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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How to Deal with the Stress of Being a Software Developer


As a software developer, you’ve probably experienced stress multiple times and every time seems a little different, yet the sensation is the same. A developer’s job is very stressful due to its nature: you need to build or create, and you need to do it quickly.

You might have project managers asking you to add more content, accounting departments that ask you to find a way to cut down on the costs (or simply do so at your expense), customers demanding conflicting or different things, all while you simply want to try the latest and greatest updates out there.

So when stress starts to get you down, you can’t be as efficient as you want to be and that just adds on to stress you out even more. The best way to tackle this issue is to understand the most common sources of stress so you can identify which one you’re experiencing at the moment and manage it to maintain your sanity.

There are four main types of work stress as a developer. First, identify if the problem revolves around having difficulties with decisions. If not, determine if it’s a problem or difference of opinion with a coworker or boss. Again, if that’s not the case, analyze if it’s making you feel like you’re always falling behind on your work. And finally, if none of the previous apply, identify if it’s something that doesn’t motivate you and is making you feel like you’re wasting your time.

Through those four analysis situations, we’ve basically determined the stress source you’re currently dealing with. If the first situation was relatable for you, check out our first item below, and so on. After further analyzing if that’s truly your case, you’ll find some tips for you to blow off some of that steam.

Decision Fatigue

Whether you notice it or not, developing involves making a large number of choices, all day, every day. It can be large things like configuring an entire product’s tech stack to something as simple as deciding what to name a function.

All of these actions take your time and energy and eventually lead to burnout since your brain is worn down from all those decisions. This can start a spiral of decision fatigue since the current stress undermines your ability to make decisions and the cycle starts again.

The first method is to decrease your options or variables that will be used to compare, to speed up your decision process. Most of the times we tend to set up multiple options for us to analyze and compare. This isn’t efficient at all.

The second method is to basically let an actual prototype or demo product make the decision for you. By creating a basic demo of the product in a set time limit (preferably thirty minutes or less), you can assess if it’s going to work for you.

This is a better way to get actual feedback on a framework’s application to your situation, as opposed to having to compare multiple fictional scenarios in your brain as you browse blog posts and articles.

Differences of Opinion

If you identified with the second item on our analysis list, your problem revolves around differences of opinion. This is one of the highest sources of stress since most software developers work in teams. Some teams also tend to be together for long periods of time at once,so this results in reduced professionalism.

The first option to tackle this is to pick your battles wisely. Don’t waste your time arguing over semantics if you know the result will be just as efficient. By cutting your losses whenever you can, you’ll be able to keep your peace of mind.

Your second and third options are related. If you think giving in will compromise the integrity of the code, then set a time limit and then have the team vote for the possible solutions and the majority will win.

And what happens if you have a tie or the vote simply doesn’t work? Then you resort to a third party or mediator. Explain your options in five minutes or less and get feedback. This short time makes you point out the benefits and disadvantages quickly, so you might even end up feeling like the decision was obvious all along.

Overburden

If you find yourself working all day, all night, weekends, vacations and even on your “free time”, you might be overburdened and not even know it. This third source of stress can take a toll not only on your mental health but also start reflecting on your physical one. It is often responsible for some of the top mental health disorders.

In order to alleviate this source of stress, the first thing to do is set priorities. Of course, there are things you won’t be able to adjust client-level tasks, but on the business side, you should be able to analyze which features are eating up your time, which meetings to postpone or set up the same day, and which ones you can delegate.

Additionally, you should try to focus on one task and finish it before moving on to others. This will start crossing items off your list and help you focus on each item so you can work faster.

Finally, make sure you get enough rest. So identify which tasks need to be done ASAP to meet the deadline and which ones can wait until after you’ve rested. And keep them off your mind until you get to them.

Lack of Motivation or Boredom

There are times when you can’t work on the things you want and have to work on work-related items that you don’t like. That’s part of any job.

Most of the time, the most enjoyable thing about software development is trying out something new and fun. So, try some fun new projects when you can, so the dull projects don’t take a toll on your creativity.

Those outside projects are a great way to increase your creativity and get inspiration. Plus, who knows? You might even get the chance to use some of them in your main work projects. It’s a fantastic way to get noticed and maybe even get fun new projects assigned to you.

Now that we’ve identified the main causes of stress for software developers, we hope you can take a step back and assess the full picture so stress doesn’t catch up to you. Reach out to those around you since they have probably gone through similar situations as you and can provide valuable insight.

About the author

Patrick Bailey is a Professional Writer, you can see more of his work at http://patrickbaileys.com/.