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Like butter across too much bread

I knew it was coming. My team knew it was coming. My peers knew it was coming. One of the things we know about developer advocacy is that there is a really high rate of burnout — it’s because we care so much. There isn’t any time that I’m not running a constant background process of how I could help people more and do my job more effectively, but when combined with travel and environmental stressors and all the other stuff, it was less of a background process and more of a memory leak. Eventually, the system crashes.

My colleague Dawn wrote an excellent article about burnout, which you can find at OpenSource.com. I thought for a while that it might not happen to me, because I do feel empowered, and autonomous, aligned, happy about my product, well-supported by my peers and my management. If I only have a couple factors, it’s not going to be a problem, right? Wrong.

Because I knew it was coming, I had pushed to get a team in place so that my absence wouldn’t be a problem. Because I knew it was coming, I had made plans for leave. And then a month before I started my leave, I broke. I couldn’t write, I could barely attend talks. I gathered up all the resources and supports I had and made it through my last commitments, but now I am empty.

I’m not ok, but I’m going to be ok.

I thought about structuring this post in a way to make it useful to other people in the same place, but I don’t have that in me right now. Instead, let me tell you what I’m going to do.

  • I’m logging out of work. My slack, my email, all of it. I expect by the time I get back in a month or so, it’ll be safe to install Catalina. 😉
  • I’m not going anywhere. I am not getting on any planes, I am not setting any alarms. (I am, but they’re about parenting, not work)
  • I ordered jigsaw puzzles – giant, elaborate, repeating jigsaw puzzles, because they are completely recreational. No one judges your jigsaw productivity.
  • I’m taking Twitter off my devices. I love a lot of my Twitter friends, but I also recognize that I’m always at least a little bit working when I read Twitter. I’ll probably set up a posting service, but don’t expect me to get back to any DMs.
  • I’m sleeping. I’m eating. I’m exercising. I’m doing all the doctor stuff that I skipped because have you ever tried scheduling a doctor around 80% travel?
  • I’m giving myself permission to not do Christmas “right”. Whatever happens is what was meant to happen.
  • My guiding principal is going to be “Do I find that nourishing?”.
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A large jigsaw puzzle partially assembled, with a pattern of repeating circles with dots in them.

I’ll catch you on the flipside.

Heidi Waterhouse

Heidi is a mercenary technical writer and travelling salesperson of better process and product thinking. She loves writing herself out of a job and teaching people to save themselves from future pain.

Upcoming appearances

Velocity Berlin
Minneapolis DevOps Meetup
DeliveryConf

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