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Ask HN: Techniques for surviving a job you loathe?
128 points by trevaa on Jan 11, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments
I would love to get some advise from people who have been in less than ideal situations and how they got through it. I would love to know techniques for dealing stress, mundane work environments, and not being challenged.

I was involved in a startup for a year that ended early last year because the person funding it got cold feet - it was his idea. As a result, I basically took the first job I could find, which is in the finance industry. My roles to date have largely been around management of people and architecture.

My home town is literally at the bottom end of Australia. Beautiful place but there are very few development jobs and no paying startups here.

I have a child with another on the way. My partners salary is insufficient for us to live on.

My job is a dev at a medium size company (around 300). The development in this company is appalling, non scoring on the Joel test and the work is boring. There is no challenge, people play games on their phone and sleep all day. The managers are micromanagers and the developers sit at the bottom of the org chart (this is a software company).

I'm building a cool product out of work, but I'm at it alone and I fear that someone will beat me to market (trying for bare minimum viable product). I also fear burn out (has happened before), the company attempting to invoke its IP clause of contract when they find out (legal advice has been that they have no ground).

I'm working 8h a day in my day job and 5-6h a night on the startup. I take weekends off to spend time with the family.

I have a deep understanding and portfolio of experience across mainframe development, enterprise Java, .NET, mobile apps & web development. I need something that challenges me - moving is off the cards due to baby #2 & I doubt selling remote work (if I can find a reliable income stream) to my partner.

For those who have been in similar situations: how did you manage and balance everything?

Read? Sounds like a sad place but if you're really in a place where you can 'play games on your phone and sleep' then create enough automation to meet what ever goals your manager sets for you, and then start learning more stuff. You might also find organizational dynamics and management books fun to see how they apply in your current situation.

Some of the other folks there might be in the same boat you are, they are also your potential hires if you started your own company in the same area, so get to know them, figure out their strengths and weaknesses, what they are motivated by and what doesn't motivate them.

Talk to the managers and see what they are trying to get done (you mention they micro manage a lot) perhaps you can puzzle out what the group of them have been tasked to accomplish. If you like solving puzzles that can be entertaining for a while.

Look around for things that don't work well (are the printers always out of paper? Phones constantly ringing with no one answering?) see if you can engineer a way to solve one of those problems.

The bottom line is take ownership of challenging yourself to do something productive, don't wait for someone to either tell you what to do or "give you permission" to do that.

I'm no lawyer (nor do I have any knowledge of how the law is different in Australia), but this might cause trouble when the employer asks whether trevaa used any of the company's resources to work on his side project.

If he's using their time / lights / heat / AC / lunch / asking coworkers / etc, to read about topics that are directly applicable to his side project, that muddies things considerably even if he's otherwise kept separation strict.

Consider taking it one step further, and bringing in your own laptop (even if you're not connected to their wifi) to work on the side project in your underutilized time. That's probably too far, but is it really any farther than reading books ?

One thing that you might find more productive than playing games on your phone that seems unequivocally "safe" in this context is meditation. An hour or two of that might help make better use of your ~5h at home in the evening.

In any technical job you learn things that are useful in future jobs. I don't see how a lawyer could possibly object to "I was studying to improve my skills and enhance my value to the company". I certainly don't see how meditation would be better in this regard - that's just as much "using company time to get better at my side project", and there's less of a case that it helps you at your employer.

That's advice definitely from someone who doesn't meditate regularly or has felt the benefits of doing so :).

It's not about what I think the benefits are, it's about what the company and/or its lawyers think the benefits are.

Again, a response from someone who doesn't understand meditation. It does increase learning and self improvement to a greater level than virtually any other task. Why? Because it develops metacognition. You can find many resources and videos documenting the benefits of meditation, the brain structures it changes, improvements to executive functions, self control, motivation, etc.

Then how come those monks that invented it didn't contribute to science, didn't take over the world, etc?

Uhhh what? Lol? Monks did not invent Meditation :). Humans have used meditation for thousands of years. Some of the best world leaders use meditation...

Monks additionally do contribute to science. A lot infact. When i've visited monistaries neuroscience is often a key theme and they'll explain how different interactions literally affect you're brain chemicals.

You know that individuals who are going through horrific experiences can stumble on meditation themselves? They realise they can use it to draw strength to help them deal with situations by using it. They arnt taught, they don't come across the information on the internet. Only when adults do they realize that there's a name for what they have been doing.

People think that meditation is just "for relaxation". It's not. That is one SMALL benefit if you only use it once or a few times a month briefly. The other many other small benefits i've found from meditating once a week. And on the scale of benefits, I would say increased self-discipline and control of my own mind, motivation, concentration, happiness is in the "small benefits" category. And I have ADHD so these small benefits improve life immensely for me.

People who have trained for years can use it to generate an experience similar to an LSD trip. You can look at the positive effects of LSD in scientific experiments yourself.

Hope that somewhat answers your questions :).

Oh, question, why would a Monk want to take over the world? They have no need for power or power over people. Only personal power, taking on personal challenges and bettering themselves as people because by doing that you help better people around you.

If i'm happy, i'll help others around me be happy. If i'm depressed, others will pick that up and also feel more depressed.

They are interested in helping people to help people learn by their own experiences because we are all individuals. It is NEVER about controlling or imposing their way of life onto others.

This is just my personal experience around Monks and I could be incorrect. I'm sure someone will be able to give an entirely different interpretation from their experiences.

It is a valid point that you should not develop your side projects on your current company's time/resources without their permission. That said, general self improvement (learning new skills, areas of expertise) is always protected, and developing better relationships with your peers is also always protected. Both of those things make you a more valuable employee (both to your current employer and to future employers). And applying those skills to 'fix' problems around the office is also always protected as you're clearly working in the interest of your employer.

It's good to hear that my initial impressions about this may not be correct, thanks!

Reading a self-help book might be directly applicable to his side project, too, giving him skills to discipline himself for instance. (I could use a little of that in my side project!)

I'm not a lawyer either, but my example is different from yours is VERY different from bringing in a laptop and working on the project in your spare time.

I'd personally risk reading about, say, development (since I'm employed as a developer) and not really worry about it. If I'm working on billing software but reading about the entertainment industry (and building an entertainment-industry application), then I think we've got concerns.

I guess I'm trying to say that I don't think becoming a better developer in your spare time is wrong in any regard. It benefits you, your employer, and your side project.

That said, I don't think the GP really mentioned a subject. Maybe he's reading fiction?

This is good advice. You can read and learn while Still performing the tasks that are required of you. You can do this without feeling guilty. Go to work in the morning excited to learn while earning a living.

I've had to do this on multiple occasions. It was either that or wake up every day hating the prospect of going to work and suffering the endless boredom.

It may sound trivial, but the first thing I'd do is ensure your diet is in check and that you're getting enough exercise. Being unhappy in other aspects of your life can really make a crappy job seem even crappier.

A 13-14 hour work day sounds pretty daunting. Could the pressure you're putting on yourself with the startup be making your day job even more unbearable? Your concerns about being beaten to market are understandable, but remember that there's almost definitely as much (if not more) work to be done when you actually get your product to market. It likely won't be a picnic, so making sure you balance your time between work/pleasure now is important.

And one last thing - if people can get away with sleeping or playing games on their phones all day, it sounds like a pretty 'lax' working environment. It sounds like it has the potential to be whatever you make it.

Sorry if I've stated the obvious & good luck!

I completely agree with you. When I burnt out about five years ago I was overweight and are crap. I'm on top of that - walk an hour each day (which I find almost meditative) and also don't eat fast food.

You're very right - i see the day job as holding me back from doing great things and a complete waste of time.

Sorry for terse list form, but I'm knackered after a long day and still have plenty to do. But I sympathize with your plight so here goes.

#1 Diet and exercise. Healthy body, healthy mind.

#2 Take the paychecks. If you can phone it in at work, and your employer is undeserving, then make money for no mental effort.

#3 Consider full time remote work. This is more and more viable. You can work for an awesome company with driven and smart people right from your home, or local library, or beach in Tahiti.

#4 Exit strategy. Focus on maximizing money and ease to move into something else. Get planning, and be selfish and strategic.

Plus one on remote work. I'm the only one in my company in my town and it makes me very productive.

This is the right answer. Remote work gets a lukewarm reception on HN but it's incredibly useful. Our entire development team is remote and wouldn't have it any other way.

>Remote work gets a lukewarm reception on HN

I see people praising remote work on HN all the time. I also see people mention downsides, but I wouldn't have described the reception as lukewarm.

I certainly understand the previous statement regarding lukewarm reception.

It's quite the crazy paradox because in my mind's eye, if any group has the perfect combination of ability, globalized community, and gen-y go-getter attitude, it's Hacker News. Yet to my constant surprise people here tend to lean towards meatspace for some intangible but enthusiastically cited reason about productivity, and worse still, plenty of those people even praise cube farms.

It's most odd to me. Please be gentle with the down votes; I'm just expressing an observation.

I've been part of both 'meatspace' and virtual teams. I think that remote work has huge advantages, but some disadvantages. The main disadvantage I see is that there's a barrier to communication. Of course, in the same room you have barriers to communication, but we're all attuned to how to overcome them.

You can work to overcome the remote communication barriers with skype, conference calls, on sites, slack/im, etc, but those are all learned behaviors that take some time to spin up on.

I think on HN there might also just be a SV/SF bias.

Yes this has been my observation as well.

Out of interest, what are your sources to find remote work?

nomadjobs.io, weworkremotely.com, plenty of others.

Incidentally, general networking. I got my current contract via twitter. :-)

Start interviewing elsewhere - anywhere you can find. Even if you don't plan to leave, having another option boosts morale and gives you more confidence to discuss concerns with your current company. It also gives you leverage in negotiating with other places you interview at - even if your local options are limited, maybe you can reach a remote-work arrangement with a company elsewhere in Australia. (Also: don't be discouraged if your first few interviews don't work out. Interviewing is a skill, and like any other skill it improves with practice.)

Take time for yourself and your personal development. While working on your startup at work is extremely inadvisable (see your legal concerns above)...if you feel like the pace at work is slow, do your work as quickly as possible and use the remaining time to move forward in some way. Learn a new language. Solve programming contest problems. Start a Toastmasters chapter at work. These sorts of things increase your sense of personal control over your situation; I cannot overemphasize how important that is.

Isolation is another dangerous trap. Find local developer meetups or board game nights or friendly pickup sports events. Talk with others about your situation. (For the same reason, asking here on HN is an excellent step to take. I'd wager most of us have encountered some variant of your problem. Also, asking people who aren't close friends can be surprisingly liberating, as you don't have as much emotional investment in their response.)

Hope this helps :)

I second the advice about starting a Toastmasters chapter - not only is TM an amazing organization, but it sounds like a perfect tonic for this organization...

For me, the joys of children trumped job fulfillment - my work became a way to make a reasonable income as my day revolved around my family.

Perhaps this may work for you as you make prudent steps to find a better work environment.

What I used to do is go to office 2 hours earlier and work on my stuff, anything I liked and develop something. Rest of the day somehow passes with this good inner feeling that I worked on something meaningful that interests me.

Before I used to work on my personal projects after the office hours and I used to not like it sometimes because I am mentally tired due to useless day job. But working on my stuff early first thing in the morning keeps me going

I live in Dubai and there is no ground-breaking work done here - not even close - and I totally rely on HN to learn whatever I can and stay informed at least. Working on open source projects is the only way I see to get connected to the 'real' world of development and startups.

If you are willing to work remotely you should try the below sites - there are some good jobs https://angel.co/jobs



With regards to balancing everything, I think once you get the job you love everything else falls into right place because majority of your day and week is spent on job which is 8 hours a day and if those 8 hours a day is fruitful the other minor issues don't matter..

I've been there. There are actually two different issues in your situation: the boring job you can't leave, and the exciting job you can't start. You have to pick one, and go pedal-to-the-metal.

If you think your moonlighting has merit but you feel overwhelmed, look for remote partners who can work with you, and/or go hunting for finance. Finance is critical, because it will allow you to part ways with DumbCo without putting you and your family into hardship. If you can't face the idea of asking around for money, then you'll likely never be suited for business anyway, so just give up and dedicate yourself to the family or to bettering the company you work for, or to find a better (remote) job -- that's more or less what I did, back in the day; as depressing as it sounds, it worked out OK.

Btw, if at any point in time your employer (pedestrian web-design agency, by any chance?) takes you to task for you being "distracted", taking too many personal calls etc, turn it around as their fault: they clearly cannot motivate you, and anyway everyone else is playing on their phones.

The alternative to all this is just to put your head down and revolutionise the company you work for. Do things the way you think they should be done, the way that will result in higher productivity. Believe it or not, a lot of micromanagers simply don't have the bottle to repeat a challenge more than once, and after a while they'll probably leave you alone or recognise your approach actually has merits.

Both scenarios are really a way to say that you'll have to man up. There is no easy way out; but nothing risked, nothing gained...

My opposition to seeking money is that I don't believe there is much of the way of angel investors in Australia, but my main opposition is taking an investment and then having a new boss to answer to. I don't want to chance getting into the same situation by answering to someone who really doesn't know what they're talking about.

With regards to inciting change.. I have tried for twelve months now, they can't be helped. It's not web design, its financial software - they use notepad for tracking bugs and excel for project management.

Lots of angel investors in Sydney mate, the startup scene here has really grown in the last 2-3 years especially, since we started our startup 3 years ago here. Lot of startup programs you can get involved with, like Startmate, pitch at SydStart, or take a look at BlueChilli. If you're serious you will have to come to Sydney for a little while though.

There are - I'm in New Zealand which is a similar but much, much smaller market. You'll need to travel - just as you would in rural New Zealand, you'll have to go where the investors are and meet them.

Wellington and Auckland are the big cities here - I assume Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane for you? Are there meetups in Adelaide? Go and ask questions!

Mandatum is right, there must be some kind of financing in Australia, it's a huge and prosperous country.

Edit: I found a lot with just a basic web search. I understand they might not want to fund you if you stay part-time though.

Edit again: maybe you can get some kind of government agency to help you out, there are Early Stage Funds, Grants, etc... plenty of help around :)


See also


If you're not in debt, maybe you can save a very minimum nest egg (1 month of expenses, whatever you need to find a job in case it fails), and go for it, since it looks that the worst case scenario is going back to a job that can't be much worse than where you are now.

I certainly agree with toyg's advice, if you believe in your project, then go for it. Also, your deadline might be artificial (I don't know what you're building), it's good to get an MVP out there fast, but not being first to market might not be a killer.

Have you even looked for investment? It's easy to believe there is no angel money around, because it doesn't fall into your lap.

An interesting exercise is to write down a list of the ten richest people you know, who would know you if you phoned them. (Ie, you could ring them up and they would know who you are). Often these are parents of friends or perhaps rich relatives, or maybe old work colleagues.

Then write down how much money you think they might be able to invest, and then sketch out a pitch for your idea.

At that point you could bottle it and never ask, or you could go further and actually make the pitch to some of them. You could be surprised at the result, but it would certainly help if you actually did come across a 'real' angel investor.

Once due to life circumstances I was stuck for a few years in a job I hated for much of the same reasons (limited growth, very bored, yet simultaneously very stressed due to ridiculous deadlines). One thing that helped me get by was to have my employer pay for me to learn new things. I really wanted to learn a particular programming language, so gradually over time I built up a compelling case that learning this language would help the business. And it did help the business, especially after my employer paid for me to become an expert. After my life circumstances changed and I was able to move on I had a great new skill on my resume that propelled me to much better opportunities.

So my point is you should try to turn your current predicament into a launchpad for bigger and better things.

A lot of enterprises that are terrible t work at won't even pay for that kind of self development because they're so dysfunctional they can't put the money towards a solution after decades of being in a form of survival mode. I don't know what situation OP is in specifically wrt the organizational dysfunctions but I can sympathize very much with feeling entrapped and can only imagine the pressure with children involved.

The first thing I'd recommend is solid at-work time management - your goal should be to do the bare minimum to do well and make steady progress there in terms of you literally doing nothing but somehow being essential - a lot of managers do this after all, why not make it factual instead of how you perceive your job? But your heart and focus should really be on getting out of there and possibly using your side projects as evidence, not your day job (you're likely working on code that is far below your capabilities partly because you're too stressed to take on effectively now btw).

Most people besides your peers will have trouble understanding how tough it can be to be a breadwinner stuck at a job that's a deadend when you have so much passion to do better, so staying connected with people that can inspire you is critical. I'd say it's probably kept me from going completely insane and doing things I'd really regret just out of sheer frustration.

Exercise helps with few doubts but it won't help much unless you're managing your time effectively to keep the stress and workload at bay so you don't die of adrenal gland failure or something asinine.

Keep your head up and try to record your progress for yourself and try to limit work to side projects that do go somewhere and really understand what a minimum viable product means and take it from an entrepreneurial approach than engineering one.

My situation is very similar to yours, am employed in a big enterprise software company and the work is very demoralizing. I do 2 things in my spare time, work on a product of my own, and do my own consulting business (development and high scalability architecture design), these 2 keep me sane and it actually makes me look forward to going home so I can do my own thing.

In the office, I try to help out the junior folks as much as I can, might as well make the best of a bad situation and maybe earn a bit of reputation as the go to person for software architecture. Also don't let go of your health, even if you don't like your job, no sense dragging down other aspects of your life with it. I tend to exercise every other day (alternating between cardio and free weights), and don't forget to eat healthy, it makes a huge difference in terms of your overall mood and energy level.

I think it's even worst in my place since my boss doesn't listen to other people's opinions and is more of a dictator. The result is something similar to the Fizz Buzz Enterprise Edition.

You might think about keeping an eye out for jobs in higher-ed if there are any colleges or universities nearby. At least in the US, higher-ed jobs typically have generous vacation benefits and a better than average work culture. Unfortunately, they pay less than market, but for a lot of people, it's a fair trade. A couple extra weeks of vacation a year isn't the be-all, end-all, but it does go a long way toward moving the needle on a side project. Long-term, maybe figure out how to move near an economic hub--which I realize is easier said than done.

Spend less.

I know Australia is an expensive country (and moving is out of the picture), But if you're able to cut down your spending by 50%, you'll be able to save enough money to quit your job soon. Apart from that, spend some time doing steady consulting to start building an alternate income stream. Once your consulting income can support your entire family, quiting is a no-brainer :)

I think the obvious solution is to look for another job. I know some startups that hire for remote work in San Fran. Reddit does it among many others. There is a huge engineering talent vacuum so it's a good likelihood for you to find employment working remote. It may be easier to pitch a really early stage startup given you are not actively developing. You may not get scores of salary though but more than likely you can make a little over six figures.

I think by posting this question here you know what you want to do. Now, I hope you can just go and do it - good luck!

Hey! If you're from where I think you are you should definitely make an appearance and a local meetup a friend (@joshgillies) and I run monthly called Web Developer 42°. We have a couple of locals talking about anything from database security to git flow to front end design tooling. Beer, soft drink and pizza provided - and it's free!

Knowing local people who love what you love can make a big difference. Whilst dev jobs are few and far between down here, they do crop up - usually in smaller consulting firms. All of the consulting firms down here generally have a presence at #wd42. And everyone that meets really cares about the sorts of things on the Joel test - so any potential employers you may meet here are on the same page.

We'll be putting out the speaker list next week but in the meantime hit up our website (http://web.dev42.co/) and maybe follow us on twitter. If you want an email reminder email me and I'll add you to the announcement list.

If you are from here, shoot me an email (in profile) and we can catch up for a #pubhack, #coffeehack or similar. I'm not a hirer - but I love to code and enjoy coding with others.

Edit: I thought you meant Hobart (as it is literally at the bottom end of Australia) but was mistaken. Either way if anyone is down here on the last Wednesday of any month come to #wd42 for a beer. We're friendly only some of us have 2 heads!

Well, Hoabrt is the bottom of Australia...the OP should fix up the original post!

I just wanted to emphasise that while the employment situation isn't good, I'm more keen on actually starting a business thank moving to another job, unless something really challenging and exciting comes along. With that said though I would never quit my day job and lose that security until my product had paid me 1.5x annual salary. I'm in regional Victoria, but a commute to Melbourne isn't viable for me and all our family is out this way.

I'm struggling to imagine any 300-head software company based in regional Victoria. Are you in a satellite office of a larger org?

I can relate, it is hard to balance the loathing/apathy, ambition, and family. Family comes first, so maybe the hours spent on the side project needs to be re-evaluated. If you have a relaxed environment, maybe you can layer your work and side project. Maybe you might find a coworker who also can help out. I would recommend talking to your manager to see what options are available (less hours, more pay, more challenging work). I like to believe good managers exist who would be able to help (somewhere, maybe just not at your place).

I try to make challenges at work by looking at things another way (e.g. switch a programming language or ask for another opinion). That will only increase stress though, so be careful because you might be in a good place if the work is easy and expectations are low.

What is your goal for the side project? Money, experience, or curiosity? Can you find another way to either get more money or more experience that won't involve you spending an extra 5 hours?

I can let you know that in my case I spent a small time looking around and evaulating options ultimately finding a slightly better job. Be optimistic.

The 2000 character limit removed the aim part... I just want to build a business for the sake of it. I want a good wage. I don't want to be a multimillionaire (but would be nice) - I just want security and the ability to work for myself.

With regards to making work more challenging in the day job, that's the problem. They aren't open to anything. It's all set in stone. Hell, I'm not even allowed to refactor or write unit tests. Unit tests here refer to manual testing checklists.

So curiosity is the primary motivation. You don't have to be first to market. That makes it easier, you can focus on making it better. Or just launch it now, you will get a different experience (e.g. Kickstarter or something). Breaking even and making money takes a long while, so you have to be able to fix the day job first.

Have you tried a lunch and learn to build up a case? Teaching people something new and answering questions is a different type of challenge and allows you to build some support to fix things that seem to be set in stone. Is there any way to do your day to day a different way? What about trying a new tool to record testing results?

Here are 3 things you should do:

1. Read the 4-hour work week. Its a book that will help you escape the rat race.

2. Start meditating. Every morning, just sit still for 10 min and imagine the things that make you happy. It seems foolish, but it works.

3. Make friends at work. That is the only way I'm currently able to survive my workplace. Im sure you're not alone, and many people in your organization feel the same way. Cheers!

Focus on the things that make you happy — and get people interested in making you happy!

Maybe it’s being able to help a good person save $100 they don’t need to spend. Maybe it’s spending time with your co-workers and reminiscing old times. Maybe it’s being able to play with your kids. Maybe it’s revisiting a hobby you put down years ago, or going on a vacation with your significant other.

Once you’ve found those things, tell it to people! Tell it friends! Tell it to your family! Let them see what makes you happy, and when you aren’t happy, let them guide you to why you do what you do. Maybe they’ll suggest new things you’d be interested in.

Yes, there are sweeping changes you make in life. However, you will always find small things that just suck. Focus on what makes you happy and find people who are interested in your well-being. If you still feel stuck, start by doing something (anything) differently.

hacker news group hug man

You raise a bunch of interconnected stuff.

Here's a list of what might help:

1) keep a good work life balance. Make sure you're doin things you enjoy outside work. This helps you stay resiliant in work.

2) save money. Buildig up savings allows you to just walk out of work if you ever need to. It also allows you to spend money on other stuff - creating your product for example.

3) realise that actually you can just walk out of that job. Things would not be nice, but you would cope. It would not end the world.

4) gently start addressing the worst parts of work. Realise that you mght not be able to change anything, but try anyway. Make constructive suggestions at 360 feedback performance reviews. Make sure that what little control you do have is used effectively.

Protect your mental health! It's important. Good luck with the children too!!

I had some jobs that weren't that interesting on their own, but I found it was much more interesting if I made challenges for myself. Sometimes I joked that I was trying to automate myself out of a job, but then I tried to do that. Sometimes I'd just do silly things like try to game the system by solving as many rally/whatever agile points as possible in a day, just to make a point about how silly some of that stuff was. Sometimes I'd write scripts and stuff in a language I didn't know well to learn more. I guess it depends on your environment and rules, they may be more strict, but usually there's a way to make boring work more interesting by tying it to something else that helps you grow, or challenges you in some way.

I have a slightly different point of view from most of the comments here so far.

1. Your #1 priority really has to be your family. I'm not assuming your family isn't important to you -- clearly it is -- but, it has to be more important than building a product or starting your own company. You're spending at minimum 65 hrs/week doing "not family", and that's a bit too much. You have 1.5 young kids, and what you do now, as a parent, will shape their future for the next several decades. It will change how they relate to other people, how they raise their own kids, and so on. If you want to have an impact on the world, focus on raising your kids.

2. So your job is your job. I mean, separate your self-worth from your employer. Show up, do what they ask, collect a paycheck, go home. One of the best things I ever did was step out of the computer industry for a few years and pick up a bunch of different jobs, including retail. I will still happily put in a lot of extra effort for any employer that wants it and is willing to reward me for it, but I can also show up every day, do the job, and go home, and have lots of other things to care about other than what's going on at work.

3. That said, if you can't learn how to do that, just show up and do the work and go home and forget about it, then you have to keep looking for a new job. That really should be your spare time gig, IMO, before other projects. It becomes your responsibility as a parent to try to find a job that values you and wants to pay you more so that you can provide more financial stability for your family -- and the best way to do that is with a better job, not a startup. HN is about the worst place to get this kind of life advice, because it's heavily skewed towards the attraction of risk-taking and the success stories when those risks pay off, but the reality is that the odds are not in your favor. There are a lot of bright and talented and ambitious people here on HN -- thousands, at least -- and of those, maybe only a handful have found something resembling wealth and stability, and of those, I'd bet most of them went through some pretty bad times. Do you really want to try to juggle all of that and a family at the same time?

I'm not saying you shouldn't work on your project at all, but that your priorities should probably be family, better job, and then project, in that order.

And, the consistent advice on HN is not to worry too much about being beaten to market. If someone else gets there first, it gives you an opportunity to see if there is a market at all for your product without having to suffer through the market research yourself (which these days typically consists of, "gosh, I really hope someone buys my product/service"), and you get to see what kind of mistakes they make, and learn from them. If it's a good market, there will be room for at least two of you.


There's a thing I do whenever I'm faced with really difficult life decisions. I sit back, let things get really quiet, close my eyes, and I try to see my futures stretching out in front of me like roads going in different directions. Each road represents a decision, and stretching out past my decisions aren't my fantasies but the most realistic outcomes I can guesstimate for each.

So, I would close my eyes, and I would see a road going off to the left, and that road goes like this: work full time for job I dislike, work hard on startup/side project, try to raise family on the weekends ... I am tired, and I am stressed out, because it's impossible to do all of that without getting tired and stressed out. Stress puts a strain on my relationship with my family. Project is completed and launched, and now I try to juggle a full time job, running a business, and raising a family. My health suffers. My oldest kid is 5 years old, and the business is still going. It hasn't failed, but it hasn't been a wild success either. I still pick up consulting jobs here and there to supplement my income. My kid is 10, and the business is stable now, but our relationship is a bit distant. I am responsible for two kids and a wife and a business and I lay awake at night occasionally thinking about that. There is a small disaster or two -- car accident, economic downturn, a health issue -- because few people get to go 10 years without a serious challenge in life. I am able to handle it but it's difficult. My eldest is 15 now, a rebellious teenager, and s/he knows exactly what to say to punch me in the heart: what do you care, you're always busy working anyway. The business is successful, we spend some of the hard-earned money on trips and a few luxuries.

Off to the right is a road that goes like this: work full time for job I dislike, swallow my pride and hopes and dreams and put down my project for a while -- just a while. I practice tolerating the job while actively looking for a new job and trying to squeeze the occasional raise out of the current one. A year later, I have a new job. I don't like it much better, but it pays more. I don't stop looking for new opportunities. I come home and have dinner with the family and spend time with the wife and kids. I'm not happy or fulfilled at work, but I can come home and leave the stress at work. I still poke at my project now and again, I take shortcuts, but I make progress on it as a hobby. Another year later, another new job, another raise. I take a small risk and hire a cheap freelancer to finish out a few things on my project. Somebody else beat me to market and they're doing well but their customer support forums are full of complaints. I launch my project, still incomplete, but I don't have to be stressed out about that -- my income doesn't depend on the success or failure of this project. 5 years later, and I own my own business, but over the years I've developed a strong habit of spending time with my family. I have a little bit of savings in the bank and my health isn't too bad. The business isn't wildly successful, and we've had to give up a few luxuries, but it pays the rent and does OK.

That's how I'd figure it anyway. Maybe there are other options too. Really try to envision each scenario. Try to feel like you're living in them. Try to make them realistic. Don't fall into the trap of assuming that a good idea and a lot of hard work is enough to guarantee success.

And think of your family as your first startup.

You're not actually fixing the problem with 'coping'. You're only putting a bandaid on it.

> My home town is literally at the bottom end of Australia. Beautiful place but there are very few development jobs and no paying startups here. I have a child with another on the way. My partners salary is insufficient for us to live on.

Solution #1: Move to a bigger metro. You can even find a job before you move. Your new employer may even pay for relocation costs.

Solution #2: Another solution is to find remote work. Once you get it, start implementing solution #1.

I know both Allianz Insurance and Westpac leverage Mainframe and Java. Perhaps look at either of those companies? They both have Melbourne offices, so might be viable? I know Allianz has work-from-home options, so that might be an avenue if you can't commute, or you're in Tasmania.

And yes, I've hated working at some companies in the past. The best advice I have is to just to start looking for anything else you can find.. At least it's a fresh place and a new chance. If you're lucky, a slight pay bump too :)

> My home town is literally at the bottom end of Australia. Beautiful place but there are very few development jobs and no paying startups here.

You should work to go to events like Startup Grind Melbourne, or at least such events in Adelaide. Network, approach people and introduce yourself.

> I fear that someone will beat me to market (trying for bare minimum viable product).

This shouldn't be a big worry. Even if it happens, move on to the next thing.

> I also fear burn out (has happened before)

Pull back on your startup work if this happens. A job you don't like, new baby and your own startup you're working on solo and in a rush as someone might beat you to market sounds like a recipe for burnout. Your startup idea can be put on the back burner when the other things take precedence. You fear burn out, so you should spend less time on it. You're not really cutting down time from it any how, your brain is going 24/7. I often have programming breakthroughs after waking up in the morning, or coming home from a dinner. I guess I'm unconsciously working on the problem even when doing something else.

Maturity might be part of these things. As people get older, that they hear BS at work becomes less important.

A proper perspective helps as well. You say "the managers are micromanagers and the developers sit at the bottom of the org chart". This may be true, but you should look at it with equanimity. Just think logically how to further your agenda. If it's unfair or illogical that developers sit at the bottom of the org chart in a software company, getting emotional about it will not serve you. It is something you have no control of, you can only vote with your feet, and for now you've voted to stay.

A few specific ideas, that I realize will only fill a certain number of hours, but still very good use of your time:

1) bring a notebook and do planning for your startup - it will get you away from keyboard & screen all day, there's no such thing as a project that too well-planned out, and you don't need to worry about doing it on company time if everyone else is sleeping.

2) as someone mentioned, automate everything you do at work, so you can use those techniques/what you learned doing it to shorten your 5-6h at night to something reasonable.

3) no doubt people at work spend a lot of time on social media - so you do it to, only with a specific goal of networking. That could lead to anything.

Last thing - are you really building an MVP? I'll assume it's a web app of some type; I have no idea what it is, of course, but 5-6hrs a day is 3/4 full-time. You should only take a month or so to build and MVP at that rate, so maybe you haven't pared it down enough?

I'm a college student and I'm also working as a software engineer.I'm somewhat close to being as occupied as you are. I'm also working on a side project while at home. I think the key to managing my life is prioritizing. You have to get good at prioritizing stuff when you are living a busy life. And the better you prioritize the better output you get.Also try not to get burn'd out while you are doing all of the stuff you do and don't forget to go to the gym and just wreck yourself there(read stay fit). Also try to sleep well. There's no general formula, just survive and win. About the work : I'm in the opposite situation where my work requires me to be constantly focused and come up with solutions, and my tactics are : give it all you got.

My opinion is that you're putting undue stress on yourself with the startup. Your number one problem is that your 9-5 ain't so good and you need either another job or another income stream.

Startup income isn't going to happen over night, so I think your efforts are not worth it given you're already stretched with the 9-5. I would be spending time on looking for either another job or a remote gig so you can give the 9-5 the flick.

Have you considered moving to Sydney or Melbourne? There are a lot of development jobs in these cities that pay well for people with experience.

Don't worry about the start up, I think. It's like worrying about wining second division on the lottery. Only work on it if you find it cathartic. Find another job, move cities if you need to.

Firstly, try to keep healthy. The worst thing you could do is to start making unhealthy choices.

I like the other comments about phoning in your job with no mental effort. Save your energies for your kids and your side projects.

I have a free 30 day email course on career hacking[1] to promote a book I'm writing. It could be worth signing up. It's focused on getting a career in penetration testing but a lot of the stuff in the emails applies to anyone looking to get a new job or change careers. The pentesty stuff might not be so relevant but a lot of the emails contain more general tips and advice that might help you find another job.

[1] - https://rawhex.com/

Hey. Sounds like we have a lot in common - both devs in Australia, looking to do something entrepreneurial but balancing that with home life. Please get in touch (see my email address on my profile page).

Check out Rob Walling ( http://www.softwarebyrob.com/ ) if you haven't come across him yet, his book is subtitled- 'A developers guide to launching a startup' and it was eye opening for me (market first, marketing second, THEN build actual product). His podcasts called "startups for the rest of us" have great tips about overcoming and transitioning and I find are very energizing knowing others have gone through similar.

Every case is different, best of luck!

I don't have a family, but I found two things to be really helpful: Going for a 30 minute walk outside around lunch every day, and having lunch or coffee with friends who challenge my thinking once a week. These two things let me reset during the day and lower my frustration at work.

As they say, rest and vest. The goal of this job is to bring in enough money to support you and your family while you work on your fun thing. You can do it!

TBH The best advice I can give is to move closer to Melbourne. I don't care for it here, but there's not a lot of dev jobs back home in QLD, either.

I moved from QLD for a dev job too and love it here.

And yes, tons of jobs in Melbourne for talented devs, good meetups too.

Can you go part time at your main job?

Also, if you're in Hobart there are people around who are doing similar things. Surely there are lectures at UTas or something. Perhaps a system admin job at UTas might be a better option as well.

CSIRO robotics have people in Hobart as well. Have a look and see if there is something there.

Plenty of people work dull jobs to support their family.

Like others have said, use your time to learn new things at work.

And I agree your company likely has no grounds to your IP but what might give them some ground is if you're either caught working on your project at work or if your performance slips to the point they think you have somehow used your time for other means.

Would you consider to partner with somebody on your product development? If the answer is yes I may be interested. I have a very similar mix of experience and background and I don't feel challenged at work as well, even if I am not in such a dramatic situation as you. I am based in Europe.

Meditation. You have to just accept that a lot of corporations work this way. Meditate and accept it. It is very hard to find the ideal.

Have fun doing what you love and spending time with family when you are outside of work and you will learn to accept the mediocrity of the world.

Have you made sure your current employer won't come after you ? I am curious myself. I imagine if there's no overlap between your night and day job, you are okay.

i doubt this is worth much but i've been in a similar situation and this is how i dealt with it:

1. try thinking about your life in 5 yr chunks - a steady paycheck to pay off my mortgage really fast (secure future) and manageable/flexible work hours to maximise time building a foundation for life with my little one before she turns 10 is a wise but dull way to spend a few years. knowing it's worth it, and why, may help with the grind.

2. find a minimum $$ number you can live with and then find the smallest company/association/NFP that will pay this. small companies may not need you to go deep, but they _love_ people that can go wide. make sure flexibility in time/location are agreed up front - see 1. Go wide in the weirdest way you can think of every single time ie, become their economics guru by focusing on the data visualisation first, not the SQL queries. refuse to use a spreadsheet at work. write reports in html and distribute as a package. organise an industry conference and grow it. seriously, you'd be surprised how much lattitude you can get if you actively pick to work for people that _want/need_ initiative.

3. understand stakeholders and how they influence the decisions your boss will make. see 1 and 2. try and frame every proposal as something that is both interesting to you and as something that will make your boss look good. build trust. be aware of being taken advantage of but remember 99% of people are reasonable so don't be too paranoid. creating and launching things is a habit not something you choose to do on a whim.

4. don't sweat the small stuff. it's just $$ - enjoy what you can and treat it as a process. understand where you're going, not where you are.

5. personal sanity - build or invest in something that can't be (easily) hacked by software. this is moat between your future business and the leech competitors. personal relationships are in this category as are delivery chains or quality>quantity. design and distribute a small range of programmable toys - partner with your local high school and build the reputation first etc etc...

6. look behind you occasionally. if you're not careful, you only look at the people ahead of you and how much more successful/rich/pretty/talented they are - considering how much of this is due to dumb luck, this will only make you depressed. stop occasionally and turn around - there are vast numbers of people around the world thinking exactly the same @#$@#$ thing about you.

7. again with the little ones. because it's important and you don't get a do-over. don't let their childhood memories be 'mum/dad was always busy' - when they're 12ish, they will barely want to be in the same room with you anyway ;-)

8. be with your partner - they're with you for a reason, make sure you don't just assume that will always be the case.

hope it works out for you.

You make some fantastic points. I do need to spend more time with my family. The reason I am driving myself so hard at the moment is so I can get out of the bad job I am in. Bad circle, I know, but thanks so much for taking the time to write all that out.

What city are you in? Sounds like Hobart.

Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door - that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh heh - and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour...

Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

Well, something has to give. Pick up your family and move to a more interesting location.

Hey, I'm in Launceston, Tasmania. You in Tas too? Email in profile.



One word: Zen.

> & I doubt selling remote work (if I can find a reliable income stream) to my partner.

I'm confused. You think your partner would stop you from working remotely with a reliable income stream even though you're miserable in your current job?

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