Ayende @ Rahien

It's a girl

So, where was I?

Well, this has been quite a period of silence for me. The last post on the blog was made two weeks ago, and that is about as long as I have been silent in five years or so.

I took an unscheduled, urgently required, vacation. For the last three weeks or so, I barely even touched a computer, couldn’t stomach the thought.

It shows in my inbox, which I usually try to keep empty:

image

The problem with this type of vacation is that the longer you are gone, the more you don’t want to get back. I can only imagine the amount of stuff that has been piling in.

The reason for the vacation is actually quite simple, I think that I have been overdoing things, and after I got back from the last trip, I realized that 18 hours of sleep a day for a week are not just my reaction to jetlag.

It has been my experience that there are people who try to do too much end up getting burned.

"burning the candle at both ends"

There are some forms of escape from that, probably the most healthy one is to avoid doing what you have been doing. That is rarely the response though. About 7 years ago, I was working in Prison 6, as a prison guard. It was… hard. Probably one of the hardest things that I ever had to do. I distinctly remember being burned there, totally and completely. I was just a short stop away from going AWOL in an attempt to make it stop. I didn’t, and looking back, I am pretty happy about the way it turned out, but the memory of that time is still one of the worst times in my life.

I would really like to avoid having the same thing happen to me in my own field of expertise. One of the reasons that I like software development so much is that it has been my hobby as well as my profession. The last thing that I want to happen is that it would be a cause for distaste for me.

Hence, the reason that I called that vacation required, not merely needed. I also made a few other decisions, regarding the amount of travel and parallel work that I am going to take on from now on.

Hopefully, I can now return to my regularly scheduled blogging/working.

Comments

Set
07/12/2009 08:18 AM by
Set

Well burnout might happen and before you realise, you'll go again on the same path.

It's a reason that I don't really "overwork". If software dev makes me burn out ( and currently I hate it but it's more because of my company/my clients ), I've "nothing left".

I experienced this on games, and today I seldom play 1 h a week while some years ago it was way way more...

Enjoy what you do, and don't overwork too much, despite what everyone can think, you are human as well :o

Sven
07/12/2009 08:35 AM by
Sven

In a slightly perverted way perhaps, it's comforting to see that you're human after all. :-)

After all it really wasn't as much a question of "IS he ever going to slow down" but rather "WHEN is he ever going to slow down".

It's also comforting to see that in this very personal matter (just like in your professional activities) you manage to keep an objective perspective by realizing this is happening to you and you manage to take the necessary counteractions like the pragmatist you are.

I for one hope to "see" you around for a long long time to come. Your contributions to the software development community are unmatched and already legendary and we can never thank you enough. But, do try to keep it up, mmkay ?? ;-)

Wishing you well !

Anders Juul
07/12/2009 08:56 AM by
Anders Juul

Hi Ayende,

Sounds like a healthy reaction to an unhealthy situation.

Enjoy some time off and we'll look forward to your contributions to the software society when you feel up to it again,

Best regards from Denmark,

Anders

Patrick Smacchia
07/12/2009 09:00 AM by
Patrick Smacchia

I consider my professional activity as a marathon, not as a sprint.

Thus part of my activity is taking some pauses to invest in other passions in my life (even if I am reading your blog on sunday morning in july ;o). Whne I go back to coding everything seems much more clearer!

Steve Wagner
07/12/2009 09:10 AM by
Steve Wagner

Its good to see that you are a human and not a robot :-)

Jan Van Ryswyck
07/12/2009 09:19 AM by
Jan Van Ryswyck

Enjoy your time off although I think a one time vacation isn't going to cut it. You will be recharged for many weeks to come but that doesn't last. Taking some time off at regular intervals does prevent being burned or coming close to it. The problem in this (at last for me personally) is to find something to trigger some rest (except for being burned). For me, this trigger are mostly my kids :-)

Anyway, take care.

Chanva
07/12/2009 09:22 AM by
Chanva

It's really long time not to hear you.

Welcome back!

Frans Bouma
07/12/2009 09:35 AM by
Frans Bouma

Sounds familiar (except the guard thing of course).

As a person who has been where you are/were recently, some tips:

  • define a fixed time on a day when you STOP with work. Say, 17:30. After that time, you only do work if it's really critical. (as in: your site is down).

  • don't work on weekends, unless you are REALLY bored and /or it's really critical (as in: a customer calls, crying on the phone that if you don't fix a bug he'll lose his job)

  • Realize that no bug is so critical that you should drop things on the spot to work on it. You have your own product now which you sell, so this is very important.

  • Learn (and this is really a long process) that you can only really relax if you realize that if you take some time off, the world won't end, things will continue to work normally. In the beginning this will haunt you, when someone asks to get a drink because it's summer, holiday whatever or spend some time away from keyboards, you'll likely think "but but.... I now lose time I could spend on ... ". Forget that, ignore it and go. Trust me.

  • I once said to a friend of mine who works at a big corporation: "Sometimes I wished I worked at a big corp so I could take a day off if I wanted to". My friend said: "what are you talking about: you're the one who schedules your time. If you want a day off, you can. If you want a month away from computers, you can. I can't". And he was right.

  • Cut back on side activities related to work. This is mainly to cut down time spend during the day on activities not directly related to work, like answering mail on mailinglists, blogging a large stream of posts etc. The main reason to cut back on that is to avoid pressure on yourself to get things done. Say you start at 8:30 in the morning, read some websites, email, blogs, twitter etc. Then you start with doing your work, perhaps at around 9:30 and work till 17:00. If you during the day spend, say, 2 hours on mailinglists discussions, twitter conversations and what not, you lose 2 hours. If you do that every day, you get behind schedule as you effectively spend less time on what you are suppose to do in the time you are working. This will lead to compensation behavior: you want to get the things done you had planned so you work LONGER, which means you spend even more time working but with the extra pressure. Don't do this. Cut back on the discussions etc. It really helps.

  • Eat healthy, take time to sleep well

  • Get a hobby outside programming. This is especially important. What I discovered was that when I was programming some useless code during the weekends as a 'hobby', it made me less aware that it was a weekend. So when the weekend was over, I actually felt I had worked during the weekends.

Be glad you found it out now, instead of later on with a heart attack. Keep in mind that recovering from the position you're in takes a lot of time and if you aren't strict in your time management, you'll fall back into this, guaranteed. What I wrote above is from personal experience, as I'm not a professional time management coach. Use it to get your own time management up and I hope it makes you realize to cope with things which come with self-employment and product development. If you want to discuss this off-blog, you know my email :)

Frans Bouma
07/12/2009 09:40 AM by
Frans Bouma

(arg... should have pre-read it before posting)

"As a person who has been where you are/were recently"

recently as in your situation. I had this same situation a year ago.

and I forgot to mention: glad you're back and you've recognized that the way you were managing your time wasn't the way to go. :)

zoechi
07/12/2009 10:40 AM by
zoechi

Fine, so I have a chance to catch up with all your blog posts ;-)

IMO the most important thing is, to recognize

that something went wrong and what it is.

The 2nd most important thing is to react.

Have a nice time to come back starched.

cowgaR
07/12/2009 11:01 AM by
cowgaR

this is all BullShit...

we all know the real Oren Eini doesn't need any vacation...

and if by mistake he'll find himself lying in the sea, he can easily code and post a new build of NHProfiler with just few voice command to his iPhone which transmits it to his stellar quad core SSD notebook lying on the beach...while simultaneosly responding to all of the NH 2.1 alpha google groups questions and still having a good time :)

Jan Willem
07/12/2009 11:20 AM by
Jan Willem

I wish you all the best.

It may be helpful to know that to stop reading tweets is really a time saver.

Bryan
07/12/2009 01:56 PM by
Bryan

Now all you need is a wife and a kid.

suhair
07/12/2009 02:01 PM by
suhair

i can't believe you have passed the CAPTCHA test!. May be you are cheating :-)

Mikael Henriksson
07/12/2009 02:38 PM by
Mikael Henriksson

I recommend you read "The four hour work week" by Timothy (Tim) Ferris. He has workarounds for some of these problems. Good to have you back though :)

Frank Quednau
07/12/2009 03:17 PM by
Frank Quednau

Welcome back,

I hope to see more breaks from you in the future. Even the most loved things need a rest. With the proper focus comes the best stuff.

Jim
07/12/2009 04:28 PM by
Jim

So where did you go, anywhere nice?

Judah
07/12/2009 05:08 PM by
Judah

Oren,

Take it easy, don't put so much load on yourself. We'd rather have 1 post a month than have you drop off the face of the earth. You've contributed much to the .NET world. Go easier on yourself so that you don't get burnt out.

firefly
07/12/2009 05:44 PM by
firefly

Nice! Kinda wondering where you went!

I am with Frank. +1 to see more breaks from you.

pmlarocque
07/12/2009 07:28 PM by
pmlarocque

Take care of yourself, I have been following you since 2006 or so, and somehow I care about you!

Hudson Akridge
07/12/2009 08:33 PM by
Hudson Akridge

Don't burn yourself out man :) The world needs an Ayende.

Grimace of Despair
07/13/2009 12:18 AM by
Grimace of Despair

For a moment, I was afraid you and Michael Jackson were the same person.

John Farrell
07/13/2009 12:34 AM by
John Farrell

Good to have you back Ayende!

Mr_Work
07/13/2009 02:12 AM by
Mr_Work

No need to get a wife and child, a girlfriend that whines about you always computing is enough to kill quality time between you and your box.

pb
07/13/2009 03:40 AM by
pb

Obviously if you go for two weeks without a post the world doesn't end. Delete all the emails, it feels good.

Adam D.
07/13/2009 05:25 AM by
Adam D.

Glad you took some time off, Oren. I was hoping you were going to take me up on touring around Vancouver when you were here. Next time for sure!

Dennis
07/13/2009 06:48 AM by
Dennis

Welcome back :) Hope you enjoyed your vacation. You should try to aim for a good week atleast every 6 months.

Bunter
07/13/2009 09:28 AM by
Bunter

It's all sing and dance and work until things go medical

Peter Morris
07/13/2009 09:37 AM by
Peter Morris

Inbox (590)..... Viagra?

Here's something someone once said to me....

I've never heard of anyone saying on their death bed, "I wish I had spent more time at work".

Zombie
07/13/2009 09:57 AM by
Zombie
  • 1 to Bryan .. Let us know some good news in near future ..
Diego Mijelshon
07/13/2009 12:39 PM by
Diego Mijelshon

The advice stuff was already written by other commenters, so I'll only say:

I'm glad to hear from you again.

There's a whole community that wants you to get better.

My best wishes from Argentina.

Howard Pinsley
07/13/2009 01:57 PM by
Howard Pinsley

Welcome back Ayende. Hope you're rejuvenated enough to make a few more alt.net meetings in NYC. (I contacted the NYPD and canceled the missing persons report. :-)

Bobby D.
07/13/2009 02:20 PM by
Bobby D.

After reading about your trip to NDC, I was surprised to hear you were still holding it together. Vacations are a critical part of our work-life. By not taking a break now and then, you're doing yourself and your customers a disservice (I'm speaking you the general "you" here).

I'm glad to see you're back, though. Keep the posts coming, I'll keep reading them!

Scott White
07/13/2009 02:48 PM by
Scott White

Welcome back, don't burn yourself out. You mean too much to the community.

Magnus
07/13/2009 05:56 PM by
Magnus

Regarding your inbox: "Mark all + Delete" comes to mind!

On a personal note; take care my friend and don't work your self to death because no one will thank you for it and the .NET business would be at a loss if you did. If you pace your self better we will all enjoy your precence and guidance more for longer.

M

Bertrand Le Roy
07/13/2009 06:12 PM by
Bertrand Le Roy

Welcome back and deepest sympathies.

Dan
07/13/2009 06:41 PM by
Dan

I think you are right about the conclusions, so welcome back and remember: eat healthy and sleep around 7 hours per day.

Per day, not 4 hours today and 10 tomorrow.

nice corsage
07/13/2009 08:07 PM by
nice corsage

It sounds healthy. fro me, email management is important even you are in vacations. i try to read and delete the emails as soon as possible. Try you manage your email with create a certain folders and sort them depend on priority.

Ayende Rahien
07/14/2009 05:50 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Peter,

I actually wish it was all spam, but most of it was relevant emails, I am at 104 right now

Darius Damalakas
07/14/2009 06:18 AM by
Darius Damalakas

Good you are back. Not that because i like to read your posts each day that much, but because nothing bad had happened to you. Some not that funny thoughts had crossed my mind about what had caused your absence, so i am glad to know that all is ok. (more or less ;) )

Gustavo Martinez
07/14/2009 10:56 AM by
Gustavo Martinez

Never before had I writen comments in your blog. But this time, I think it is needed.

Just encourage you and tell you that people like you makes the world change.

And I just hope that you had had a very very nice vacations. If you feel burnt again, just do the same again.

Jeff Brown
07/19/2009 06:26 AM by
Jeff Brown

Take care of yourself, man.

I took a vacation for similar reasons. You'll remember I was at the Vancouver ALT.Net. I spent the next week being a tourist and pretty much not touching the computer. I couldn't really bear the thought of looking at code.

Then I came back from vacation, burned out again and got sick. It's easy to do when your job is your main hobby and your main hobby is your job.

After a bit of soul-searching I realized I could make some changes to find a healthier balance in my life.

So the good news is that I am quitting and have accepted a position at Google starting in September. In addition to the change of scenery and the cool new people and experiences I'm sure await me there, one of the big things for me is that I'm going to be moving to within a couple of miles of work so I can just bike there everyday. No more 2 hour commute! Plus with 20% time I'll have more dedicated hours to work on open source and other hobbies so I don't have to work 60 hrs a week to get it all done.

I am now looking forward to a 2 month holiday. I don't think I've had that much time off since high school summer break. Whee!

Cheers,

Jeff.

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