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Listener Question: Matt asks, What To Do About Job Boredom?

Published 10/3/2016

In today's episode, Matt asks about what to do when he gets bored at his job. Hint: quitting is not always the answer!

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea my name is Jonathan Cutrell in today's episode we're talking about boredom. Listener Matt wrote in recently and he asked me this question he says hi I'm a new fan of your show and I have a burning question for you. I'm currently a senior software engineer at a large e-commerce site lately I've been having a hard time feeling motivated because the current project I'm working on is filled with tasks that are not challenging. What should I do? I've been waiting for a few weeks to see if the boredom will pass but it seems to be strengthening and I'm starting to load going in. Your help would be much appreciated. Thanks. Matt thank you for sending in this question thank you for being honest with yourself about your job. The first step to curing boredom is admitting it. You have to understand what makes you bored. Why is it that you're bored? Matt it looks like you have started down this path you've recognized that the reason that you feel bored currently is because the tasks you have on your plate aren't really that challenging. Now here's the amazing part about this question Matt and this is going to kind of surprise you. Sure isn't always going to be to give yourself more challenging tasks. That may sound a little bit weird because it seems like to fix the problem you attack what seems to be causing the problem. In your case Matt you don't have challenging tasks in front of you so it seems intuitively that the best way to fix it is to start having more challenging tasks. But the reality of your situation Matt and the reality of many developer situations may or may not allow for that to change. In other words Matt you may be stuck with some pretty boring tasks for a while. Now let's talk about why that is. Let's talk about why you may have boring tasks for a while. When we become developers we accept a few realities. One we don't just write the code that we want to write each and every day. That's not how our jobs work and we aren't necessarily going to add value to the world by always solving interesting problems. Sometimes the problems that we solve are relatively mundane. In other words sometimes the problems that we solve actually have been solved before and they aren't problems at all. Sometimes what we do as developers is implementation. Now of course this isn't true across the board. Some developers do have the freedom to do whatever they want. For example in a university scenario you may have the freedom to research whatever you want. But this isn't always true in the environment like what Matt is talking about. In a large e-commerce provider you're not always going to have something incredibly interesting in front of you. Now Matt what you do have is a relatively maintainable dependable job. What you do have is some stability in your job. So how do you actually defeat boredom even though the thing that seems to be causing it is inescapable in your current situation. Now I'm going to attack this problem from the perspective Matt that you want to keep your job because at Developer TeaI highly believe in sticking with your job when you can. It will be few and far between where I tell you on this show to go into work tomorrow and quit your job. I don't think that that is a solution to most problems that people have. I think a lot of problems like what Matt is facing at the large e-commerce provider. A lot of these problems can be solved without cutting the cord entirely. Matt we're going to talk about ways that you can overcome boredom and hopefully get through this season and maybe you will see some new problems. Some more exciting, more interesting problems come to your desk in the near future. So we're going to talk about today's sponsor real quick and then we're going to come back and discuss how Matt may be able to avoid boredom in his job. Today's sponsor is no stranger to the show, Linode. With Linode you can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. Of course you have heard that on this show over and over. Now let's talk for a second about the reality for developers. When you are in a position like Matt, then you probably have time outside of work to do some side projects. The problem that a lot of people face is that they don't know what to do with their side project. In other words, they have no idea how to get it up and running. They get it built on their local machine and then they don't know the next step. For a lot of people in this position, Linode is the perfect answer for you. Linode has eight data centers and their plans started just $10 a month and if you use the code Developer Tea 20 you can get $20 worth of credit. This means that you can host your side project for $100 for a year. That's a fantastic deal and it's probably the cheapest hobby that you're ever going to find. Go and check it out. Linode.com slash Developer Tea. Now I don't want to undersell the power of Linode. Linode is scalable. They have native SSD storage. They have a 40 gigabit internal network and an Intel E5 processor stack. In other words, the performance of these Linode servers is absolutely industry standard. On top of that, they offer two gigabytes of RAM on their lowest tier. That's only $10 a month and again, you get $20 of credit so that lowers the monthly average over the next year to less than $10 a month. Go and check it out. Linode.com, remember they have hourly billing, by the way. You aren't going to pay for anything you don't use. Linode.com slash Developer Tea. Use the code Developer Tea 20 at checkout to get $20 of credit. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring Developer Tea. So here we are solving Matt's boredom problem. Matt, you may even be at work right now working through some of these kind of mundane tasks that you're talking about and listening to Developer Teato try to keep your mind engaged. This can be kind of a dark situation to be in. This is kind of a frustrating situation to be in. I want to tell you, first of all, that I empathize with you. In a lot of other developers, find themselves in the position that you are in. I want to give you a warning. I want to warn you not to fall victim to the grass is green or syndrome. It's very likely that what you are experiencing Matt that it will pass eventually is very likely that you can find a way out of this mental state that you're currently in the mental state of boredom that you're currently in. And sometimes you can't fully avoid boredom. But Matt, what I'd like to do is provide you some advice for how to deal with boredom better. So Matt, I'm going to give you three tips today. I'm going to go through them very quickly. Number one, make sure you take time to invest in a hobby outside of work. Make sure you take time to invest in a hobby outside of work. I recommend that you do something other than coding, something other than computer work, something other than building things. Hopefully something gives you some kind of physical activity. Having something to distract you from the boredom, number one, and number two, having physical exercise are both going to be absolutely key to getting through this difficult work that you currently are having to go through. By adding variety to your day and by breaking up your day with other things, this hopefully gives a little bit more freshness to the work that you do on a day-to-day basis. In other words, when you get to work the next morning after a really hard workout or let's say an intramural game of soccer, when you go into work the next day, you're likely going to be a little bit more refreshed. And your mental game is going to be much more on point than if you were to simply go home and do nothing or code some more on the same project, work late hours or something like that, on the same project just slogging through the boring work. So give yourself something other than your work to do at night or if you work different hours that you can do during the day. Give yourself a hobby to invest in. I highly recommend this. Literally for all developers. If you can swing it, get a hobby that you truly enjoy as much or more than you enjoy your work. We've talked about this concept on the show before. A lot of developers are musicians, a lot of developers like doing things like woodworking, a lot of developers also like weightlifting. There's a ton of possible things that you can put your energy in your time and your mental energy into outside of work. I highly recommend doing that. Number two, invest in learning during this time. Invest in learning during this time, particularly because the tasks that you are doing are not very taxing, you're going to have a little bit more mental energy to put into learning. And what you can do is you can learn, maybe use some of your off time to learn or if your company, if the e-commerce company, Matt will allow you to learn on the job, then spend some of your time learning on the job and then use the mundane tasks that you have in front of you. Use the things that you are working on currently as a lens for seeing new programming concepts. The mundane tasks can be seen as an opportunity in this way because if it's something that you know how to solve very well, you can actually use this as kind of a playground as sort of like a scrimmage game, right? This is why people use to-do lists, for example, to learn a JavaScript framework, right? This is something that you can wrap your mind around to-do lists are relatively simple. They have an on and off state. They have a couple of things that make them interesting enough or complex enough to show a particular feature, but simple enough that you can actually wrap your mind around the idea and use that idea as a playground for learning something new. So Matt, if your boss or if the company that you're working for, if they will allow you to use a new technology or if they will allow you to use these tasks to learn a new paradigm for programming, then absolutely take this time to invest in learning. Number three, when all else fails, if you can't do the above two things, especially Matt, I want you to never underestimate the power of doing your work together with another person. Think about that for a second. Never underestimate the power of doing your work together with another person. One of the most frustrating things that you can go through is being bored alone. Something amazing happens when you do difficult slogging work with another person. When you have somebody else who is in the same situation that you are in, suddenly you are no longer alone. You're no longer stranded in this very boring place. You have somebody else to work with. The secondary benefit here is that you're ultimately going to be able to take your mind a little bit off of how boring or mundane the work is, and instead, you'll have a little bit of a competition with this other person. Never underestimate the power of doing your work together with another person. Togetherness is hugely important for your happiness as a developer. This is true for introverts and extroverts alike. If you have somebody that you can do your work with, ultimately that boredom is a little bit easier to deal with. Matt, hopefully this has been insightful. I'd love to hear back from you as you go through this process of understanding boredom and as you go through learning how to deal with boredom in your job. Thank you so much for writing into me, Matt. If you are listening to Developer Tea and you want to send me a question, you can send it to Developer Tea at gmail.com. Thank you again to Leno for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Go to spec.fm slash linode. That will get you $20 of credit at linode on your linode account. Go and check it out. Spec.fm slash linode. Thank you again for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you don't want to miss out on future episodes, make sure you subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. Thanks for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.