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Have you ever felt that you have had enough of programming and you want to do something else in your life which hopefully doesn't include staying in front of the computer all day?

Also, while thinking these you realize it's time to stop thinking and continue your code. I am going through these thoughts for some time now, do you ever feel like this and what do you do to get yourself concentrated and happy with your work?

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closed as not constructive by ChrisF Sep 14 '11 at 9:47

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Sounds like you need another coffee. I know when I feel like this, coffee solves all my problems. –  Zoidberg Sep 7 '10 at 13:55
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@People who closed this: This is related to software development. Particularly the area of burn out; which does happen and is recoverable. –  Chris Lively Sep 7 '10 at 14:49
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@Chris: This is not related to software development. Anyone in any job can feel like things are getting stale and that they want to quit. This sort of subjective discussion is not what SO is for. –  gnovice Sep 7 '10 at 14:53
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Burn out may not be unique to programming, but there are almost certainly some coping techniques that are. Personally, I think this is a really good question. –  Ed Daniel Sep 7 '10 at 15:02
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"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can." — Hermann Melville –  mouviciel Sep 26 '10 at 7:33

24 Answers 24

have a refresh, take a pohot on the street, strolling around the local environment, taking other side jobs,

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One thing I've become pretty good at over the years is being able to diagnose the difference between normal short term stress, and real burnout.

The tricky part is that it feels more or less the same in your moment-to-moment working life. I've had months of working on bad projects where I wanted to chuck it all in, but it turned out to just be the constant stress with that particular project, even though it felt like burnout.

Here is the test that clinched it for me: try to work on something (professionally if possible, if not, then hobby will do) that's your Dream Programming Job. The technology, framework, application, etc - that you really think will make you happy as a programmer. If even that doesn't inspire you, then there is a good chance that you're developing burnout. But if a lateral change of context does do a lot to make you feel better, then maybe you just need a vacation and a change of scenery, or a different job.

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The fact your asking, lends me to think that your already tired.

This is the early signs of burn out.

For some its terminal for others its a cycle.

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Dunno - haven't reached that stage any time in the last twenty-five or so years.

Can you get tired of programming?

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@Jonathan Leffler - Yes. Yes you can. I hit that mark everything 3 years or so. I take a break for a couple of months, and then I'm right back to where I was before. It sucks too. Looking at code and just being completely disenchanted with every bit of it. –  Joel Etherton Sep 7 '10 at 13:57
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There spoke the lucky exception, I suppose. –  Cawas Apr 4 '11 at 18:35

Quote from bash.org:

Queued: It must be late -- "perl5" is looking like "penis"

Boinger69: Stay up until "VB" looks like "a good idea"

That is when you know you should give up.

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hilarious. A good friend of mine was asked why he didn't like VB and he said "I'm here to write code, not play games." –  Jack Marchetti Sep 7 '10 at 15:12

You can't force yourself to be happy and content, but if you need motivation then just remember that you are being paid to program. Someone's giving you money to do something you're (presumably) good at, and this in turn lets you pay your bills, pay for food, entertainment, etc... And at the same time seriously consider what else you would want to do for a living. Maybe talk to a career councellor. But to answer you're question: if you're having these kinds of doubts, it sounds like you're already tired of programming (unless it's just your current project - do any personal programmin projects still interest you?). Or if the only problem is sitting in front of a desk, maybe you need a programming job that gets you out in the field more. Unfortunately, I don't know what those are or I'd be applying for it too (I like programming but loathe being stuck at a desk so much).

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Programming is a creative endeavor. If you grow tired of it, you are doing it wrong.

You probably aren't tired of programming; you are tired of what you being told to program -- i.e, you need a new job, or perhaps, a new outlet.

Try writing something just for you --- start an open-source project, or contribute to an existing one.

I find working on a laptop on the train to work on my personal website (http://www.njtheater.org), far more fulfilling than what I do the 8 hours after I arrive.

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+1 for sick of being told what to program. –  dotjoe Sep 7 '10 at 14:04
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I agree completely with this but I did find that doing interesting stuff at home was just a distraction. Only when I recently moved jobs did I realise how much I hadn't enjoyed the direction my previous work had gone and it had been affecting my enjoyment / creativity –  Paul Hadfield Sep 7 '10 at 14:06
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Sometimes feeling tired of programming like the OP describes is a symptom of job burnout. If that's the case, getting involved in another project after work (even if it's a new / interesting / challenging one) is not the solution, in my experience. What could help is, well, turning off the computer and doing something else (something that doesn't involve computers, preferably). It's not the solution to the real problem, but it might help clearing up your mind to see things with more perspective –  Juan Pablo Califano Sep 7 '10 at 14:11

Try doing an independent project that you really enjoy, and that you've always wanted to do.

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I think it can probably happen, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it depends on your environment - if you're coding professionally, it can be easy to become jaded, cynical and disenchanted with what you're doing. You're not doing it because it's interesting, but because someone is paying you to do it. That said, if they are paying you to do it, that should be your motivation, and your professional responsibility. No job is perfect all the time. If you can't code because someone needs you to (and is paying you) then you probably shouldn't be a professional. Of course sometimes the work is fun, exciting, and you don't want to stop and go home/eat/wash etc (although you probably should.)

Secondly, it can be because you have a lack of suitable driver. If what you're doing doesn't have a real point, it can be easy to lose motivation. This can happen to hobbyists and students. Some people like to code for its own sake (I guess I am like that to some degree) - but it's easier if what your'e doing has some real value.

Thirdly, I suspect it's possible to simply want a different direction in your life. That happens sometimes. If you're a professional, prepare to take a pay cut. If you're not, well, you can find a different hobby. Maybe play golf, or make model aeroplanes. I don't suppose it matters much to anyone else.

Essentially, we all have rough patches. Professionals work through them, because they're professionals. People with real interest will find another aspect that motivates them. Others will have their interest come and go. To be really good at writing code is no trivial task. Some people have more natural ability than others, it's true, and I don't think that everyone can become a competent coder, if you don't have the inherent logical understanding to make it work for you.

Sometimes, like the enthusiast, the professional needs a change of environment - if you've been working on financial systems, maybe seeing if you can get a job in the medical support industry, or robotics, or something. In the current economic climate, it may be difficult to manage.

Coders are people too (no, really) and although they sometimes like to think of themselves as different, more logical, etc (and in some ways they might be) - they still have all the usual human traits - they get bored, they want a change, they're scared of change, they stay in their comfort zone, they think the grass is greener, etc.

You need to decide, for yourself, over an extended period, when you're not distracted by the latest issue/crisis/bad management decision/whatever, whether you want to keep working in that position. Few people love their job all the time.

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@Ragster. +1. You make some good points. –  Juan Pablo Califano Sep 7 '10 at 14:17

I would advice you to create your own web product.

Web because you'll get user feedback immediately - something that is profoundly motivating.

Programming as a job will be getting less and less challenging and fulfilling as the technologies evolve and also less and less rewarding as the market gets more crowded due to the lowering of the entry barrier due to technologies evolving. May become just not worth it as a career option.

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When management starts to look like a good proposition.

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I sometimes feel the same way as you.

When I feel like that, I like not to think of another motivation, but simply enjoy other things like friends, listening or creating music, reading a good book, driving somewhere where I always wanted, going to excercise or simply going outside for a walk with good friends.

Everything different works fine

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Programming is a gift that should not be taken lightly. With the proliferation of web millionaires and the gold rush that is occurring in the mobile development environment, your gift is in demand.

Your feeling that you are tired of programming clearly points to the fact that you are an entrepreneur at heart and you need to work for yourself.

I would recommend you brainstorm some killer app/game ideas and start working on it ASAP (but keep you day job) until your app can pay for your retirement.

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I've been there a few times. There have been days, even weeks, where I just couldn't face a keyboard, but had to anyway. In the short term, this means I need a vacation. Usually, it happens at just the time in the project where that's impossible...

Immediate

When this happens, there's no way I can concentrate well enough or long enough to fix serious defects or take on a big chunk of functionality. What I can do is make the stats look good.

Pull up the "trivial" issues (you know, the crap that sits untouched for a year or two while everyone jumps on the criticals and majors), and then print that list. See how many of them you can clear before lunch, and cross them out on the printout. Now you have tangible proof that you did something useful. See if you can do better in the afternoon. (Use a different coloured pen, so you can tell at a glance.) Feel free to cherry-pick the easy ones or the ones you fancy, it's all about making the stats look good while doing as little as possible.

The fun thing about these trivial issues is that many of them will involve little to no programming. You may even get to prat about in Windows Paint for a while :)

One day of that is normally enough to get me back on track. This works especially well for me because my boss is nuts about graphs and stats.

Short term

Can you make it to the weekend? Get away from the computer. Not just the computer, any computer. Book a night away somewhere. Do it now.

Leave the laptop behind, leave your cellphone behind. Take a good book, take a notepad if you insist on thinking about work. But no email, nothing more technical than a good pen. I find this clears the mind wonderfully, and my scribbles make for a very productive time when I get back to the office on Monday.

I don't do this nearly as often as I should.

Medium term

The trick is to book a vacation, even a small one, for right after each release date, if your project is structured that way. If not, then at regular intervals. Have something other than coding to look forward to. It can be as simple as a weekend in the next town over. That way you don't find yourself where I do sometimes, having had no break since forever and carrying 20 days' annual leave over into the following year.

Long term

There has to be an exit strategy, unless you really can see yourself doing this till you retire. And I do work with some great guys who are in their 60s, so it's not impossible. How you go about forming a proper exit strategy and following it through is best left to someone older than me.

Personally, I'd rather go up than out. Either the dreaded "management" route, or a senior programmer role. Ideally, I'd like to mentor younger programmers, because I've always enjoyed that and apparently I'm good at it. There's a good few years of code-monkeying in me yet, but I'm certainly starting to ask "what next?"

Sure, the app I'm working on might help scientists cure cancer, but when it comes down to it all, I'm shuffling ones and zeroes around all day.That lack of a tangible real-world product is the one thing that makes me question the point of my work sometimes.

What would I do instead? I don't know. But there's meant to be a new suspension bridge getting built within sight of the office soon, and sometimes I think I'd like to jack it all in, put on some boots and a hard hat, and go build a bridge. I'd love to have even a small part in something huge, something I can show the grandchildren and say, "I helped make that."

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When you are asking it here,

The fact that you are asking it, may indicate its already time. In the end its something you need to really ask yourself truthfully.

What is it that you hate most?

Are you tired of learning?

Do you feel there is no longer any challenges?

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Whenever you start to ask yourself question like "How do you know when you are tired of programming in your life?", it's a pretty good clue that you are starting to get bored. When you ask them on a Q&A website, it's a pretty good clue that you have crossed a line.

For me, it's a trigger to do something OUTSIDE of programming, anything form rushing though a Video game, a TV-Series or some DIY things.

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It's called burnout.

It's not limited to the programming industry. Not matter what job you do you will get tired of it at some stage - we are human at all. (Well, most of us - Jon Skeet, I'm looking at YOU) Unless you've never really liked programming all along, I'm guessing that you're simply stuck and looking for some new inspiration.

Here's what I would recommend - stop programming. Just temporarily.

Do something else for a while. There are obviously other stuff you enjoy doing - reading, running, answering questions on SO, whatever - focus on that for a while.

I'm also guessing that you're doing programming to pay the bills - that's why I'm not recommending that you quit your job. Simply work the minimum amount of hours for a few weeks or months and stay away from computers outside of work.

Before you know it you'll be burning to write the website for that new idea you thought up.

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This is really good advice and very motivational. Its hard to give up programming outside of work, but I think programming outside of work only puts emphasis on how crappy coding at work can be. –  snmcdonald Nov 3 '10 at 12:45

I've been there, stuck in a rut for months where I had no interest in programming anymore. It wasn't even as if I wasn't learning things. The problem was that I wasn't having any fun.

You have to find a way to have fun coding. For some people it's learning new technologies. For others it's the enjoyment of making things people find useful. Find a way to make it fun, or you're going to leave the field entirely.

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I do sometimes want to quit the programming world, but its the "world" and not the "programming" that I want to get rid of!

You should ask yourself if it is "programming" that you are tired of, or is it the environment you are programming in - job hours / colleagues / salary / work culture.

Based on the answer, you can decide if you want to change jobs or careers!

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Yes I've felt it.
It starts to happen when you are trapped in a boring project that does not give you any challenges or rewards.
You start to feel it when you begin to lower the "good enough" bar to zero( just make it work and stop).

This feeling is stopped and forgotten instantly starting a couple of pet projects at home, i repeat Instantly! There's nothing better than starting to code something that "scratch your itches" with some new technologies. This is the power of Programming, but i'm going off topic so..

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"I program, therefore I am"

If I quit, my brain will be dead in a couple of years. That's what I'm afraid of. There of course exists an alternative: to do math professionally, for example, but I'm not a mathematician in any way, so I just cannot quit.

I'm also told that bootstrapping your own company (or maybe doing even better with the help of an angel VC) can give a perfect continuous work for the brain.

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You can learn up to 6 methods to remotely call code, and each seems more clever than the previous, so you're happy to learn a new thing.

But then the 7th RPC method, you're like: "Really? Protobuf over SMTP? People are actually doing this??" and you realize that the 1st RPC method you've ever used was just fine, really, and that programming is basically learning to do the same things every two years in a different language.

It can get tiresome.

Not me, though - I love it! Just found an Erlang port of Thrift over Twitter and I can't wait to try it out.

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+1 for recognizing that nearly everything is just rehashing the same ideas in different ways/languages. –  Agent_9191 Sep 9 '10 at 5:23

I've felt this way a few times.

Every time I came out of the funk, I realized I only felt that way because I wasn't learning anything new and was stagnating. As soon as I started learning again, it quickly became the most awesome career in the world.

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Right on! This is a deceptive black hole of a feeling, and you alone have the power to change it. –  ripper234 Dec 31 '10 at 15:15
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Learning something new is one of the best things about programming. –  Echo Sep 14 '11 at 14:35

No, I can't say I've ever felt that way.

If you do, you may want to reevaluate your life, and figure out if there's something else you want to do with it. Sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 odd years would be thoroughly miserable if you weren't doing something you enjoyed.

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