Take a break, go out and play

There is so much to learn and so many cool things I can make as a software developer that I can stay on my computer all day without getting bored. It gets a bit hard to concentrate after a few hours, but nothing that a cup of coffee can’t fix. If I feel stir-crazy, I can always take my laptop to a coffee shop or meet other developers and talk about code. Sounds familiar?

You can learn a lot about programming this way, and this lifestyle brings back fond memories of cramming on exams and student projects at university, but you won’t be at your best if all you do is code. You need to put in the time to become a good programmer, but this is a phase in your life: if you let it take over, it will limit you in the long term. Software is a way to solve problems for people, but to do this you need to be able to relate to many different kinds of people. If you only speak with are thirtysomething programmers working at startups and your barista, you’ll have a limited scope of problems you can solve. You need to live it up a little and try other things.

Programming during all your waking hours is also hard on your brain and your overall health. To be at our best, we need to switch to various modes of thinking and give ourselves space to assimilate what we learn. If you stay too close to a given subject, you won’t give yourself the occasion to get your best ideas and you’ll waste your potential. It’s no accident that the shower is known as a place to get great ideas: it’s a moment to slow down, relax and process everything that went on earlier.

But what can you do if you’re getting too much of a good thing, and need more perspective in your life? You need to find a hobby that you can enjoy so you’ll disconnect completely from your computer and the Internet for a few hours. It needs to be something completely different that gets you moving and playing in a different way. You could for example create art, play music, take up a sport or cook your own food instead of calling for pizza. If you stick too close to what you’re already doing, you won’t see the same advantages: I like writing, but it doesn’t count since it’s still solving problems in front of a computer.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can get books or watch YouTube videos to explore new prospective hobbies, but the best solution is to take a course or join a club to meet real people. At first you won’t be at your best, but over time you’ll have another way to play and create in your life, one that doesn’t involve computers or electronics. You’ll be more productive when you go back to your computer, and have fresh ideas you can use to make your software better.

Go back to the introduction of this series : Play and learn as a software developer