Thoughts on work/life balance
In many ways I consider that the biggest strain with being a software developer is the intensive intellectual work. It’s draining. In my case, I think about problems, possible solutions. I code, test, fix and deploy changes. It’s stressful, demanding and has the tendency to consume your waking time even outside of work. There is no guaranteed off switch.
A man sits at a bar, his friends walk in. He’s thinking about efficiently pushing hundreds of millions of rows of data into a database. There is no punchline. This is literally my life most of the time, the only change is a bit different thought exercise.
The most difficult parts of my job are created by other people, with last minute workloads. And it’s hard to say no sometimes. People beg. People are nice. It’s not their fault they came to me on such tight schedules, or there are other completely valid excuses. Only with rare exceptions do I take on work like this.
If you’d care to, read Alex Maccaw’s great essay on “How to travel around the world for a year”, where he illustrates this point. Travelling gives you perspective. Stepping back lets you see the bigger picture. Staying immersed in work closes you off to certain things.
I remember countless deadlines where I pushed and successfully did the work on time, even when everybody before me was behind schedule. There was appreciation for this, sure, but in the end the problem which was created is that it came to a point where people started abusing this. It was no big deal that I got materials behind schedule, it became expected that I’ll handle it and push myself in order to meet the final deadline.
I quite literally remember excessive examples where people came to me hours before an immovable deadline. Things like scheduled press conferences. Or the start of a publicized and popular event like the Olympic Games, with a large amount of unfinished work. People actually came to me after they missed a deadline and wanted things done “yesterday”. I might be good, but I haven’t mastered space-time just yet.
I was getting stress related nosebleeds at the height of this kind of practice and what I realized after was that I’m not getting paid enough to bleed. I work smart, and I work on my schedule. I don’t fall behind. In part, this is also the reason why I still love to be a software developer.
I’m trying to strike a good balance between work and not-work. Some days it’s easy, and some days it’s a challenge. But every day it’s an effort I have to make, because letting my work consume me is not an option. It’s a give and take.
- Tit Petric
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