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At some point in time, I just stopped coding for fun. I used to go to work, finish my assignments and then upon arriving home I'd go and write stuff on the side for fun. However, I now just go home and try to avoid the computer. I'd rather read the paper, watch TV, go out to the bar, etc.

Is this a bad sign? I mean I still try to keep up on the latest trends, hit up the developer forums/blogs/etc but I haven't said, "I want to learn language X - I wonder if I could write app Y in it"

Has this happened to anyone else?

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I know how you feel. I'm going through that right now. Quit my job. I'm now travelling, taking up photography, and moving to a different city. Will start coding again in a month or two! You are not alone! –  sunpech Sep 14 '10 at 17:33
    
I've stopped coding on my personal time for the most part, but I get all my fun-coding covered at work. I love programming more than I love eating- I just usually put away my coding skills once the work day ends. I don't believe this to be detriment to my professional development in any way. –  Nathan Taylor Sep 14 '10 at 19:48
    
Me too, I stopped coding for fun and I try to limit my leisure computer time now. –  Dian Sep 15 '10 at 2:23
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I've only coding for fun, is this a bad sign? –  linjunhalida Sep 20 '10 at 1:03
    
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15 Answers

up vote 47 down vote accepted

This is a very common issue called burn-out. It happens to everyone that takes their work seriously. My advice is to take a few weeks off from coding and plan a long term project for fun. Then set aside at least 15 minutes each night to complete a part of the project. As long as you take it slow you'll be back in the game in no time.

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I wish I could talk my boss into that ;) –  JeffO Sep 14 '10 at 14:38
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Wanted to thank you. I decided to take some time away from coding and enjoy some other stuff. Now I'm writing an App for my Android Phone and remembered why I love to code. –  PSU_Kardi Oct 13 '10 at 19:42
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@PSU_Kardi - Good luck on that project. –  ChaosPandion Oct 14 '10 at 18:22
    
I've tried this, but then I always have the problem that I don't know what to do with my time. When I've spent the last two months 24/7 coding things and the projects relax a little bit so I can take a break, I just don't know what to do with my time. –  jsternberg Oct 25 '10 at 18:15
    
Nice idea. I must try it with my abandoned attempt to learn verilog –  user7071 Nov 10 '10 at 2:30
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Has this happened to anyone else?

No! You're the first!

Seriously, come on, it's a natural thing! Growing, people start having a lot of problems to handle: kids, parents, finances, family. Solving each of them requires brain activity. And brains just tend to get tired (and with age increase they are tired more easily). So after work and all this stuff you may just not have might to devote yourself to such a brain-intensive activity as coding.

I actually experience this many times. When I had a lot personal problems, I couldn't find power to do coding in my free time.

And perhaps you just love it less than you used to. You don't become a worse coder because of that. And chances are high that some day you'll feel that you want to code for fun again.

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Well maybe I should have said - has it happened to anyone else 'here'. Here being the key word. I hold people on stackexchange/stackoverflow in high regard because they generally care about their craft. –  PSU_Kardi Sep 14 '10 at 14:23
    
@PSU, ok, edited my answer to reflect that –  Pavel Shved Sep 14 '10 at 14:28
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I think kids are the #1 reason. Seven years ago, I got home from work at 5:30, was done with dinner by 6 or 6:30, and then had at least four hours free until time to sleep. I could write code for an hour or two and not use up the whole evening. Now I'm lucky if both kids are in bed by 8:30, meaning that if I write code in the evening, that's probably all I'm doing that evening, instead of paying the bills, watching a movie with my wife, reading a book... My children have consumed all my free time. But I guess I'll get it back in a couple decades. –  Kyralessa Sep 29 '10 at 1:23
    
Shved, string rewrites are ... MACROS. So ... have you discovered Clojure/Lisp/Scheme yet? –  Job Nov 20 '10 at 5:19
    
@Job, are you trying to comment an entry in my blog? Since you have an openid, why wouldn't you use it to make a comment there? –  Pavel Shved Nov 20 '10 at 6:22
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I've almost never coded in my free time (not since just after college), but I still love software development. Keep work at work and enjoy home a bit more. At the end of your life, you won't think, "gee, I wish I'd spent more time at work..."

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It happened to me many times.

First cause: too much work at office
Second cause: too much work at side projects (late at night)

Cure: I usually cut off pet projects, programming books and everything related to IT replacing them with movies, TVseries, videogames, relaxing books and a lot of fitness (running).

Effects:In a couple of weeks or less, I'm ready again for my Programming activities outside the Job's scope.

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+1, I also try to not have IT related projects at home, just to get me off of my screen. My current project: rebuilding my old mountain bike, with new paint and new hardware –  Gabriel Mongeon Sep 14 '10 at 19:47
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+1 for fitness, so many forgo this. I'd give another +1 for running if I could. :) –  DevSolo Nov 9 '10 at 22:05
    
@DevSolo after a couple of hours of running, you have enough endorphins to code for 6 hours in a row :) –  systempuntoout Nov 9 '10 at 23:02
    
you are so right. I live in FL, so I can run year round w/o extra gear. I try to run 20-30 minutes at lunch time every day. Makes the afternoon MUCH easier to deal with. –  DevSolo Nov 9 '10 at 23:12
    
@DevSolo me too :), we have a 1h15m break at lunch. I usually run for 40 minutes 3/4 workdays. The afternoon is terrific, MMmmmmmm endorphin. Lucky you, I'm wearing the suit (5° today) –  systempuntoout Nov 9 '10 at 23:20
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I'm going to throw out an alternative version. Maybe you're actually working on something that is challenging and exhausting. I start coding for fun when I'm at the end of a project and just wrapping things up. If I get a new project where I have to stretch my skills (not that hard to do), I find that fun and see no need to work on anything else.

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I find that this applies to my other hobbies in addition to programming. When things are intellectually challenging at work I have no desire to creative hobbies and instead focus on physical activities or movies/books. In periods when work is less creative (too many meetings) or has some down-time I'm much more likely to do creative hobbies like woodworking, photography, programming, etc. –  Adam Franco Sep 15 '10 at 2:42
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I see this as healthy and good. You want to have a life outside of work. That will make you better at your job not worse.

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Time is a limiting factor. I stopped coding for fun about 5 years ago. I learned to play the guitar, starting dabbling in woodworking, had kids, and can't even come close to keeping up with the latest video games anymore. By the time I've navigated rush hour, had supper, played with the kids, put them to bed and read them some books; I don't have the energy or desire to plug my last couple hours into the computer. I'm sure this will change again, but I'm honestly okay with programming as a "job" right now...

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That's sort of how life goes. And it's not necessarily bad, as it gets you to spread out and experience more things. –  Matt DiTrolio Sep 14 '10 at 18:16
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Write a cell automat in Excel. Make a simple web app, which downloads an image from URL, and visitor can dragging a mustache on the photo. Make a simple web app whcih cahnges some letter in sentences from randomly googled pages. Write a small always-on-top clock app, which grows as the end of the worktime is getting closer. Write a script, which downloads photos from SD card, putting images to yyyymmdd folder based on creation date. Write a screen saver. Make a webpage with a big red button, which says "I will find out your age, just press me", and it plays a noisy fart sound when one presses it, then it writes "if you are laughing, you must be under 5". Write detailed documentation on it: requirement specification, UI design, market analysis, business plan, flowchart.

If you're done, send me the URL.

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In short, you are never too old to have fun so do it! –  ChaosPandion Sep 14 '10 at 20:30
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Yep. And if you have not too much time, don't waste it on large boring projects, do some funny stuff for entertain yourself and others. Or at least, do some useful, if you have no sense of humor. –  ern0 Sep 14 '10 at 22:25
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I've been coding for 11 years, which probably isn't much to some around here, but I've dealt with burn out a lot in my career, and there are a couple of things that have always helped get me over the hump.

As others have said, hobbies are great. There are a ton of interesting things out there to learn, do, collect and create, and it's likely if you're a software engineer that you have more access to them than a lot of people. On that note, it always helps to remember me that on a big enough scale, my problem ("Boy I'm tired of writing code") is tiny, it's not even really a problem; in this economy where people are struggling to eat and finding out that the jobs they've spent their lives training for are just not available to them anymore, I work in a field where I have comfortable working conditions, internet access, freedom and job mobility almost anywhere I want to go.

I've built houses and worked in commercial construction and I liken burn-out to injuring yourself doing physical labor. We're mental workers, and sometimes we 'hurt' our minds, and we have to take care of them and repair so that we can depend on them again for our livelyhood. Repetitive boredom can do that, so get out, break up your routine, get some exciting new stimulus and never forget how fortunate you really are to have such a skill as coding.

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+1 for mentioning hobbies. I often find that (at least for myself) that programming is an extension of my creative self. So, therefore, hobbies like wood working seem a natural fit for myself. I can be creative, work with my hands, and best of all, get some time away from the computer. –  Jason Whitehorn Nov 10 '10 at 3:41
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For me, I don't code for fun because it's not challenging any more. When I was young, many thing was challenging. I ever wrote a program to estimate Pi value by using random number and it was fun seeing how much accurate it was. If I were going to do that now, it might take only few minutes with no fun at all.

However, I think what is fun for me now is how to use my skill to do the best at my job. Optimizing is fun. Refactoring is fun. Class design is fun. Code reviewing is most fun. I'm still coding for fun, the difference is it's also my job.

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Oh come on. Estimating pi with random values is still fun. I remember using the "dropping needles and seeing if they land in a circle" approach to estimate pi. Challenging? Not really. Fun? Sure! –  Carra Nov 10 '10 at 14:08
    
+1 very well said, and I completely agree. Not only about the topic in hand, i.e. coding for fun, but for anything in life, we should not be much worried if something does not appear to be fun anymore. It is just the idea of fun changes as we grow up. It's all part of growing up. –  Sandeepan Nath Dec 31 '10 at 19:08
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I don't think that it's a bad sign. Hey! Life is more than just coding, even if you really love it, you are allowed to do some other things too.

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ChaosPandion's answer is good, it sounds like you're just burned out. A good way to avoid burn out is to find other hobbies. I love working on my side projects, but sometimes it's too much. When that happens, I switch gears to something else. I also like working on cars, wood and metalworking, hobby electronics and various forms of artistic expression.

If you happen to like video games, it might be fun to try developing them. The combination of art and programming can be an interesting challenge. I've had a few game projects where, when I'm tired of coding, I'll go work on the art. When I tire of the art, I go back to coding. It's a great way to develop software but not actually have to develop software all the time while working on the project.

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Don't let that get you down. As get older you have other responsibilities and your priorities change. Kids are an excellent example - why would you be coding when you could be with your little one?

I have found that I lose interest in my private projects occasionally too. I go with it, leave it be and eventually I find myself drawn to some new and exciting shiny tech which I land up playing with at home. It all seems to be cyclic, such as everything else is life.

Chill out, go with it. Be diligent about your work and keep an open mind. You'll find yourself drawn back in when the time is right.

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I'd question why are you trying to avoid the computer. If it is because you are so frustrated that you want to chuck it out the window, then you may want to seek some professional help with either anger issues or career counseling, as each is a different way to solve this problem.

Another way to see this is the maturity you've developed for the field. Where initially one could see a new language as a shiny new toy to enjoy, you could see the pain of trying to do it and that prevents you from going there, possibly.

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I would be concerned about that, especially at your age. I'm thankful that I still find programming fun, because it's about the only thing I know how to do.

Here are some things I've found that help:

  • Find a way to use your skill for something outside work. I made a small app, based on C++ and MySQL, to help run charity auctions. Then I get to help run the auctions and sweat through a night of fund-raising, hoping I got rid of the bugs. Great fun!

  • Get a book or two on something interesting. For me, it was things like theorem proving, quantum computers, machine language, vision, and learning. Then try to write little programs to try them out. The smaller the better.

  • Learn some math. I had to go back and limber-up my skills with differential equations, calculus, linear algebra, and bayesian statistics. For everything, I write a little program to help me understand what I'm doing.

I hope you continue to find programming fun, but if it's not, I hope you find out what is fun for you.

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