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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

Why 'Just One More Commit' Can Ruin Your Software Career

During a recent mentorship session, one of my mentees posed a question that caught my attention.

“I love coding, and I live for those ‘Eureka!’ moments when I solve a complex problem,” he said.

“But lately, something is off. I can no longer work for long hours. I’m losing focus, my code quality is slipping, and I’m restless. Why does doing what I love suddenly feel like it’s wearing me down?”

Ah, the insidious trap of the “just one more commit” mindset.

I can relate to the situation. ‘Been there, done that.’ I can understand the problem my mentee is facing.

It’s a slippery slope. Even developers who love their work can get trapped. It masquerades as dedication, as passion.

But let me tell you something — I’ve been in this industry for over a decade. And this mentality could be the very thing that’s sabotaging your work-life balance and, ironically, the quality of your work.

So, what’s going on here?

Is my mentee’s “one more commit” really an expression of their love for coding? Or is the silent saboteur draining their focus, energy, and enthusiasm?

Let’s explore how this all-too-common mindset can not only impact your work-life balance but also paradoxically ruin the software career you’re so passionate about.

The Illusion of Productivity

You might think, “What’s the harm in one more commit? I’m just being productive.”

But are you, really?

Productivity isn’t just about the number of commits you make or the lines of code you write. It’s about the quality of your work and how it contributes to your overall professional and personal goals.

When you’re constantly in “just one more commit” mode, you’re not giving yourself the time to step back and look at the bigger picture. You’re not evaluating whether those extra hours genuinely contribute to your project or are just a way to keep the hamster wheel spinning.

The Time-Money Paradox

Let’s talk about time and money. They’re interconnected. You might think that putting in extra hours will lead to a fat paycheck, better recognition, or a quicker promotion.

Hour Glass

But what are you sacrificing for that?

Time is a non-renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And unlike money, you can’t earn it back.

So, every extra hour you spend on work is an hour less you have for yourself, your family, and your personal development. In the long run, this can lead to burnout, strained relationships, and even health issues.

Is that a price you’re willing to pay?

The Burnout Spiral

Burnout is real, and it’s a career killer.

It sneaks up on you, masked as dedication and hard work.

One day, you wake up, and you’re no longer excited about coding. You’re mentally, emotionally, and physically drained.

And guess what? Your work suffers.

Those extra commits you were so keen on? They start to look sloppy and rushed because, well, they are.

What Can You Do to Save Your Software Career?

Alright, enough with the doom and gloom. Let’s talk solutions.

1. Prioritize Your Tasks

Not all tasks are created equal, and this couldn’t be truer for software engineers. With a constant influx of bug reports, feature requests, and looming deadlines, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s where prioritizing your tasks comes into play.

One effective method to help you prioritize is the Eisenhower Box, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix.

What is the Eisenhower Box?

The Eisenhower Box is a simple four-quadrant box that helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by their urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks that you should either delegate or spend less time on.

The quadrants are:

Eisenhower decision making matrix

Let’s say you have the following tasks for the week.

  • Fix a critical bug affecting user data (Urgent and Important)

  • Implement a new feature requested by a client (Important but Not Urgent)

  • Preparing a presentation for the next leadership visit (Urgent but Not Important)

  • Attend the next team offsite planning meeting (Neither Urgent nor Important)

Using the Eisenhower Box, you’d immediately tackle the critical bug since it’s urgent and important.

The new feature is important but not urgent. You can schedule a time to work on it later in the week.

Although the presentation is urgent, it is not important. You can assign it to an intern or junior team member.

Finally, while useful, attending the offsite planning meeting is neither urgent nor important. So you can skip the meeting or attend if you’re less busy.

By using this method, you can ensure that you’re spending your time where it matters most. This approach can allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance without sacrificing the quality of either.

2. Time Blocking

When you love your work, losing track of time is easy. You’re debugging a piece of code one minute, and the next, you realize you’ve missed dinner. That’s why time blocking can be a game-changer for ensuring you don’t burn out.

Time blocking allows you to be intentional about achieving work-life balance.

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking involves planning your day and dedicating specific blocks to tasks and responsibilities. This approach helps you manage your work and allows you to allocate time for personal activities and relaxation.

How to implement Time Blocking?

(i) Identify Your Tasks: List all the tasks you need to complete, both work-related and personal.

(ii) Allocate Time Blocks: Assign specific time blocks to each task. For example, coding from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., emails from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and so on.

(iii) Stick to the Schedule: Adhere to your time blocks as much as possible. When the time is up, move on to the next task.

(iv) Review and Adjust: Review your time blocks at the end of the day or week. Make adjustments as needed for the following days.

Let’s say you have the following tasks for a typical workday.

  • Coding a new feature (9 a.m. — 11 a.m.)

  • Team meeting (11:30 a.m. — 12 p.m.)

  • Responding to emails (12 p.m. — 1 p.m.)

  • Personal time (lunch, exercise) (1 p.m. — 2 p.m.)

  • Debugging (2 p.m. — 4 p.m.)

  • Family time (After 6 p.m.)

When 6 p.m. rolls around, make it a point to step away from the computer. Your code will still be there tomorrow, but the time you miss with your family or for yourself won’t come back.

3. Set Work Hours

The line between work and personal life can easily blur for software engineers, especially those working remotely. You might find yourself coding late at night or answering work emails during dinner. To maintain a good work-life balance, setting specific work hours is essential.

What does setting work hours mean?

Setting work hours means defining a specific time frame during which you’ll be available for work-related tasks. This not only helps you manage your work effectively but also sets a boundary that protects your personal time.

How to implement set work hours?

(i) Define Your Work Hours: Decide your workday’s start and end times. For example, you could work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(ii) Communicate Your Schedule: Tell your colleagues and manager you’re off the clock after your set work hours.

(iii) Stick to the Plan: As tempting as it may be to answer just one more email or make one more check-in, resist the urge. Once your work hours are over, step away from work.

(iv)Be Consistent: Consistency is key. Stick to your work hours as much as possible to set a routine.

Let’s say you’ve set your work hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During this time, you’re fully engaged in your work tasks. Once the clock hits 6 p.m., you make it a point to shut down your work computer and spend quality time with your family or engage in a hobby you love.

By doing this, you’re not only setting a healthy boundary but also signaling to your colleagues that your time is valuable. This can help prevent late-night work requests and last-minute tasks, allowing you to unwind and recharge after work.

4. Take Breaks

In the software industry, deadlines are tight, and the work is intense. As a developer, taking breaks might seem like a luxury you can’t afford. But here’s the thing — breaks are not just nice to have; they’re essential for your well-being and productivity.

What does taking breaks mean?

Taking breaks means intentionally stepping away from your work for short periods to rest and recharge. This can involve anything from stretching to taking a walk or even doing quick exercises.

How do you implement taking breaks?

(i) Schedule Breaks: Just like you schedule time blocks for work, schedule short breaks throughout your day. For example, a 5-minute break every hour.

(ii) Step Away from the Desk: Use this time to move away from your workspace physically. This helps to mentally disengage from work as well.

(iii) Engage in Non-Work Activities: Do something unrelated to work. This could be a quick walk, light stretching, or even a catch-up with your colleagues.

(iv) Be Mindful: Use this time to relax and recharge. Avoid checking your work emails or thinking about work tasks during this time.

By taking these short breaks, you’re improving your physical well-being. You are also giving your mind a much-needed reset. This can lead to better focus and productivity when you return to work, making you more effective.

5. Learn to Say ‘No’

As a software engineer, getting caught up in the whirlwind of tasks, projects, and deadlines is easy. Saying ‘yes’ to everything might seem like the path to success. But it can quickly lead to burnout and negatively impact your work-life balance.

What does learning to say ‘No’ mean?

Learning to say ‘no’ means setting boundaries and being selective about what you take on. It’s about understanding your limits and not overcommitting, which helps you maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal life.

How do you implement learning to say ‘No’?

(i) Assess the Request: Before agreeing to any new task or project, evaluate its importance and urgency. Consider whether it aligns with your current priorities and workload.

(ii) Be Honest: If you can’t take on a task, be honest. It’s better to decline upfront than to deliver subpar work later.

(iii) Offer Alternatives: If saying ‘no’ isn’t an option, try negotiating the terms or offering an alternative solution that works for you.

(iv) Practice: Saying ‘no’ can be difficult, especially if you’re not used to it. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

Imagine you’re juggling many high-priority tasks. Your manager asks you to take on another urgent project. Instead of immediately saying ‘yes’ and overwhelming yourself, you assess the situation.

You realize that taking on this new project would mean working late nights and sacrificing your personal time.

So, you decide to be honest with your manager. You explain your current workload and offer to delegate some of your tasks to accommodate the new project. This way, you’re setting a boundary and providing a solution that works for everyone.

Final Thoughts

As a programmer, getting lost in the code and forgetting about the world outside your IDE is easy. But remember, while your career is a significant part of your life, it’s not the only part. A fulfilling life also includes personal growth, meaningful relationships, and, yes, some well-deserved downtime.

So the next time you’re tempted to make “just one more commit,” pause for a moment. Ask yourself — are you managing your work, or is your work managing you?

The key to a rewarding career and a balanced life lies in how well you manage your time. It starts with you making conscious choices, whether prioritizing tasks with the Eisenhower Box, time-blocking your day, setting strict work hours, taking short breaks, or even learning to say ‘no.’

So make that last commit for the day, and then shut down your computer.

Your future self will thank you for saving your software career.


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