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Ask HN: What to do if you are ridiculously burnt out?
108 points by reactivator on Jan 31, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments
I'm in a partnership project where I am the developer and my partner is the marketer, and it hasn't felt like a partnership at all.

The app is written in AngularJS and Node-Webkit (gosh, I regret not using React), and I'm bad with time which my partner understands, but every week asks me to get it done over the weekend and it's been a month of that so far.

I'm working 7 days a week 10+ hours a day and I can't handle it, I can't eat from the stress getting to my stomach, and I can't sleep because I always think about the project. On top of that, I'm the only one expected to work these ridiculous hours, everyone else is usually 8 hour week days.

I just want to get this project done, start making money but also nicely (without explaining all the technical details) why it is taking so long.

What should I do in this situation?

Thank you in advance!

EDIT: Grammar fixes and separated in paragraphs.

I quit my job, sold my house, sold all my stuff and moved to a lazy beach town near the equator. Never felt happier, never felt more rested, never thought as clearly as I do now.

Totally not answering you question when it comes to finishing the project, but sometimes you just have to call it quits because your health is more important than yet-another-website.

If you are ever in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico -- give me a shout and we'll hang out :)

I'd be really curious to hear your story. Clearly you're still reading HN once in a while. Are you doing your own projects? How much time do you spend on the computer vs other stuff? Was your burn out the computer itself or just doing stuff on it you didn't want to do for other people?

I quit 19 months ago and have been traveling and goofing off since. I can't say it's made me any happier. I spent 9 months last year working on my own project which was kind of fun but also kind of not fun.

Looking back over my life so far what I think I need is (a) more balance as in stuff not computing and (b) partners as in when I am computing I don't want to be alone. I want to collaborate with a few people at the same location I really like working with on something we all want to do. I'm not sure how to get from where I am to that though except to go to meetups, hackathons, etc and hope I meet some guys before I run out of money and need a job again.

not sure if any of that helps the OP.

I did the same. Mexico for a couple years (I love Mazunte and Zipolite!) then Guatemala and Chile. Actually moving back to Toronto from Guatemala in a few days after almost 5 years to work with a startup there.

The thing I've found most effective to combat my own burnout has always been a change of scenery and behaviour and getting a fresh perspective on my work.

I would recommend heading somewhere nice, warm, and cheap, and finish your project from there.

Ha! I also sold all my stuff and I'm in Puerto Escondido too. Wanna grab a beer?

Looks like that puerto isn't very escondido after all...

Sounds like a great plan; I'm moving to Brazil for a bit to do the same thing. Not for too long the first time, but with an intention to scope out the place and find some incubators I can hack in; been learning portuguese for the last year to make it easier for me to do. I found English fluency was a lot less in Brazil than it was in other non-english speaking countries I had been to.

If you've got the chance to do some travel, check these out:


Don't come to Sao Paulo, we don't have water here. It's not raining enough lately.

Hey, Brazil is big. Any idea where you're going to?

What kind of income would I need to bring in to move to a place like that and live comfortably?

How is your internet connection?

I live in Cambodia. I pay $250 a month for a villa, electricity is around $20 a month and water is free. Food costs me around $5 a day -- which is a lot. You could live off $2 a day if you want.

For internet I use a sattelite connection, which gives me 4mbit full duplex for $25 a month.

Life is great, but after 10 months spending time here I feel like I'm still recovering from the rat race back home. I'm spending my full time on hacking away on Haskell projects, just learning for the sake of learning, and I feel that slowly I am starting to miss home again, so I'll probably return somewhere at the end of the year.

How did you arrange it? And is someone cooking/cleaning/shopping for you, or do you do that yourself?

...does your mom still cook/clean/shop for you? Other countries are not alien planets which are devoid of grocery stores and somewhere you can buy a broom. Just grab a backpack and go. This whole 'arrangement' thing is very american. Use hostelworld, go stay at some hostels for a while. Meet people and have an adventure. Backpack around your target country (or countries) and find a city you like. Ask the people that work at the hostel there how to get set up with a place. Or, get to a country and take language classes at a school somewhere and ask your professors.

This sort of comment isn't useful. You might have tried asking about my experiences before assuming things. I've lived in six different countries, I speak five languages. I've stayed in hostels, or in apartments, I've cooked for myself and I've had others cook for me.

Right now I'm in production mode with my business, and having someone else cook is a massive boost to productivity. That's why I asked. Am not interested in hostel travel right now.

P.s. am not trying to start an argument. Just letting you know the norm in comments here. Remember that all commenters are human beings. Don't assume the worst if there's a charitable interpretation of comments. Cheers!

My bad, I was cranky!

I usually buy my food on the street -- i eat rice with pork or noodlesoup with beef in the morning ($1), eat some springrolls or whatever for lunch ($1), and go to the market and buy a grilled fish ($2) or some chicken ($4) with some rice and vegetables ($0.50).

You can easily get someone to do the cleaning and shopping for you, but I like to hop on my motorbike and do the shopping myself. I sometimes work from restaurants and chat with the staff (they get paid a bad salary, but their work atmosphere is really relaxed and have lots of time to chat).

As for the financials, I was lucky to get an exit with my business that basicly covered all the money I was personally in debt for plus a little extra. I rent my house completely furnitured through an agency which specializes in couples that are getting divorced, which brings in around $1000 a month. This covers my morgage and health insurance.

I live off money I had left after the exit (around $25k), and just accepted a freelance gig for a few grand which I'm really enjoying.

All in all, one of the best choices I made in my life, it really is so incredibly different here, and you really learn what it's like to live in a country without decent doctors, for example. At this point I do really start to miss my family and friends back home, but I'm very happy the Khmer are a very friendly kind of people, so I made a lot of friends here. I don't really hang out with expats, since they are generally still part of the whole lifestyle I want to avoid.

How did you find the villa to rent, is what I meant.

Congrats on the exit!

A friend of mine works as a cleaner for someone who is general manager of a real estate agency, and she knows a lot of people. I helped that friend out a few times in the past, now she helped me find that villa.

Furthermore, a lot of negotiating. Original price was $450, I ended up getting $250 if I paid 6 months in advance.

What do you do for healthcare? For dental cover?

The older I get, the more important these become, however much I'd love to live somewhere with a slower pace of life.

About $10-15K/year.

This is awesome. Do you still work?

How old are you?

"Feo y sentido como los jarros de Oaxaca."

Just a useful saying in Mexican Spanish when you want to poke fun at someone that has a thin skin.

In english: Ugly and easy to break (thin skinned) like the mugs of Oaxaca.

Maybe this should be another Ask-HN question... How do you escape the rat race?

What are the logistics? Cost of living? Taxes? Immigration? etc...

> Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

I'm absolutely shocked at how good the google street view coverage is of that entire city/area.

You, sir, are living my dream. It's gonna be Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico for me.

Do you speak Spanish??

Not GP, but I moved to Costa Rica for a few months in 2013.

Depending where you go, you can get away with very little to no English.

I was in a (tiny) surfing town, Playa Grande. It gets a lot of foreign surfers, and so all the locals speak English. Many ex-pats live there year-round. Nearby is Tamarindo, very similar there, and a much bigger town.

I can order food and ask for directions and have basic conversations in spanish, if they slow down for me--but I found speaking spanish was always just for fun, and virtually never a necessity.

Hey Thanks for posting - I'm thinking of doing the same in Costa Rica from Dallas,TX for a bit. What would a decent house to rent go for in the area?

Depending on your level of luxury, you can rent for 300-2k per month.

I stayed in this exact place: https://surfproperties.wordpress.com/house-for-rent-in-playa...

The owners live a few steps away in their own home. The wife cleans your place once per week. The man will taxi you around as-needed (he charges normal rates, which are pretty high there--gas is expensive). They are FANTASTIC people, they made my stay much better than it might have been.

There's a wall around the property and a gate that gets locked at night, but in all honesty, I've never felt safer anywhere in my life than I did in Playa Grande--wall or no wall.

Edit: I paid $550/month for that place in the off-season. The prices listed seem a little high, they were going to charge me $600/month in season (US winter is their season, US summer is their winter, and it's pretty rainy).

I suppose you mean you can get away with little to no Spanish, so English is OK?

I did mean that, yes.

I would not be afraid to return if I was forbidden to speak Spanish.

I'd say chill out, the project is probably not that big of a deal in the scheme of your life. I've been in a situation like that and most of the problem is your own thoughts reinforcing themselves. In reality you can pause work at any time. You can drop out of the project entirely. All it takes is saying "sorry, I'm not going to work on this any more."

So talk with your marketing partner and tell them you're working too hard and need others to help you more, and that you're going to take a week off from stress. Then try to think about other things. Go see people you haven't seen for a while. Come back after a week and see how your partner can address the work imbalance and see if you want to keep going with them. Seriously, just do it.

Great advice.

To add to this, if you are ostracized for taking time off or trying to adjust your hours to a reasonable amount, that's a good sign that this is not a good place to be in the long term. If it's bad now, it will stay that way.

This. Also, get your health sorted. Working too much and sleeping too little is terrible for stress and productivity. Causing more stress. And compounding. Try to get a solid sleep routine down and when you come back do laser focused work sessions and then call it quits after time is up.

> most of the problem is your own thoughts reinforcing themselves

This has often helped me in dire situations when you need some validation on the choices you've made.

Is the idea behind the app validated ? Has your partner talked with the potential customers ? Is the problem you're solving really an important problem ? Have you already built an MVP ?

I've been in similar situations where my non-tech friends ask me to start dev work on their ideas. My response usually to them is to find 10 customers willing to pay even before the product exists.

So the bottom line is that you should ask your partner to find paying customers for the app and not continue dev. work until they do.

Moar this. I've been in situations where the "idea" was driven by the "marketing guy," and it did not turn out well for me or my other technical partner.

When I saw the writing on the wall, I called a meeting and told them I didn't see the pay off of what we were doing and they were free to continue with my contributions. They sold a total of like $100 worth of apps after working on the project for another 10 months.

The last sentence sounds familiar to me: I built a fully-functional MVP over a few hundred hours. My partner, a family member, was going to sell it. I picked the niche because it's not very SEO-friendly and so he, being completely non-technical, had something to contribute.

He made ~6 sales in 1 month, never lifted a finger in the ~14 months since.

The app has run smoothly with virtually zero intervention on my part, so that was a win, at least. We have a couple of customers remaining.

At least you got out early, I guess?

I'd say. My friend who stayed didn't look for a new job after his employer went under (like many mobile gaming companies did when their games got rejected from the appstore), so he moved into his parents house to finish the projects. In all, he created 10 apps, using a lot of the technology I originally built. His "partner" sued him for 98% ownership of essentially nothing. It turned out sad for everyone involved.

I don't disagree, however if this hasn't been the idea, it's going to be a hard sell now.

If the plan was "hey, let's build this mvp and meanwhile I'll do x, y, and z marketing materials, and then we'll get out and sell!" and OP agreed, well--that's where he's at.

Saying "well I'm not working until you get 10 customers" at this point is not okay.

In the future, OP: take this very good advice.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Honoring commitments is important, but so is adjusting to new information, even if it's only new information about your own productivity and mental state, or the revealed imbalance in critical-path-tasks and hourly commitments between partners.

OP may need more time away from the project, or may need more teammates with the right tech skills to help on current-bottlenecks.

Maybe knowing that 10 paying customers are lined up would help, as motivation and improved confidence in the partner's ability to equally contribute. (Maybe it's allow recruiting more technical help.) But maybe more people waiting for the completion would only add to the pressure and anxiety; he'll have to think about that.

I strongly suspect a major part of the problem is that OP has no peer technical help on the critical-path – all his partner can do is ask, "is it done yet?" That's a broken team.

"I'm not working any more weekends until you get 10 customers" seems fair, though!

Agreed. Or "I'll work as much as you do."

Laex makes a valid point.

I would suggest you stop and take a day off before you get fully burnt out.

There is no sense in spending all this time and energy on a product you haven't even validated especially before you've launched.

You could spend years making the "perfect product" without ever knowing if the product is something someone will purchase. Or you could ship a minimum viable product and test whether your product is something someone will purchase.

Eric Ries talks about the minimum viable product in his book "The Lean Startup", which I would highly recommend. I think it would help you and your marketing partner get some much needed context to your situation.

Good luck!

THIS. Dear God reactivator read this again and let each word sink in deep, because it's the most important and valuable advice you can get.

"I can't eat from the stress getting to my stomach, and I can't sleep because I always think about the project"

I think you should take it as a rule of life that this is an unacceptable state to be in. You should see this as justification for drastic action - be it letting your team down, or standing up and saying you can't do this, or quitting entirely and moving to the equator, or whatever works for you.

I think there's no state in which it's reasonable for a human to be mentally oppressed like that, and you should do absolutely whatever it takes to get out of that situation as soon as possible and to not edge back into it. (Not to be confused with having a lot of work to do and having to work late and being under pressure from timelines. That doesn't have to necessarily come with these physiological effects.)

Sometimes, the best way to accomplish your goals is to work nonstop. Sometimes, it's more productive to dial back and make a long, sustained effort. Sometimes, the thing you're working on isn't worth the effort, so you do something else.

No matter what you choose, I strongly recommend you talk to your buddy. Don't vent, but try to help him understand what you're going through. Tell him what needs to change, and be concrete. For example: Say you'll work 40 hours a week, plus one weekend a month if there's an emergency. If your requests are wishy-washy or open to interpretation, each of you will have different expectations. It will just postpone the problem.

Lastly, don't get too worked-up about this. Worst-case, you walk away and the project falls apart. The end. Nobody gets physically injured. Nobody's life is ruined. Everyone moves on to other stuff.

Remember: Nothing is ever as good, or as bad, as it seems at the time.

Don't vent

Actually, it seems like a major problem is if they don't have anyone to vent to. The fact that they're making an HN post suggests they might not.

The HN post is of course more than welcome. What I'm saying is, they need someone in their personal life to vent to about all of this, otherwise they're going to start making bad decisions.

I vent to my cofounders all the time. Sometimes its about the other (we always circle around the next day and have a more thought out discussion), sometimes its about my work or more general stress. Definitely helpful getting through those tense moments and back to work, I really appreciate another perspective.

This is my approach to managing a full-time job and being the technical co-founder of a SaaS product.

I spent 8 months working non-stop (12-14 hour days, 7 days a week). It was extremely challenging and I came very close to burning out, but it paid off in the end.

After we hit MVP and had 10 paying customers, I made a very conscious decision to move towards a long-term effort.

Today, I feel much more confident about my ability to continue doing what I'm doing long term.

Talk to your co-founders, but remember that at the end of the day it's up to you to look out for yourself.

Can you supply some details about the business-related dynamics at play here, specifically whether or not you're being paid any flat rate (or just equity), what your share is compared to the marketer, and whether you have a contract that puts you on the hook for anything?

A recent article ( http://www.hailpixel.com/articles/technical-cofounders ) and the accompanying HN discussion ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8959377 ) highlights how exploitative the "technical co-founder" relationship can be -- you may want to evaluate whether your situation resembles something like that and whether you want to re-negotiate or leave.

While it sounds like you're in a product startup, I was recently in a similar situation with a client service focus: A partner and I (he was design/light dev, I was heavy dev/ops) struck out on our own. After a few months of ramp up we signed six figures of contracts in a single month. Giddy as we were, we had worked together for years and knew deep down it wasn't manageable. But dollars are very effective beer-goggles.

We laid out work-life expectations; mutual desires to work <40h/wk, how to manage clients, charge what we were worth, etc.

The biggest problem I blame myself for was the self-inflicted up-spiral of expectations, which sounds like what's happening with you. It started with replying to one of my partner's emails at 10pm, then turned into email conversations until 1am many nights/week with him and the clients. Emails about where I was, followed by texts and Slacks about if I got the emails, on and on.

I cannot speak for my partner, but in hindsight I would say that we had different business priorities and in the end, pleasing clients trumped balance for him and it didn't for me. We never really had that candid conversation, and it basically became a toxic 3 months that ended with us dissolving the partnership and likely permanently scarring our friendship.

I'd encourage you to have a dedicated, private face-to-face with your partner, and have an open discussion about what you've been doing, how you're feeling, how they're feeling, and what you want/need from this partnership. And if they're wants/needs are incompatible, time to say goodbye.

Are you sure you haven't buried yourself in a technical hole of despair?

If you have, it may be faster to treat your existing version as a prototype and rewrite a highly simplified version (an "MVP"). You can probably reuse a lot of the existing code and fix all of the big mistakes that are dragging you down, like not using React.

Make it your goal to get it released by a certain date and stick to it. Ruthlessly cut features until it's possible to meet that date. Reevaluate every sacred cow. Reason from first principles about what your product absolutely must do.

In my opinion, if you don't know if you have a product-market fit, there's no point in effectively doubling your "bet" in the existence of the market by rewriting the prototype.

So you're not using the best possible tech, but neither scalability nor performance matters when there's absolutely no users. Once you get at least some traction you can make more informed decisions about the rewrite, but right now you'd be just throwing more coding hours into creating something that might not have a market.

I agree with the last chapter 100% though, just throw the baby in the pool and see if it can swim. Our launch version had a lot of features implemented as "one of the founders is going to do it manually if you click on the button". Then we automated the tasks we actually had to do more than once per hour.

To this I would add: show the code to someone else. It sounds like you might be the only one working on this project, and that in itself can be a very dangerous thing (especially just getting started out). Hire a contractor if need be, even if you just book a week of their time so they can sit and look over everything with you.

Easy. Tell your partner to kiss off. You work 40hrs a week. You won't get more than 40 hrs of productivity out of a week. So what's the point in destroying your health and interest in the project by putting in more hours?

>On top of that, I'm the only one expected to work these ridiculous hours

If you're anything like me, that's just a self-imposed expectation. Otherwise, you should tell your partner that you're going to work fewer hours. Maybe 6 hour days.

Whatever you need to stay healthy. I think you hold a lot of leverage that you need to exercise.

I was recently in the exact same position with my partner (I'm also the only programmer) and it was all resolved by being open and honest. Talk it out.

Also, take a break for an entire week. Try your best to not think about the project. Your life doesn't depend on it :)

I recently worked on a project similar to this. Based on my experience, these are the things you need to do:

- Take a break for 3 days minimum. Go cold turkey, preferably not in the same city you are in. Just get out of there. It'll feel crazy, like you don't have the time, but trust me: at this point you're endangering your own health and the project. If you're a single point of failure, and it sounds like you are, things could go very pear-shaped if you keep this up and really fry your noggin. Which leads to my next point;

- You need help. You're trying to do too much, and it's just not possible within your apparent timeframe. See if you can get someone else in to help, or get one of the other team members to pick up some slack. It's completely unfair to expect 7 x 10 hour days from you, and anything less from the others. I'd state your reasoning calmly and clearly (after you've had a break; use the time to reflect on your work and where the project is going, trust me it will look different), and let the team know it's just not feasible unless you come back at significantly reduced hours + extended timeframe, or get some else on + extended timeframe to bring them up to speed. These are the realities of where you are, and the sooner you fess up to them (to yourself, and the team), the more chance you will have of salvaging what you've got.

Just my 2c.

I was in a similar situation working 12+ hours all the damn week, no paid OT. They gave me no expectation of downtime. Which was where I started to lose hope. I eventually reached a point where I quit on the spot. No resignation. No notice, after my 17th consecutive panic attack and manic call to my father, who knew I was in pain.

It took me at least three weeks to totally process where I was. Being with my family helped even if they didn't understand the technical background of things.

Sometimes you have to take the nuclear option.

I have yet to run into any work-related problem that simply can't wait until tomorrow. If you put in a solid 6-8 hour day, then you've earned the right to let the rest go until tomorrow morning. I don't take my work home with me -- it can wait. I don't check my email when I'm at home -- it can wait. It's not my fault my colleagues check their mail when they're at home, and it's not my fault my manager sets unreasonable expectations. I can only do so much, so when I'm done for the day, I'm done for the day.

Your mileage may vary, but whenever I feel the way you feel, I ask myself, "Will anything change if I stay another 2 hours, or will it be exactly the same tomorrow morning, after a fresh night of sleep?" and the answer is almost "exactly the same." So I go home, have a nice dinner, relax with my girlfriend, and get a good night's sleep so I'm ready to tackle the problem again the next day.

And if I'm ever in a situation where someone is harassing me to work extra hours for no extra pay, that's the day I quit.

Work shouldn't be stressful in a bad way. (There is such thing as good stress.) If it is, someone is being unreasonable -- it may be you, it may be your colleagues, it may be your boss, but either way, it's time to step back and look at the big picture.

Can this wait until tomorrow?

Yes, it can.

Just take a break.

Technical projects always take more time than expected and I've not seen one that actually finished in time. The key here is to manage expectations of the rest of the team (note the word "manage"). In order to do that well you need to learn how to manage your own expectations first, think about all the times you said it will take you X hours/days and it turns out to take much longer. If you're not convinced of this you can write down all the occurrences you remember that you estimated and how long they actually took.

The reality is that you're almost always out of bounds (5 minutes takes an hour, 30 minutes takes 2 hours,...).

So one approach you can take is break down the project at all into tasks you should be able to delegate e.g. "implement create company page from mockup". Then list them up in a google spreadsheet and sort the list more or less according to stage (alpha,beta,stage) and then estimate the task length using half-days as a unit. e.g. This will take me 3 half-days to complete. Only use fibonacci numbers when estimating to take into account that bigger tasks carry more inherent uncertainty.

The idea is that some simple tasks will be over-estimated and that other tasks will be underestimated but it will even out so you're estimate is more accurate and you can say that it will give-or-take a few days X working days to complete.

Bear in mind that you just estimated the creation of the first version and that it is impossible to know how many revisions will be needed before it is production-ready.

In summary, don't kill yourself over expectations.. take some time off to recover and then do a full project estimation to better manage their expectations (and your own). If you're going to survive working independently you need to make sure you are on a weekly schedule that your body can deal with and not working weekends works for the majority of the population.

> In summary, don't kill yourself over expectations.. take some time off to recover and then do a full project estimation to better manage their expectations (and your own).

This. Exactly this.

Note your body will probably crash for the first few days (depending on how burnt out you are). Just let it. Spend the time resting, eating quick to prepare but healthy meals and drinking plenty of water. Making decisions about re-organisation decisions can wait until you've recovered.

Oh and switch off your phone. Would recommend films and TV if you need a low-energy distraction.

I can say all this because I've burnt out before. My body just shut down, was hard to even move, luckily I was visiting friends who looked after me during this time. Don't wait until it gets that bad, explain you need a week off and take it.

more important than all of the other valuable advice given here is... first and foremost: Take a break!

There is the easy way--which should not be thought of at all as the shameful or inferior way--and that is to just quit everything and hit the reset button. You really need to rest. I've been there myself too many times.

And there is the hard way--which I am not really sure I've ever seen implemented successfully--and that is to wrestle control of your situation and pull it back to normal, healthy habits without quitting. Maintain your obligations, but stick up for yourself and take care of your health at the same time.

On the one hand, it's a lot easier to take care of yourself if you don't have a lot on your plate.

On the other hand, it's really easy to get a lot on your plate again, if you don't force yourself to learn how to take control.

Try wrestling control first. Quitting will still be an available option. And don't forget, it's a perfectly acceptable one!

From the description of your situation, there's no single-step answer.

Phase 1 has to be to recover some balance & perspective: take a week off, and if/when you resume work, cap your working hours to a more traditional schedule to allow variety and recharge time in your days/weeks.

Phase 2 is to use the balance/perspective/distance to evaluate whether the partnership/team is right, the development goals are reasonable, and the schedule expectations realistic. Abandonment of a project that hasn't matched original hopes is always an option.

If you choose re-dedication to the same project, be sure you know what will be different. You likely need a technical collaborator, for both mutual-review and task-sharing, far more than any amount of 'encouragement' from someone whose skills aren't applicable or even yet needed.

Your time away from the keyboard is more important than at the keyboard. I've been glued to a laptop keyboard for 15+ years where it's never been more than a few feet away.

There is a Marissa Mayers interview out there that talks about yahoo hiring practice that centers around an idea of "deal breakers". The few things people must have that lets them sustain working crazy hours.

Whether it's family responsibilities every week, or some other activity, rediscover or find yours.

A few honest days of letting yourself do some reflecting (read: reflecting is not working) on the project, how you're spending your time, and how you need to spend your time. If you keep doing the same thing (work even harder) expecting different results......

(Using a throwaway account for this...)

I got burnt out a Big Company. The politics, idiocy and short-sightedness finally got to me. I felt sick, couldn't get up in the morning at all. One day, I decided to just quit. They didn't believe me at first; but I insisted. So they had to let me go.

I had some money saved up (I am a saver, so that helps). Been out of work for more than a year; living in SF and just playing with whatever catches my fancy. Docker, Hadoop, ML, Go, etc. etc. I attend interesting meetups; go to talks, etc. I'm enjoying every minute of it!

In a few months I'll probably go back to work, but this past year has been the best year of my (adult) life.

Just tell him you are reaching a burn-out point and need a few days of complete R&R. That is normal especially when you are working really hard. If he's a good partner he'll understand.

What's the ideal work flow? I tend to lean toward steady, solid flow day after day with a good work/life balance. Others seem to like more of a sprint/celebrate kind of flow. In a small company you should be able to just do whatever is best for you if you are the one writing the code.

You are putting too much time into it. If you can't do something in under 50 hours per week, then you're not being efficient with your time.

I have a day job at a startup (maybe 45 hours per week) and I also have my own side project (about 30+ hours per week on top of that) - So I'm working a lot but these 30 extra hours are easy because I literally work on my laptop from my bed.

Because I know that I only have 30 hours per week for my side project, I am very careful about how I choose to invest my time.

You need to be thinking about how you can make the most of every line of code that you write. You have to reduce your project down to the simplest form that will still meet your goals. This could mean reaching a certain number of users, becoming profitable, etc...

Note that better funded competitors are always going to be able to get more work done than you will - So if you want to compete with them, you have to make sure that your product is simpler than theirs and try to use that simplicity to your advantage.

If a simple solution is just not viable in your chosen area (if you can't break your project into smaller, individually marketable parts), then you should cut your losses and choose a different area altogether.

If you have funding then you should think about hiring people to whom you can delegate some of your workload.

Marketers usually won't understand what it takes to build a tech product. So, you need to make them understand that writing code requires solving complex problems and it takes time. Even the best programmers can't build shit overnight!

In fact you are the Rockstar of the project and it should stay that way (not taking credit away from your marketer partner). You guys should talk this over drinks. Without the right camaraderie no startup has ever succeeded.

PS: I am not a programmer

If you burn out it's gonna take you YEARS to recover, not months. Do your 40-50 hours and stop. The app and startup will be there for a few years but you will need your body, health, and mind for the rest of your life.

Avoid burnout at all costs. Nothing is worse for a software engineer. It will destroy your career and cost you a fortune over your lifetime.

In a start-up, there's two things you're building: a product and a partnership. Sounds like you are focusing on the product only, and if you're partner isn't with you -- your start-up will fail (even if it succeeds technically).

Make sure your partner is in the trenches with you writing the business cases / user stories, writing test data / documenting of test cases, writing user manuals / making screen mockups, documenting system architecture (you sketch on whiteboard), and finally, doing manual testing early and often to give you feedback and to understand the challenges.

Later on, it'll be your job to be in the trench with your partner in the other side of the business: on sales calls, supporting client requests, presenting to investors, making hiring decisions, and establishing company culture. Don't think of it as dividing responsibility, think of it as sharing responsibility.

Totally agree with all the comments about taking care of your health and managing expectations with your business partner. Trying to be practical though, you feel a commitment to "get the job done." Maybe try to think of ways where you can fulfill your role as technical lead and out source some of the development to contractors off odesk. There will be a couple weeks of inefficiency while you figure out the process, true, and then you should have a couple developers you can lean on to help you out. Your role will change from coder to product manager / architect. It's an uncomfortable transition, but I think worthwhile. If you want tips on getting through this process let me know.

I suspect you are having trouble telling your partner how you feel, and what you need, for whatever reason. Can you share the details of the situation with a friend, and have them talk to your partner on your behalf? If not, I am happy to do it for you. Let me know. Edit: my username at gmail.com

It is important to deal with this, because you may break under the stress much faster than you expect. It's not a nice experience. Fix it while you can.

You may think you owe it to your partner/business to keep going, you may think you have brought this on yourself. Maybe you have, but in the scheme of things, it doesn't matter. It's not worth having a mental breakdown over it.

I think you need to remember that you don't do your best work when you are tired/stressed (Despite what our brain makes us think).

> I just want to get this project done, start making money but also nicely (without explaining all the technical details) why it is taking so long.

I know the feeling however, are you or your boss moving the goal posts constantly? I find this makes me burn out quickly.

If you can try to tell your boss you aren't working one weekend and switch off all technology/communication and think about your goals. Maybe read a fiction book that is unrelated to your work. It will help you understand how you think about yourself and the project more clearly.

You need someone who understands business- the fact that you work so hard and cannot finish it is a business problem. Marketing partner is not enough, if he is hard-limited to that role and does not know what to do in this situation.

You probably got tons of advice already, and from people who suffered from burnouts.

I too suffered a terrible burnout, which led to depression. First of all, get psychological help: go see a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist will get you some meds to help get your head balanced in the short term. The psychologist will help you sort out emotional and stress problems in the short, medium and long term.

After getting better on the short term you'll be able to work out the areas in your life that need attention.

Hope you pull through. Burnouts are just horrendous, don't let yours become crippling depression.

What does "bad with time" mean?

Are you working 70 hours/week on the project? Or work + project?

Either way, definitely stop what you're doing. Work less.

Also, "it hasn't felt like a partnership at all" -- is that to say he's not working on the project? I'd cease the partnership. I was in this situation recently, with a family member whom I trust. If they can't motivate themselves to work on it now, in its infancy, I can assure you they won't find the motivation later.

If you like the idea, "buy them out" or strike out on your own.

> What does "bad with time" mean?

I think he meant bad with setting realistic time estimates. It's an easy mistake to make when something is new to you, but it can cause problems, as OP is discovering.

I know that feel and all I had to do was take a stand

You have to take a stand for your values - remember Oprah?

Oprah Winfrey — 'Always take a stand for yourself, your values. You're defined by what you stand for'

It seems like you are a partner, not a pack donkey. Of course there is a need to get your product done but, let's get real, sometimes it so mechanic that there's no pleasure at all. Remember when you were all excitement about that project?

Review the processes and balance the responsibilities

Just one data point, but I worked myself into all sorts of health issues at one point and didn't get any significant compensation nor recognition. Keep that in mind as my advice is "use them out while it suits you but keep your eye out for something better."

If your situation is anything like mine was then I really feel for you. You probably feel trapped right now, and that adds to your stress which compounds your mistakes.

Maybe read The Dip by Seth Godin. And good luck!

My advice is keep working on it. But work as much as you can even if its for a couple of hours per weekend. You'll eventually finish it. I've seen a lot of projects get done that way. Also, don't damage your health because you need to have a clear and healthy mind to successfully build and run a startup! If you think you're over doing it, take time off and get back to it later. Just don't give up ;)

One can keep digging to understand if it is worth all your efforts. But neither you or your team can be 100% sure about it. Thats why SteveJ said, you cannot connect dots looking forward.

I do meditation and it has done wonders for me. You should give a try.



I know exactly where you're at. As I too am in a very similar situation. It is almost as if we have become the bottle neck in that nothing can progress without finishing the tech. My burning question is why cannot things progress in parallel?

my thoughts

- i would reduce hours down to 8 and take the weekends off

- you aren't anywhere close to burnout, for me burnout is when you can't work anymore not when you can work 10*7!!

- don't fret it, the project will be done when its done

Stop working such long hours and take some of that time to exercise. You will feel more energetic, blow off steam, and have plenty of time to defrag your brain during your workouts.

1. Learn to say: No (It's okay) 2. See #1 3. Fitness (Body and Mind dude, burn away those stress hormones.

1.Learn to say No. (It's okay) 2.See #1 3 Fitness (Body and Mind dude burn away those stress hormones)

Take some time off doing things you enjoy. 7 days a week is unsustainable and unproductive.

Partner, I know exactly how you feel (except in my case, my partner is my mom, lol. And I run masterrace ember-on-rails instead of plebian angular on node), and I completely agree, sometimes it really is too much. We see the other people in our industry, folks like jashkenas, wycats, our benevolent overlord Linus Torvalds, and the host of other celebrities and we marvel at their productivity; we hear stories of how ninja-hackers build their entire business working 24 hours straight over a hackathon and come out with an amazing business like Cloudflare; we look towards folks like Zuckerberg, Ohanian, Poole, etc. and seethe with envy at how they can build amazing products that not only scale to massive size but also actually do it all part-time while going to school or whatnot.

And then we look at ourselves, at our own handiwork, at the small handful of shoddy projects we have under our belt (most of which probably are ignored because of their incompleteness), and feel frustration.

"Why am I not as good as they are?"

"I should be better than this!"

"I need this done by X or else I'm going to lose this opportunity forever"

"Why am I not making money yet?"

If this describes you in anyway, then congrats, you're a workaholic passionate about your craft. Me too, actually. But unless you enjoy irreparably wrecking your health, and dying of colon cancer at 40, you need to temper that fire in your heart. Here is what I did to help me get out of my own emotional hellhole some time ago:

1. I admitted to myself I am not a "code-ninja", "programming rockstar", "chief-architect", or even "senior-level programmer". Despite the fact there are plenty of people (some younger than me) who can make software happen overnight, I am not one of those people; whatever I do will take time and often I will make mistakes.

2. I admitted this to my partner (aka my mom) and accepted her disappointment in me, but asked her to nevertheless bear with me as I slowly get better. I also admitted this to my investor, who didn't mind too much because he was well-diversified against my (no doubt) imminent failure.

3. I accepted the fact I am not Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or any other likely-to-be-invested-in-by-union-a16z-yc candidate going at a break-neck pace to change the world. I'm happy learning about and doing js, web, css, and programming at my own pace and if my works will one day be appreciated by society, then great, but if not, that's okay too.

Those 3 realizations helped me fix my attitude and improve my lifestyle, hopefully, they can help you too.

A disclaimer: Some may read the above as saying "don't have ambition, don't try to push yourself, don't achieve". I'm not saying that at all; instead, I'm saying to temper your ambitions with patience, and if you wish to overcome your weaknesses, then the first step is to accept them. Life is long and not as fast-paced as the media makes it seem, nor is it a competition to see who can succeed earlier / faster, so go at the fastest pace you can while still managing to enjoy your work.

Find a friend to pair program with you.


you're being taken advantage of.

quit and recuperate and find a real job or a real co-founding team.

if you insist on going through with it, have a lawyer verify all the company paperwork.

good luck.

Probably the most important comment in the thread.

You're being taken advantage of. This can't be overstated enough. And if you really insist on letting it happen, you must check that your payoff is going to be what you expect. Make sure your equity won't get diluted too much, make sure your equity can't be taken away from you, and make sure that in a liquidity event you're in a proper position to receive payout. Some liquidity events result in no money going to certain kinds of equity holders due to payment priority.

Give your life to God and start keeping the seventh day sabbath (Saturday).

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