Work Life Balance

June 10, 2019
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I have the reputation for working too hard. At least that’s how my wife sees it. Luckily she’s super supportive of my lack of work balance. I am sure if we had kids it would need to change.

If you follow me >Twitter then you’d know that I often am up late tweeting…I mean working. The thing is that I love my job. I don’t feel like I’m overworking, but I likely am.

Over the past five years I’ve interviewed a ton of people for my podcast and the upcoming film. One of the things I asked most of them is about work-life balance. I’ve gotten a lot of varied experiences and opinions.

One idea seemed common was that taking time away from the keyboard made most people more productive. It seems counter-intuitive, but I believe that a better rounded developer makes a better developer. Opening up your eyes to the rest of the world allows you to see your problem-space from different perspectives. I think it’s actually all about empathy.

On Empathy

The film I’m making talks about the lack of diversity in coding. One of the themes that I love is the idea that inclusion and diversity make for better software. I think this is because of the different perspectives bring more to the room. I used to say that most developers would prefer a CLI to a UI. And it used to be that user interfaces reflected this. We did our best, but our perspective as technologists left us with ugly, but functional software. Luckily this has changed in the past decade or so.

When I go to a conference or user group, I expect to socialize with people. Our shared experience is coding, so that’s an easy way to start a conversation, but after thirty years in this industry…I love it when people have other experiences to share…outside of coding. Art, music, literature, and even gaming helps us understand how other people experience the world. That’s a sacred art in software development. We’re rarely building solutions for ourselves. We’re trying to understand the users; only through empathy can we make truly great things.

“But you didn’t talk about Burnout?”

An often reason for having work/life balance is the problem burning out. But I think that burnout is rarely a function of us wanting to work too much. More often it’s a result of us having to work. The grind towards unrealistic deadlines, bad team dynamics, and disruptive management are bigger reasons that I see burnout happening. That doesn’t get solved with work/life balance. It happens when developers take a stand against them. Though it’s not always possible. It’s a fight to have in the first half of a project, not during the death march. Better planning does more to prevent burnout than a thousand triage meetings.

How do you find work/life balance?