Once you get a job, it’s easy to get stuck into trading your time for a paycheck. You take the commute, get into the office, brew your coffee, take it to your desk, sit down, and start tapping.
Sometimes, there might be a meeting here and there, a debate with your fellow developers over a module or implementation.
You end your day by going home, going to sleep, and then waking up to do it all over again.
It sounds monotonous. But you convinced yourself otherwise.
Because work is part of life — just like bills, rent, utilities, groceries, and every other little thing in life that chips away at your paycheck.
Then one day, you stare at your reflection and asking life’s ultimate question: is this it?
Here are 5 signs that you’re wasting your life as a developer, the symptoms and how to remedy it.
1. You’ve forgotten your dreams
Remember that game you were supposed to make? Or that killer app idea you had? Whatever happened to them?
It’s easy to forget your dreams, especially once you start earning money through your dev job. But beyond the paycheck, why did you want to become a developer?
A majority of software development work involves translating ideas into a digitized format. It’s a skill that involves understanding and connecting the nuances of programming languages. Getting a day job helps us develop and grow the knowledge required to make the parts and stich it all together.
It’s easy to get lost in work, to put your dreams on the sideline and leave it where you left it. Ignoring your dreams can lead to the following:
- a growing sense of dread and/or weariness towards waking up in the morning.
- a growing dissatisfaction towards life in general
- a feeling of clashed priorities and internal conflict that you can’t quite put your finger on it
- a general lack of or sense of fulfillment in your life
Solution: write down all your dreams and pick your top 5
“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease, and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
― Roy T. Bennett
Go full Warren Buffett on it.
Realign yourself with a purpose that matters to you. When you write down all your dreams, you let your brain unravel what’s in your head. It lets you figure out what you truly want.
Arrange your dreams in the order of most importance and Jira-style it with sprints and milestones. You’re a software developer. You’ve already got an unfair advantage over all the other dreamers out there that don’t know how to create.
So use it rather than waste it.
2. Your projects are boring
When you start a new job, everything is bright and shiny. However, after a few years, or even within months, things slip into a routine. Or you’ve been doing the same tasks for the past eight weeks with no end in sight.
Or your project just don’t excite you at all. It’s for something you don’t care about and will never care about. Whatever you end up coding won’t matter that much and it doesn’t really solve any kind of problem.
It’s boring and you feel bored.
Sticking to boring projects for longer than you should can lead to:
- you feel unfulfilled in your life
- you feel like your work doesn’t matter
- working feels like watching paint dry
Solution: find something that excites or challenges you
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
― Steve Jobs
Sometimes the compiler lets you do the same things but gives you different results.
But that’s the compiler.
Life doesn’t work that way. If you feel unfilled by your job, then it’s time to move on. If you can’t move on immediately, then start laying the foundations that will let you move on.
Start a portfolio. Explore what other options you’ve got, make projects or contribute back to the communities that helped you grow into the developer that you are now. Find a mission. Align yourself to some purpose that’s beyond you. Do something in the spaces you care about.
3. You can’t see your future you
Remember that annoying interview question where you do see yourself in 5 years time?
Perhaps you had an answer but was too afraid to tell the truth. Or perhaps you simply just didn’t know.
If you find yourself struggling to answer that question today, then you will remain as you currently are. If you are unhappy, unfulfilled and bored, you will stay unhappy, unfulfilled and bored.
This can lead to:
- an inability to see beyond what you currently have
- you have no idea where you want to go or where you want to be
- you know that what you currently have isn’t quite right but can’t put your finger on it
Solution: Draft up your best decade blueprint
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
— Bill Gates
Your future you is created by you in the current moment. Just because this year has been weird and feels lost, it doesn’t mean that the entire decade needs to go with it.
You can still do something. You can still make, create and learn. Envision your future self — what you look like, what you’re doing, and how you got there. Imagine what your best decade is going to look like and draft out a game plan.
And start becoming that person.
4. Your edge of knowledge is still the same
When was the last time you learned something new? As developers we get our kicks from solving problems. When was the last time you worked on something that challenged the way you think? Question the way you did things? Entered a space that made you feel like a complete beginner all over again?
Your edge of knowledge remaining the same can lead to:
- feeling unchallenged
- feeling like you haven’t grown as a developer and your job feels exactly the same, day in, day out
- no one questions the way you do things
- you don’t question the way you do things
- you haven’t experimented or played with anything new
Solution: Start a project outside your comfort zone
“Don’t live the same day over and over again and call that a life. Life is about evolving mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.”
― Germany Kent
Create a matrix of skills you currently have and brainstorm a list of things you want to develop. It might be a specific language. It might be working on your ability to create clean architectures.
Or it might be to get into the flow of encountering problems during your app creation process. When you find yourself stumbling and not just whizzing through, then it means you’re on your way towards learning something new.
If you’re stuck for ideas, here are some throw back articles I’ve previously written to help prompt you.
- 10 Coding Prompts For Your Portfolio
- The Things You Need to Consider for Your Coding Portfolio
- 7 Apps You Can Definitely Build With These Free APIs
5. You dread your day
You hate waking up in the morning. You drag your feet as you walk. You fake a smile or don’t even try.
In short, you’re a software developer and you hate it despite loving it at the same time.
Or you just feel like you’ve lost whatever spark that made you excited about being a software developer in the first place.
This can lead to:
- Sunday scaries — where you prefer to hide away from the reality of Monday but have to force yourself back into the office
- a growing dissatisfaction towards life
- entrenched negative mental models that impact on your ability to think positively and solve issues effectively
Solution: Take a break and reassess your life
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
— Steve Jobs
There’s more to life than hating your life.
Take a break, distance yourself temporarily from your job, and figure out what to do about it. Reassess your life by writing down how you feel and what you really want. It can be vague or specific. What matters is that you start the reassessing process.
Make a change. Take a risk. Because when you don’t, you are wasting your time on something that doesn’t matter to you.
Time is a finite commodity that we’re all born with. At some point, it’s going to run out.
As developers, we are in a unique position as creators and translators of ideas. It gives us an unfair advantage. We’re able to see systems as interconnected parts and the ability to create them.
You can still have a day job — but be selective to who you sell your time to. Focus on what you want, not what you think everybody else wants. You’ll be happier and much more satisfied with your life in the long run.
It’ll also give you leverage over that guy that just wants to be a dev. Developers are more than just code monkeys and mindless bots. We are people with the ability to think and synthesize. Don’t lose yourself to a job that doesn’t leverage your professional growth, mental health and potential.