Stay Motivated When Working on a Difficult Story

It happens to all of us. We start working on a story that seems like it should be a breeze, but we quickly get a dose of reality. Maybe some requirements keep changing. Maybe there’s more heavy factoring than expected. Whatever the reason, it can feel demoralizing to work on a problem that might feel ever-growing. Here are some tips to stay motivated.

Keep track of your progress.

One of the most demotivating parts of working on a problem that drags on is feeling like you’re not moving forward. It can feel sometimes as though success with software is defined by the number of stories completed. When one story goes on forever, it can feel like you’re not accomplishing enough.

Take the time every few hours to write a brief note about what you’ve done. Reminding yourself that you have done measurable work can help you feel less stagnant.

Switch chunks of work.

Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time working on one chunk of the story and you’re starting to struggle (or maybe you’re just getting bored). It’s okay to put your fears about context switching aside and jump over to another chunk. There’s no use spinning your wheels on one subtask when you could knock out some other bits. A few small successes will also get you back into a productive mood.

Similarly, if the story you’re working on isn’t time-sensitive, it can sometimes help to take a break from it. Put the entire story on the back burner for a day. When you come back to it, you may have some fresh ideas.

Pair frequently.

Spending a long time on a single piece of work can cause feelings of siloing. It can be useful to bring in other developers to work with you on a chunk of work. This has practical benefits, like new perspectives. Maybe more importantly in this situation, it helps with boredom. Pairing frequently will keep you focused and moving toward finishing the work.


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