7 Keys to Developer Health


Rarely do we discuss the mental and physical challenges that come with development…lets open up this conversation now with 7 ways you can have a more balanced Development Life!

It’s no secret, many of us develop so much and work so hard that we end up DREAMING in code! As a person who’s burnt out many times (And yes even landed myself into the Hospital on occasion from it), I’ve learnt that it is NEVER worth putting your health at risk PERIOD!
These next 7 keys, tips and tools have helped me and I hope to really bring up this conversation inside of you to focus on a healthy balanced lifestyle as well so that more of us are LIVING LONGER and pushing a health first developer economy!

1. You NEED to take a break!

So many times we as developers work hard, I mean literally overwork! 16-24 hours, some will even pull in no sleep for even longer than that! Not only is your cognitive thinking completely useless at that point, your motor skills and judgement skills are literally 0% or even negative. Sometimes you get stuck on code and you just dont want to leave until you solve it.
Did you know that if you JUST WENT TO BED you may actually solve the challenge in your dreams? It’s happened to me time and again that during or even after a great nights sleep, when I come right back to the code, it’s like I can magically see the issue and solve it!
Lack of sleep and breaks can literally lead to all kinds of diseases and illnesses (I’ve personally found I catch colds and flus easier when that happens). Take a look at this article link on 11 Effects of Sleep Deprivation, its pretty crazy => https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body#1.
SO What the heck can we do to help us with this?
    1. TAKE BREAKS! That’s right, if it’s a coffee walk with the team or just taking a step away from the code, DO IT! You’ll come back refreshed and even better for it!
    1. Get a FULL rest! Don’t SKIP this! A minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep is what I recommend (As do many other experts out there, but this is just from my personal experience).
    1. Power Naps in the Day! On my way to work in the Trains/Subways I’d take power naps for a part of the trip. I use a tool called Pzizz to help me with this, it’s the most incredible app that takes you through an incredible sleep cycle style experience and you wake up feeling refreshed, even after 15-20 minutes of a nap! Here is the link to Pzizz if you want to try it out => https://pzizz.com/
  1. GO HOME! (BIG POINT HERE!!!) Too often we overwork so hard to try and hit deadlines and complete sprints. But to be honest if a company needs their developer LONGER than a normal 8 hour shift, then they need to get realistic (THIS IS TO THE COMPANIES OUT THERE) and hire more staff to pickup the loose ends. Unfortunately the reality is that this rarely happens in our industry and thus we as developers suffer and have to work 10-12 and even sometimes 14-16+ hours. Don’t be afraid to leave at the right LEGAL times, anything longer and it’s pretty much illegal (Not to mention UNHEALTHY) and you shouldn’t be penalized for working a proper full 8 hour shift. Any company that wants to combat this point is UNETHICAL in my opinion and if you do get removed from your job FOR WORKING AN 8 HOUR SHIFT you’re better off! We are PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS and DEVELOPERS, not hamsters on a hamster wheel and the INDUSTRY should respect that. Other industries are happy if you work a full 8 hour shift yet in our industry it seems to be something frowned upon if you aren’t staying overtime. I FOR ONE BELIEVE THIS MINDSET MUST CHANGE! No one wins if you’re sick or worse in the hospital or DEAD! ENOUGH SAID! PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH!

 

2. Go To The Gym / Workout

It’s no secret, you inherently know that you need to work your body out. Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day will keep you living longer and healthier than most!
Stand up at work, infact if you can take at least 1-2 hours in the day to swap desks to a standing desk to help you out, DO IT! FIDGET!! Yes that’s right, shake a body part (A foot, an arm, whatever), get a fidget spinner, but little movement is better than none. I personally have a rubiks cube as my fidget spinner and its been helpful to me! I also have a standing desk and stand for a good amount of time.
Early to Bed and Early to Rise, I usually will wake up around 3-5 times in the main week (M-F) at around 6am and I try to get to bed by around 10pm. I get into the gym by around 6:30am/7am and work out. This ONE habit alone sets the ENTIRE tone of my day and I am able to go into my work crushing any challenge that comes in my path.
Now of course I’m not going to tell you how to get your physical health done as every person is different, however I WILL tell you to do some physical activity. It could be daily sports or daily walking but something that gets your heart pumping for a good 30 minutes daily should help you out (Of course talk to your medical professional about options).
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Yes that’s Me and Yes my Muscles are REAL! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 3-5 times a week working out around 30-45 min has led to that after 8 years of doing it.

3. Meditate

Our brains are so wired thinking so much that we forget to take some time to just focus on OURSELVES! Meditation is simply just closing your eyes and thinking about well…nothing really…just letting your mind unwind as you focus on your breathing. It’s an opportunity for your brain to mentally let lose and is different than dreaming or sleep.
During meditation time, ideas and thoughts have an opportunity to come together! I can’t tell you how many times I solved a problem or overcame a challenge just by using this one exercise daily! If you spend just 30 minutes a day (Preferably right after you wake up) doing this one habit it will literally take you to new levels you never even imagined! I do this every morning when I wake up and I plan my day during meditation. It’s an incredible tool on your way to health as a developer and I highly recommend you try it out!

4. Make Time for Friends and Family

Our industry is one of the most INTROVERTED industries around. Its so easy to fall into the trap of talking to no one and meeting no one and just being stuck inside your code. Sometimes we forget even why we do it (And other times some people do it JUST so that they don’t have to socially interact). This is a VERY dangerous thing and should be discouraged completely!
Human beings NEED interaction, it’s something that we all need in order to grow and most importantly in order to live. We as an industry do NOT discuss these topics much so I’m going to put it out there that YOU NEED TO MAKE FRIENDS! That’s right, and for others who already do this, you need to spend time with your friends and family.
Infact in a New York Times Article (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html) out of 7,000 people surveyed they found that โ€œpeople who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties,โ€… Now I don’t know about you but that is pretty scary!
For some it is really scary to shake a persons hand or say hello, but I recommend going out there and making a few friends and making some connections. We as an industry should definitely push for this! Please GO OUT to group events such as team building events like Laser Tag or other fun things. You may end up working with some of these very people in a future project and they may remember you as the person who helped them win in Laser Tag!
Another important area is FAMILY! This is for the family men and women out there who have kids and spouses. Please take the time to be a part of your families lives. I make it a point to SCHEDULE in my family time. If you do not schedule in a definite time like “After 7pm every day, and every Saturday” (Or whatever it is for you which is DEDICATED FAMILY TIME) you may miss out the very reason why you are working so hard for!
At my home I created a new tradition (Which I hope you take and do as well) called Family Tuesday. It’s a day in the week that the family comes together, sits down at the dinner table and we say one good thing about each other such as a praise or something kind. We then play a board game after dinner and connect with each other. The general rule is only one or two people are allowed (Usually the parents or heads of the household) to have devices/phones for emergencies only. The goal is NOT to be on the phone but to be really present (mentally and physically) with the family (not buzzing away on a phone or watching tv in another room).
This one tradition has helped strengthen my family bond and I hope you try it out and use it as a tradition in your own families as well so you never forget why you’re working so hard ๐Ÿ™‚ You wont have a time machine to go back to cherish the precious moments as your family grows so ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

5. Eat Healthy

My goodness how often do we as developers screw this one up?! From in-office snack rooms to the ever increasing 2-3 times a day coffee runs, developer diets are among the WORST diets around! Unfortunately it leads to many diseases, obesity and chronic illnesses. What’s worse is that an unhealthy diet also SLOWS YOU DOWN mentally and physically! It’s no secret that processed foods are bad for you, and eating healthy is generally a challenge for many. So HOW can we become more health conscious as an industry?
Step 1 is to become a CONSCIOUS eater! That’s right, YOU need to decide what goes in your mouth. Easier said than done at times, but in general if you know it’s not good for you, don’t put it in your mouth! What has worked for me has been sticking to vegetables and fruit (IN THAT ORDER) focusing on more leafy greens when I can (Salads over fries, grilled chicken over fried chicken, etc.).
Take time to learn about what works for your body. For me I’m lactose intolerant, I didn’t know this until many years later!! Give me a milkshake and I’ll be in the washroom and in pain and worse, bloated and won’t lose any weight. Once I found what foods and diet worked for me (Speak to a physician and/or a nutritionist) I was able to easily lose pounds faster and keep the weight off (Obviously I exercise as well so that helps out big time).
Choose Tea over Coffee during coffee runs, and drink a solid 6-8 glasses of water in the day. Your body will thank you and you’ll notice you’ll have more energy and have a clearer mind. We all know how lethargic we get after a heavy lunch, and so I recommend keeping meals light rather than 3 large meals. I split my meals up into smaller meals (4-6 in a day if possible, including little snacks such as nuts, veggies and fruits). When you’ve got a large coding problem and it’s afternoon time, you’ll be surprised how you’ll be able to overcome it with that additional energy boost. I’ve had many times with heavy meals that I can barely stay awake and thus get nothing done in the afternoon times after that. People who are working right now know EXACTLY what I mean lol!
Step 2 is to make a meal plan and start planning out your week ahead! Figure out what foods will give you better vitamins, minerals and nutrients. There are helpful meal planning apps out there on the app store that can help you with that. One I’ve used in the past has been Meal Prep Pro (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mealpreppro-meal-prep-planner/id1249805978?mt=8) which helps me to pre-cook meals and have lunches ready to go. Not only do I end up eating healthier I also end up saving MONEY! That’s a HUGE WIN for sure!

6. Have Fun and LAUGH!

Laughter truly is the best medicine and we tend to forget to do this. It’s okay to have fun and enjoy the time we spend when working hard on big projects. From planning to sprint meetings to interviewing potential candidates for your team and much more, we need to take the time to have a little fun.
One thing I like to do is put a smile on a person’s face who is having a rough day. When they are out of a coding session (When they are outside of the Zone, you know what I mean) I’ll sit down with them, tell them something positive or in a team meeting (If the entire team is not at their peak level) I’ll uplift the team with positive words of inspiration or make everyone laugh with a fun little joke (keep them clean!) but something to lighten the mood. From doing a magic trick, to telling someone they are valued and appreciated, laughter and joy literally changes the environment and makes the work move along much more smoothly and in many cases dev teams become more productive. Even things such as sprint planning can become more fun by using Fibonacci cards or some other fun scrum tools out there to make the meeting times less boring. See what works and HAVE SOME FUN!

7. Think Win-Win

This is one right out of Stephen R. Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (I highly recommend you grab a copy at your local book store!). So many times we’re working so hard focused only ourselves that we forget that a TEAM effort is ultimately what wins in the end. There has never been a time that I can remember that any major undertaking was ever done by ONE person alone. There may be one person who people may attribute to as the “leader” or “visionary” but they never got there alone. From Steve Jobs to Bill Gates to any success in our industry. It was a TEAM EFFORT that led to world class results and the only way you can achieve that is by thinking as a member of the team.
Too many times in our industry it can become easy to think that we are “the best” or that we dont have to care about others as long as you got your sprint or tickets done and all your JIRA’s are closed you’re good to go (For those who don’t use JIRA think of any ticketing system or items you complete in your sprint as tickets). I’d recommend you get up, go walk over to other developers and see how you can help them out achieve their sprint goals. Not only will they thank you for it if you help them solve the issue, your team will complete sprints faster and you’ll all succeed as you release updates more often thus => Happy End Users! Another nice benefit of this is you will learn exactly how and where your code is being used and will get to see things from your other team members perspectives. This will allow you to adjust your code over time to be able to better accommodate your peers which in turn means faster turn around times for code and of course most likely an added boost to your paychecks as your team gets promoted more often for hitting targets!
Many hands make for light work!

Conclusion

So to end this off here, I hope you take some time out after reading this to go out there and look at your life right now and make some adjustments so that you live longer and have a more balanced lifestyle. I really hope we as an industry focus more on healthy developer habits and support a great health first culture so that our teams can work better and become more productive.
Now go make some awesome games! You are a super star! Keep up the great work and NEVER GIVE UP! You Got This!! BE A CHAMPION!
Nav is a Unity Live Expert and Mobile Game and App Developer

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