married). Where would that money come from?! Should I just not pay the mortgage, or stop saving for retirement? She has also said if I don't like my job that I should quit. I've explained that it would be a significant pay cut since I have experience in non-marketable tech (FileNet and Neoxam). Again, where will that difference come from?
I've suggested she pay portion of the bills, but she won't. If she makes 30% of our income, then why can't she pay 20% of our shared bills (mortgage and utilities). I even explained it that way, but she won't do it. Not even a counter offer.
I know you have a kid, but they'll grow up to resent you if you stay the course because they don't understand the weight you carry on your shoulders and your wife will have more energy for them.
Divorce will actually be better for your kid. You'll still be able to see them and shape them. Over time, they may favor spending time with you.
Stick it out might mean there’s never an end in sight.
Please put your foot down and draw some boundaries (don't ask or beg). Be stern, and give her no choice but to spend her income on the family instead of selfish individual hobbies.
I believe in: everyone pays the same percentage of their salary towards shared expenses. But this kind of stuff should've been hashed out before you got married.
On a serious note, did you day to day work changed in the last couple of years?
If not, you could be stuck, and you should talk to manager about getting a different set of responsibilities. Part of what's fun in IT jobs is learning new stuff.