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Do you ever feel coding fatigue?

My dev mana has run dry, I've hit my rate limit.

That moment where your brain thinks "I should finish building this React project, it's good for my portfolio" or "I should really work on fixing this query performance issue, I already know what the problem is" — but your stomach churns at the thought of having to interpret even a single line of code?

The last few days it really does feel like a physical illness, a nauseated feeling whenever I open an IDE. I have written about 12 lines of code since Monday.

It goes beyond writer's block, it's not a lack of focus or inspiration, it's a big knot in my head of everything that's wrong and inconsistent in development, and it causes feelings of dread, desperation and revulsion when trying to wrap my head around the simplest stuff.

Does anyone have good tips to overcome this feeling, something faster and less savings-account-destroying than "take a sabbatical year and travel the world riding an emu"? (seems tempting though)

Comments
  • 18
    Every fucking time I open an IDE or an editor.
  • 11
    Well...

    I can't imagine what it's like to have to work on so many different projects. I have a rule, one project at a time (mayyybe 2) and I have found over the years that this is the best approach.

    But I know that's not possible for freelancers or whatever, or people who are trying to build a portfolio, like you.

    I would say, besides the obvious burnout and advice of take time off, is, stop trying to do too many projects at once.

    Mental will power is exhausted more when you have to switch from one deep task to another, and when you have to do this over and over, you get burn out.

    Last night (and the night before) I got like 4 hours sleep, but I can still work on the thing I'm working on.

    But trying to get effort to do another project, might as well be asking me to climb everest.

    That's just what i've noticed with myself, hope this helps.
  • 7
    @platypus LOL
    @bittersweet if u see this coming, try taking a break, like a good break, not always possible, but dont focus on trying to code if ur brains keeps you from it, do smt completely different. Just rly get out of the situation for a brief moment, o good old very drunk night can accomplish the same hehe, at least for me...
  • 4
    What I try to do is have a balanced portfolio of work. Some of it is coding, some tech strategy, some writing, etc.
  • 3
    @rant1ng I'm not really doing a portfolio, but feel like I should. I'm also not really working on many projects, but my work does involve one big mega project, and requires me to be a bit too much of a freelancer within the company.

    I do think I need a break.
  • 5
    @bittersweet on your break, go out of your way to not be around any computers, or even phones ... go out in nature or something

    or a strip club :)
  • 15
    @rant1ng 🤔 I should start an open air stripclub in a forest.
  • 1
    @bittersweet also...

    have you ever considered doing something has potential to sell, but also increases your portfolio?

    kill 2 birds with one stone?

    I try to do projects that not only I can sell to end clients, but also make me grow and learn as a programmer, I'm always doing something that forces me to get to the next level, and at the end of it, I have a sellable product

    something to think about
  • 1
    @bittersweet Is this some kind of "Fully Monty" thing? I'll come and watch...if there's a bar.
  • 3
    Sounds to me like your goals and your actions are not aligned, and/or missing motivation. Consider setting clear short- and longterm goals for yourself as well as trying to think of ways to achieve these as detailed as possible. Keep in mind to always ask yourself why you are doing stuff, and don't be scared to consider a complete change in lifestyle.

    Pragmatism is really important in modern times since we are bombarded with distractions from physical world, and even if you manage to resist these there are even more distractions waiting for you in your inner world, which you need to recognize, notice and reprogram.

    Whenever I feel like that I refer to Maslow Pyramid, from where I can see where some shortcomings might be coming from. See below.
  • 2
    I get that exact feeling as soon as I have to make things look pretty/usable for end users.
  • 2
    @DevForTheMoney Yeah there's tiny cracks all over that damn pyramid. The difficult part is that none of them are completely broken bricks, so fixing any individual issue seems like a waste of resources. But I guess I have to.
  • 1
    @Bitwise I usually default to a very dark grey/blue menu header with white roboto letters, then inverted dark letters on a white background for content. PureCSS or a minimal reset + flex for alignment & mobile. Zero Javascript, no animations. I'm a pragmatist & minimalist.
  • 5
    @AlexDeLarge You know me too well, you vile tempter.

    Although maybe I should just heed the desire of your namesake and be like Diogenes, sitting cynically inside a winejar mocking society instead of trying to conquer the world.
  • 1
    📌
  • 2
    Dev Mana run out... Addermire solution should help.

    (Dishonored reference, I'm sorry for the random shit)
  • 2
    @mahaDev It's weird how mana is always blue.

    I feel like there should be a way to brew it, I need faster mana regen or a backpack full of those cloudy blue vials in my life. Caffeine comes close, but it feels more like a quick & dirty stat boosting potion than a proper refill.
  • 3
    @bittersweet like you need a holiday then, mate. Should recharge you.

    A nice hike, lakeside resort... That kind of thing.
  • 3
    @mahaDev I do, but do they sell this "holiday" thing in the form of an intravenous injection somewhere?
  • 1
    @bittersweet haha... I don't think so, bro.
  • 1
    @AlexDeLarge I'd go with this one. Get some lucy. That'll do you good.
  • 1
    I mean, I didn't need a year or any emus, as fun as that sounds. Just a couple weeks and a half dozen bottles of whiskey. I thought I would still be dragging at this point, but I feel good. Could it be possible you're overestimating the actual time you would need to be refreshed?
  • 3
    @bittersweet it happened to me a few times already and the fix was always the same : go for a trip, at least a week long, you know vacation like, but! Bring a laptop with you. The change of scenery and daily routine should be be enough 😊
  • 3
    As others have mentioned, you are describing burnout. It's common in every field of work. It comes and goes no matter what one tries to do.

    I've been reading this book, which gives a positive perspective to burnout. It describes burnout as a self-revelation that you've hit a plateau. It describes how important it is to be welcoming to it, to let it encourage you to change something to get to the next level. It could be the next level in your chosen path of employment, it could be adopting another hobby, etc. Basically, regard it as a friendly helper that guides you to what you need next.

    It's an inexpensive kindle purchase:

    https://amazon.com/Joy-Burnout-Dina...
  • 1
    Actually, I'm taking the whole of next week off because of this very relatable feeling...
  • 1
    just browsing through your post history, i don't see any projects that look fun to me.

    php? oof

    dba? ouch

    to each his/her own of course - but man.. i would need something more engaging. even react is kinda brutal - try something completely new, like mobile development with flutter or something.

    or take a break like others have said. for me, avoiding burnout on personal projects means keeping scope small and actually completing a publishing projects for a sense of accomplishment which makes it worth it.
  • 1
    We all do.
  • 3
    Coding fatigue ? Damn, that's what i feel since 6 months. I couldn't find a name for it, but now i do.

    Whenever i see a code, i try to close it away by reflex. Whenever i force myself to code, after 1 seconds of opening an IDE, i try to close it. When i actually write code, my brain hurts and i want to play games.

    That is very recent. Back then i would sleep 2 hours, always coding and learning new things with pure excitement. Now it is just doing my job. I still get excited when i face something completely new to me though.
  • 6
    The fantastic book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" has a term for your feeling: a "gumption trap"--a natural aversion response to an activity from which you're not getting enough positive feedback (or a a disproportionate amount of negative feedback). The author, Robert Pirsig, especially has engineers of all types in mind. We need to have a good successful-launch-to-prod-failure ratio in order to keep us going. You might not even realize that this is going on until you explicitly take stock of your recent "goings-on" in your coding life. He gives a few suggestions. First, remind yourself that this is (I don't know you, but hopefully) still your passion and you will feel that passion again. Second, it might be worth taking some time away from it and your itch will return. And/or thirdly, do some coding that you know will be successful and make you happy. Pick a tiny side project that will give you joy. Cheers, man. We're all rooting for you.
  • 1
    Maybe go workout when you get that feeling? That's what I do and it really helps keep me sane and productive.
  • 3
    If you figure this out send me a ping, I'm burnt out like hell and I see no way out :(
  • 2
    @bittersweet I find sports and gaming to be good mood resetters. They really take your mind of all the issues that you currently have.
    Also playing chess helps a lot.

    I would also suggest a 3 day weekend flight to some European country just to chill and eat lots of nice food.
  • 1
    @Noob

    > some European country ... eat food

    I live in Europe, it's not helping much. My girlfriend made me brownies. It helps a little.

    > sports and gaming

    I did not understand that first word. Gaming it is.
  • 2
    @bittersweet I knew that you'd mention that you live in Europe.
    Travel to the Czech Republic, Romania or Ukraine. Those differ a lot from the western European countries.

    Sport activities can include something that does not require repetition, for example a one time indoor rock climbing, a swim in a pool, paintball or, if you are brave enough, a bungee jump.

    As for gaming - it's the easiest way to spend countless hours without noticing. :)
  • 3
    @Noob Repelling and skydiving are my personal favorites. 😊

    I'd say flying, but I don't have a license.
  • 2
    @Root I do! Well, I'm licensed to pilot gliders. Lots of fun! I've done a lot of climbing & glacier hikes as well.

    I definitely need more nature in my life again.
  • 2
    @Noob @Root I agree with sports beeing a good mana-refiller. I like to boulder or riding bike like a mad man.
    Also my children let me often realize what really matters on this planet and how small some problems shrink in comparison.
  • 2
    @bittersweet I'm so envious! Half of my extended family are pilots, and one of my friends is as well.

    I used to climb competitively, but I was never actually that into it. Something my parents forced me into, and I used it to relieve stress.

    Hiking on glaciers sounds both wonderful and scary. I love the cold, and ice is so beautiful. I'd just worry about crevasses and hidden snowmelt.

    For me, at least right now, trees and water and cool temperatures de-stress me the most. Sadly we didn't get like any of that on this vacation. Rather increases my stress. I'm soo dreading going back to work after a two-day drive 😭
  • 2
    Also a shooting range might be a great stress relief source / mana refiller.
    Pew pew is always fun.

    And if you are an obsessive pacifist - you can always be an elf and shoot a bow.
  • 1
    @Noob Can a pacifist shoot a bow, but not a gun?
  • 1
    @Noob @platypus digital shooting much? You can even kill a few bum-holes while visualising them to be the problems/frustrations bugging you.
  • 2
    @mahaDev Did some bow shooting on (in?) HTC Vive last week. Quite enjoyed it.
  • 2
    @platypus the ones I know personally can.
    See, there's a difference between a vulgar massacre using firepower and a hunt as part of a quest of a wood elf.
  • 1
    @Noob The wood elf would be a soothing touch.
  • 1
    @Noob I've always been a silly bosmer archer in Elder Scrolls games.
  • 1
    @bittersweet @platypus

    Are we going to shoot guns or there is going to be a team nerdout and we all start a clan in an MMORPG?
  • 2
    @Noob Figure I should try Fortnite, but getting a PS VR probably more my pace. So pondering that.
  • 4
    @Noob @platypus
    Don't knock bows: archery is awesome 😊
  • 2
    @oh-4-fucks-sake

    hey man thanks for writing this, I'm buying that, heard about it before

    it was written in 1974 and still can aptly describe programming burnout, from the looks of it

    tells you something doesn' it
  • 1
    This happens to me a lot. sometimes its triggered by imposter syndrome because Im faced with a problem that I just can't seem to solve. It does go away once I solve the problem but sometimes that takes weeks.

    sometimes I just make sure I do stuff over the weekend to take my mind off it.
  • 3
    @platypus I really want to get my hands on HTC Vive. I've tried it and it's amazing! Also there are quite a lot of physically demanding games. @Root it is indeed! Yet I still need to level up my longbow skill.
  • 1
    @Noob @Root
    Nock arrows, not bows 😉
  • 1
    Orthogonal, but efficient: get a kid. It will rob you of any time to get the blues, inject you with high doses of hormones, attack the shoddy remains of sanity left in your brain.
  • 1
    @Root Wait, why did you tag yourself? 😆
  • 2
    I’m going through the exact same thing... Please let me know if you find a way out...
  • 1
    @devRB13

    Taking a break does help. I spent some time in nature, worked on renovating my house, started learning some new skills (bit of music with FL studio, language training on Duolingo/Memrise), made a lot of good meals for a week, switched out most of the red bull for green tea, took some spa + massage time...

    Eventually I noticed I was not so much sick of developing, I was sick of monotonous backend work. I was using multiple languages, but it was all about web backends. I'm currently moving a bit more towards database design again.
  • 1
    @bittersweet Thanks for your suggestions man... I’m a backend developer too and even I’m bored of monotonous work within my team. I took off for few days but I had to work during my vacation as well.
    I’m planning to start a side project or develop a new hobby... 😊
  • 1
    I feel this way about writing code always. I’m not good at it so when there’s no way to avoid it I get super anxious. I’m currently lucky enough to be able to outsource nearly all of it. But someday I will not be so fortunate. Good luck.
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