Continuous learning versus comfort zone
As a developer, we often strive to become better at what we do. Be it becoming more efficient, learning new things, or just trying to be the best version of yourself. This process of continuous learning can become tiresome and can lead to mental burnout. At the opposite side of continuous learning we have our comfort zone. The comfort zone is a lovely place to be, but can become just as tiresome. A nice balance between both sides is what makes a happy dev :)
The adversity of continuous learning 🤯
In the technology landscape things are always changing rapidly (especially in web development 😅). Staying up to date is one thing, but actively learning new things is another. If you're lucky, you might have some time to experiment and learn during your daytime job. That's a huge win as a developer as it's often overlooked. This also depends on the kind of work you do.
If you have a job where the requirements and technology stack doesn't change much over the years, then you are probably in the comfort zone and don't need that much learning. The risk here however is that you are slowly becoming outdated as a developer. The advantage here is that usually at the end of the day you aren't that tired yet, as you didn't have to think that hard. So in that case, you can still use some of that time to work on your own things and pursue your own interests. However, this is easier said than done.
If you have a job where you're constantly learning new things: congratulations, you are growing as a developer! However, the pitfall here is that all your energy probably goes into your job. When you're done coding for the day, there's no way that you'll open that laptop again. And that's fine, we are all human after all, and having some time off is definitely necessary.
I'm currently in the situation where I still want/have some side projects, but just can't seem to find the time or effort that's necessary to do them. For me, coding eight to nine hours daily is really sufficient. So currently I'm experimenting with some tactics to still try to get things done without causing mental strain.
Comfort zone ❤️
Ah, the good old comfort zone. The concept we all love and cherish. So difficult to leave, but necessary to do so if we want to experience meaningful progress throughout our lives. For me, the disadvantage of the comfort zone is the feeling I get. Sometimes I just feel that I'm wasting my time. So even the comfort zone can cause mental strain this way.
So it made me wonder, at what point does the comfort zone feel good?
Finding a balance ⚖️
Feeling good comes from finding a good balance: work hard, play hard! For me the productivity and learning comes in waves. Especially with side projects, I'm very productive for a couple of months and then completely abandon everything for the next few months. I think that it's due to having a poor balance, as well as being affected by distraction. In order to facilitate your productiveness, you can try one of the following tactics that help me whenever I need to get things done.
Eliminating the distraction
This sounds easy on paper, but I think a lot of people actually get affected heavily by distraction. E.g. your phone (apps / social media) or television are major productivity killers. When I force myself to not use those things during a certain period, I definitely notice performance gains. I call this tactic "make my life as boring as possible so I actually want to code". All jokes aside, having no television or a phone can be liberating at times. You should definitely give it a go.
As a developer we just sit in front of a computer the whole day, and that's really unhealthy if you think about it. A healthier lifestyle can really help in finding a good balance. I believe that at least trying to eat healthier and going for a walk or doing some sport is a definite win, and will ultimately help in your productivity as well. Though I must be honest, this one is very hard for me to maintain and I often slip back into my old habits.
Writing things down
This is mentioned everywhere on the internet, but it really helps me tremendously (at least I think so 🙇♂️). Writing things down, be it on paper or having some sort of planning board will help you to actually stick to it and do the tasks you've written down. I have no clue what the neuroscience is behind this concept, but I just know that having a list really helps me. E.g. this blog post, I haven't written any blog post in the last months, but last week I put it on my to-do list and tada, it's here!