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Doing less

Original – by Freek Van der Herten – 6 minute read

Last week I stumbled upon this article titled "GitLabbers share how to recognize burnout".

It list these points to recognize burnout:

  • You're constantly tired
  • You no longer enjoy things
  • Your job performance suffers
  • Your relationships are strained (You have a hard time remembering information)

I was quite surprised that all these things are kinda applicable to I have been feeling myself the last few months. Even though I wouldn't label myself as "heading for a burnout", it's still a bit unsettling the aformentioned symptomes are so recognizable.

This is not the first time that I have a "down" period. I can recognize when I'm low on energy. To get the energy level up again I usually give myself an "easy" week where I don't try to plan in all my free time.

The problem I'm facing now is that I feel like I'm stuck in longer "down" period. It's not that I feel super miserable or something but for some reason it's just much harder to achieve personal and work goals. In an attempt to make myself feel better I've decided to do less.

Doing less programming

The past few years I've invested an immense amount of time creating open source software. I've spent time in the evenings and in weekends creating and maintaining packages. Because we got some commercial traction through this opensource work my teammembers and I get one day a week working on all things opensource. But truth be told: for the amount of packages we have one day isn't enough to get through all issues and execute all plans. Even with that one day in work time, most work was still done in my free time.

I'm going to set a harder boundary between work and home. For the next fews months I'm not going to do any opensource work in my free time anymore. Maintainance will be done during work hours. Some new package ideas will go in the freezer for now.

Doing less talking

In 2015 I gave my first talk at the PHP Antwerp usergroup. Even though I was (and still am) an introvert I kinda liked it. Soon after the first presentation I talked at more Belgian usergroups. In 2016 I was lucky to get selected to speak at Laracon EU, which was my first conference talk. That really kickstarted things. Meanwhile I've spoken at numerous conferences around the globe. You can see there entire list here.

Last month I visited both Brazil and India. On paper this sounds fun. To a degree it is. The conference organisers certainly are very welcoming. But it's a strain to be long away from home. I'm not enjoying those travels as much as I used to. So I'm also going to cut down on that. Currently the only conferences on my schedule are Laracon US and an unannounced one. I'm still looking forward very much to those. They will be my only speaking gigs for this year, I'll not be submitting to any CFP's anymore in 2018.

Doing less blogging

The last thing I'm going to cut time on is writing for this blog. For the past two years I've written company related blogposts (about our packages, achievements or policies). Writing posts takes an incredible amount of my free time as well. Like mentioned above I want to have a harder boundary between work and home. If I find the time in the business hours to write a blogpost I'll do it, but I'm not going to do it in my free time anymore. I do plan on still sharing interesting links via this blog, but you should expect less original posts.

Doing less on the phone

Even though I considered using my phone not so much as a problem, I want to spent less time with it. The last few months I've improved my digital life by:

  • deleting my LinkedIn account
  • deleting my Facebook account
  • turning off all notifications (except iMessage) / notifications badges / sounds
  • moving Twitter and instagram to the second screen
  • unfollowing 1000 people

I can already say this move greatly helped in using my phone less.

Doing more

You might wonder with I'm going to do to with all the time that will be freed up. Probably I'll be:

  • spending more time with the kids / girlfriend
  • reading more books
  • spending more time playing computer games. Mario Kart is calling my name. I've also been wanting to play the latest Assassins creed game, but couldn't make the time
  • taking up biking again
  • enjoying the luxury of being able to just waste time

I'm certainly not the only one facing this kind of problems. Here are some more people that were not feeling well and decided to do something about it:

This twitter thread started by Jessica Rose is also quite interesting: https://twitter.com/jesslynnrose/status/978590454840086529

If you wrote a similar post and want to have it listed here, ping me on Twitter.

In closing

I sure hope these changes help getting my energy/joy back. Though I'm certainly not ashamed of these problems, I still was quite hesitant to write this post. The fact that I was feeling pretty miserable today because I was physically sick gave the push I needed :-) (I'm quite ok, just ate something wrong yesterday, I'll be back on my feet by the time you read this).

If you feel your energy is low too, try doing less for some time. Don't feel guilty about that. I hope it works for me. If you're in the same spot, I sure hope it works for you too.

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