Why Sustainable Pace Is Important

As software developers, we work in a highly skilled industry. Our day-to day-work is extremely collaborative, very thought-intensive, and down right exhausting. Developer burnout is prevalent, and we owe it to ourselves and our coworkers to make sure we are all working at a sustainable pace.

Sustainable Pace

Psychologists use the term burnout to explain feelings of exhaustion and diminished interest. Inability to concentrate, lack of restful sleep, fatigue, irritability, and negativity are all glaring symptoms. A burned out developer is an ineffective developer who is going to make mistakes. Here are three reasons why it’s best to avoid burnout and seek a sustainable pace.

1. Because overtime sucks.

At Atomic Object we strive to plan the proper capacity for every project and its unique timeline. We don’t plan overtime, and we don’t believe in death marches. While the occasional overtime is unavoidable, working consistent overtime is tiring and demoralizing. Tired and beat-down employees do not deliver their best product; this ultimately steals development progress from the future.

Overtime can also have compounding problems on project timelines, since the hours being worked are inconsistent. Working consistent, sustainable hours results in a less variable project velocity. If you do have to work overtime, make sure it is sustainable and not consistent. If you work overtime this week, make sure your next week is only 40 hours.

2. So you can deliver the best value to yourself.

Burnout is inevitable — we have all seen and experienced it. It’s important that we identify it and deal with it. Most of us, at Atomic, started off with programming as a hobby and eventually made it into our career. When faced with burnout, we need to rekindle the same passion that helps us identify our work as a hobby, and not a 9-5 job.

There are many ways to cope with burnout, and sometimes it helps to just talk about it with someone else. The short cycles of working in an agile environment allow for small feedback loops – utilize them. Not only should you be doing project retrospectives, but also personal retrospectives. How do you feel about your project? How do you feel about your code? How do you feel about your interactions with your peers and product owners?

3. So you can deliver the best value to your clients.

Not only do you owe it to your self to deliver your best value, but you also owe it to your clients. Sustainable pace helps us avoid technical debt and produce the best possible production-ready, well-tested, and complete code. As developers, we all know that well-tested code results in less unexpected problems; make sure your client understands that as well.

Can’t avoid burnout?

So you have identified your problems in sustainable pace but are still facing burnout; how do you deal with it? I read a article recently that said 41% of American workers let paid vacation days go to waste. You have that vacation time for a reason; use it! Do something fun and relaxing. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your clients, and you owe it to your company!

It is important that we all take time to refresh ourselves. Stop planning in overtime and start planning in leisure time. Be transparent with your client and help them see the value of sustainable pace. Your one week off may delay the timeline a little bit, but the end result is a fresher development staff and a better end product.

If you can’t take time off right now, there are a few quick fixes that will work in the short term, but they will become less effective as time wears on. Meditation, video games, and exercise are all techniques I have effectively used for dealing with burnout in the short term.

What have been your experiences with sustainable pace? How have you managed to keep burnout in check?