5 Ways to Avoid Developer Burnout

Demotivated, emotionally exhausted, and constantly overwhelmed devs need your help. Here's how to avoid burnout.


Have you ever felt demotivated, emotionally exhausted, and constantly overwhelmed? Have you procrastinated on tasks frequently or felt you didn’t have enough time to complete them?

Welcome to the club! You’ve struggled with developer burnout. You’re not alone; it is a problem because it causes poor work-life balance and decreases your performance and ability to learn new skills.

How do we get to “burnout”? 

Burnout by itself is pressure not properly managed. It may come from outside factors like tight deadlines, excessive meetings, poor backlog management, and lack of resources or known processes. It may also be due to inside factors, like being ambitious with ourselves regarding what we want to accomplish or how we want to be perceived, not being able to speak up, striving for recognition, or a lack of hobbies outside of work.

I remember being super excited about doing cool stuff with programming languages in high school. It used to be my hobby — but now it is a career. And I believe most developers started like that. When it becomes your full-time job, drawing a line might get difficult; being in technology implicitly involves staying up to date with fast-changing technologies, so we might set high expectations for ourselves and invest personal time in professional goals.

Programming is like going to the gym: It requires consistency and discipline. You can reach your goals by going and working out every day. But how long would you sustain an excess of working out for several days in a row? Working out and seeing progress might get addictive initially, but you will end up dropping it off because it isn’t sustainable.

How to avoid burnout?

1 –  Connect with your teammates.

Gaining confidence with your teammates will help you to ask for help and speak up. It’s easier to ask for help from a teammate with whom I believe I have something in common or a better relationship than a teammate whose figure I see as more distant.

Doing icebreaker activities or small talks before team standup might be a good starting point. Also, spaces where no decision has to be taken, sharing knowledge not work-related, the idea is to get to know the people you work with and build a support system.

2 – Under promise, over deliver.

I am not a fan of underestimating tasks. But it is safer to add a day or two to your estimates instead of being overly positive and ending up looking bad. Also, you will help to build a culture of realistic goals!

3 – Learn to say “no” and ask “why?” 

Help your team to build a culture of realistic goals. When you are asked to take on more than you can handle, you make sacrifices like skipping lunch, staying up late, and skipping the gym! That is not a good sign. Learn more about what’s being asked of you or your team so you can draw boundaries; you don’t have to take on all tasks or be on all calls. Prioritize and delegate.

If you don’t know how to say no, here’s a great resource to help you with your daily interactions: “How to Professionally Say.” 

4 – Take time off (and breaks).

You don’t necessarily have to have a plan to take a lot of time off. You might ask for a day or two — how about having a long weekend? Or a break in the middle of the week to get to the weekend sooner? And when on a break, please, don’t check your email!

Also, be respectful of your working hours. Consider your working hours in your estimations of how long projects will take, and don’t consider your free time as part of your allowed daily working hours.

And finally, block some time in your agenda for focusing or a break. Some communication tools have this fantastic option to schedule blocks, so it snoozes all notifications and gives you a mental break.

5 – Have a morning routine.

This is my favorite tip for avoiding burnout. I can’t start my day before working out and taking my shot of green juice. I found it also helps if I stretch my body before sitting for eight hours. I feel more focused over the course of the day. When I don’t do so, I feel frustrated and grumpy, have more issues completing my tasks and concentrating, and pain becomes both mental and physical. Have a morning routine, and respect it sacredly.

It is essential that developers avoid burnout to improve performance, but also increase work-life balance and mental health, as well as keep up the good work developing new skills. And it is crucial that team leads and managers of companies help avoid burnout for their employees because it will improve the quality of work, meeting deadlines, team synergy, and better communication and work environment.

Keep healthy!

Luz, a Front End Developer based in Monterrey, Mexico, likes mentoring other girls in technology. She coordinates all learning events related to Front End practice as Leadership Fellow at Women Who Code. You might find her reading a book or taking care of her plants when she’s not coding.