Developer growth

The importance of time off

Burnout is a difficult topic that people experience in varying degrees throughout their professional and personal lives. Demands from our modern societies take their toll through ever-growing expectations from others, ourselves and what we believe others expect from us. There is a great deal of focus on how we can do more, but not on how to do less. Which is why I was positively surprised about a recent article from HBR which promoted the value of down-time.

The skill of “Not doing”

“We don’t have the capacity to do it all, just as we cannot have it all.

– Steven D’Souza

The article goes into a burnout-experience of Steven D’Souza, and emphasizes the need to slow down, and prioritize time for actively “not-doing”. He goes specifically into three non-activities that may aid in reducing the chances of experiencing a full-fledged burnout.

Becoming more aware of “close enemies.” – Being aware of how similar words/concepts may have completely different meanings. His example is “endurance” vs “resilience”. Where endurance is focused on the doing and resilience on replenishing or restoration.

Welcoming gaps as opportunities to rest, not inconveniences. – Learning to embrace the value of idle-time. We are often restless when we experience inefficient time “in between” activities and try to fill this with checking our phones / mail. He suggests we embrace breathing techniques to aid in embracing the value of these moments.

Creating a “not do” list. – Actively targeting your own bad habits and creating a “not do” list that you can make a conscious effort to follow-up. An example is no social media in evenings, or no phone when with family. Also to share your “not do” list with others for accountability.

The article seemed to strike home with many on twitter, and popped up on my twitter feeds as well:


D’Souza’s suggestions resonate quite well with me, especially when looking back at my own thoughts on balance from my burnout experience.

“Balance is aligning with your values & priorities and then seeking out to figure what to spend time on. Or more importantly, what not to spend time on.”

Pavneet Singh Saund

A dear colleague & friend of mine and I recently did a talk at a conference, which was a fun, yet exhausting experience. His reaction to getting back home is inspiring, yet down to earth and humble. It’s also an example of having the right priorities and charging up batteries in a meaningful way.

Espen Dallokken wrote a wonderful post on the value he finds in taking time off. It’s yet another reminder that the things that people promote at conferences, on social media and put in movies are just the tip of the iceberg. These people also need to wind down, find balance and realign themselves before pushing forward again.

Just a reminder

We spend hours honing our skills, and doing wonderful things for others through the code we write and products we deliver. But what about afterwards? Are we able to sit back and be content with the hard work we’ve done and take our work-hats off for a time? Giving your mind, body and soul time-off is extremely important, yet we forget it far too often.

Consider this a reminder to set your priorities straight and reflect on how you’re spending your time. Or rather how you’re not spending your time.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any thoughts, questions or criticisms. Or leave a comment below.