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Here is my problem: programming (learning about programming, coding, etc) is my hobby. I do it in my freetime.
I have a full time job, which literally drains my brain (no kidding!) by the end of the day so much I can't even add three-digit numbers, but I still want to do some programming-related things. Learning in this state is stupid, finding bugs is impossible. Writing unit test worked sort-of :D
I understand that programming is a very conscious activity, but I need to get my job done every day and I still want to deal with some programming-related stuff, as it's very fun to me. What do you suggest ?
I tought about watching videos, but what topic should I looking for with this state of my mind (which are easy to understand but I can still learn a lot from them) ?
(I can't do it before work, as it is far more important to be fresh there than during my hobby...)

Edit: The question need a bit of addition, which I left off intentionally at first, because I tought my question is clear.
I have no problem at all with my brain activity or anything like that, the "brain drain" cause is that I do 9-10 hours very intense mental job a day (much more intense than for example programming or thinking about solving problems), with only less than 5 minutes pause every hour. It is not possible to change it or pause more or think less (huh?!) between those working hours.

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closed as not constructive by MichaelT, Jim G., GrandmasterB, user16764, gnat May 15 '13 at 4:01

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I find that if I don't get enough sleep, it's much easier to suffer brain drain. Perhaps you could attempt taking an hour nap or so post-work to sort of rejuvenate your body. –  Joel May 15 '13 at 2:07
    
Hmm, this make sense ! I will try it for sure ! –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 2:09
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OK, now you've got me curious. What is it you're doing that's so mentally intense? –  Mason Wheeler May 15 '13 at 3:47
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One thing that could be useful to you and doesn't involve much active brain is listening to good podcasts related to software engineering like on: se-radio.net –  vishal_aim May 15 '13 at 4:04
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If your job literally drains your brain you should file a complaint with OSHA. If it only drains your brain figuratively, then you should simply avoid tasks that require mental energy, programming included, when you're feeling drained. Programming is puzzle solving; if you're too tired to think, you're too tired to program. Do something else and practice your hobby on the weekend or at other times when you can concentrate. –  Caleb May 15 '13 at 13:52

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's perfectly normal.

Unless you drink coffee and fire yourself up again after work it's very difficult to regain mental strength to study, and it's hard to get a good nights rest buzzed on caffeine.

Instead, wake up earlier in the morning and dedicate a 2 hour period to studying the subject of computer programming. Adjust your life schedule to accommodate your new study activity.

Many young athletes do their physical training in the early mornings before school or other responsibilities. I knew someone training for the Olympics who would arrive at the swimming pool before 5am. Just to do laps before he started his full time job.

It takes willpower and dedication.

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Good advice, but I think it's a bit different situation because swimming is a phisycal activity which might even be refreshing for the brain. Imagine if that young athlete would be a lumberjack! Now his situation would be more similar to mine. –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 2:35
    
Actually, this is a pretty smart answer; 1.) You understand my problem 2.) you offer a solution 3.) you warn me it won't be easy. It worth asking just for this question! It won't be easy as I can get up really hard in the morning, but I will try it! Thank you ! –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 9:34

I know this is ultra-specific to me, but here is what I do:

  1. Get up from the computer
  2. Ride a bike for 30 minutes
  3. Drink a beer
  4. Listen to a podcast
  5. Talk to someone about anything

More broadly, get some exercise, relax, learn something unrelated to the problem at hand, and get some social interaction to "get out of your head". Substitute your own equivalent activities, but I really believe that having these general needs met is key to keeping your brain sharp.

Edit in response to critics: @Walkman fair enough, but your situation sounded very similar to how I feel every day at about 5 o'clock. For me to be able to work on open source or personal projects after work, I need to unwind my brain and rest. If you want to find a way to do meaningful work without exercise, rest, learning, and some amount of social interaction, then I am afraid you will be disappointed. Caffeine only does so much, and working brain dead is like what your parents probably told you about making faces when you were a kid... eventually it sticks.

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This doesn't answer my question at all. –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 2:48
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@Walkman, yeah it does, do these activities for an hour or two after work to refresh yourself. Or have a 30 minute power nap and a good dinner. Then do some of your hobby programming. –  zuallauz May 15 '13 at 4:21
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Ok now it makes sense. I tought the answerer gave me the advice not to do what I want and offered alternatives. –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 9:17

I think you ought to see a doctor (or a councillor). If a full-time job literally leaves you in that state, then it sounds like a medical condition.

But to answer your question, there is no kind of programming-related activity that is enjoyable when you are too tired. And if it is not enjoyable, it isn't the sort of thing that a normal person would do as a hobby.

If it really matters to you that you can indulge in your hobby after work, you need a less draining job. But a more balanced answer would be to get some rest ... and save your hobby for the weekends and vacation time.

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I can do 14-18 hours of productive programming a day with no problem, but my job is far more harder –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 2:06
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@Walkman - what can I say. If you are too mentally tired, don't do hobby programming. –  Stephen C May 15 '13 at 5:10
    
You might be right, I may have no choice :( –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 9:12

What you are describing is a classic recipe for burnout, divorce, nervous breakdown, and any number of serious physical ills, up to and including heart attack.

You don't say what the job is.

You don't say what makes it WORTH the damage that it is doing to you. (And it IS doing damage, and the damage is, and will continue to be, cumulative.)

I strongly recommend you speak with a mental health professional about your situation.

AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

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What is worth it ? MONEY maybe?? I don't think it's damage, I'm just getting tired to the fullest every day. –  Walkman May 15 '13 at 9:07
    
It's called "baseline shift". You deteriorate, little by little. You don't notice the deterioration, because it is so small, and gradual, but it adds up. A pulmonary specialist demonstrated this to me, in detail, during an office visit several years ago. I thought I was OK, doing all right. He showed me the numbers, from the pulmonary function tests I'd just blown, and compared them to the numbers from my last hospitalization. I was WORSE than I'd been when I was in the hospital. You don't notice it, but it is quietly killing you. –  John R. Strohm May 16 '13 at 17:54
    
I don't know if that's the case for me. When I sleep properly after a day like this, I can do it again and I don't feel any problem at all. I really think I just getting tired every day and that's all. Sometimes, when I still feel tired after sleep, I get a day off, so I can regenerate. For example I can imagine this like if I were an athlete and would run 40km every day. Of course I would be tired every day :D and I would think this is normal. You think I'm wrong ? –  Walkman May 16 '13 at 18:13
    
Dude, I think you're in denial, but I'm not a physician and I'm not qualified to diagnose. The only way to spot baseline shift is to take data over time, and plot. The problem is that, by the time a trend line occurs, the patient may be in serious trouble. And I notice you STILL haven't said what the job is, or what makes the damage it is (potentially, since you insist) doing to you worthwhile. –  John R. Strohm May 22 '13 at 13:53

I find that when work gets me down about programming, the best thing to do is deep-dive into something completely unrelated, something you'd never be able to use at work (at least for now).

I work on a massive web application during the day with lots of standards, best practices, etc. There are few opportunities to be really novel. I take those opportunities at home. I've built my own database abstraction layer (strongly-typed, deep integration with the database, some reflection), implemented SignalR (a really cool server-client communication package), and created a custom build process to migrate everything from TFS to my web server. I can't do anything of these things at work (even though some of this might eventually make it there), but I love being on the cutting edge and exploring technology to its fullest.

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