For more than a month we have been discussing various characteristics of being a professional programmer. We mentioned the individual aspect, which includes defining career goals and realizing them. Then, we talked about the professional approach from the business perspective, including topics of negotiating both the technology and the contract. Today, I would like to conclude the series with a final viewpoint on the subject of being a professional programmer.
Personal and business attitudes are critical to knowing what you are doing and following the right direction. However, the aspect of maintaining this path throughout time is probably as vital but usually underestimated.
Building your career takes time, and your body and mind are the essential tools you have to achieve that goal. Learning how to use and maintain them is key if you are to succeed.
Let’s start with the situation that happens very frequently. That is forcing yourself to work when you feel unwell, usually making the condition deteriorate and the whole circumstance worse. The professional approach is not defined by being always accessible but instead understanding that it is impossible and, as a result, minimizing the possibilities of problematic absences. It is far better to take a day or two off and get back on track as soon as possible than wasting your, and everyone’s around you, time working inefficiently and recovering far longer. In the worst-case scenario, it is increasing the possibility of more severe conditions to last for weeks.
Of course, there are situations when you have to do something right now because there is a lot at stake, but this is not the case most of the time. The only reason that usually drives people in such circumstances is a deformed feeling of responsibility with a complete disregard for future disadvantages. As a result, we pay a high price for a short-term gain, in addition, ending with a false belief that we did as much as we could. We didn’t.
The solution is to learn your body’s responses in certain conditions. Everybody is different, and certain things affect people in various ways. When you know yourself, you can increase your high-level capacity by pushing the brake at the right time, preventing unwelcomed results as you predict them ahead of time.
There are many articles about how to focus better and how to work more efficiently. Those concepts are trendy among programmers. Working more, sleeping less, staying alert longer, sometimes with some pills, are promising when you seek rapid development and want to outrace others with the knowledge of the ever-changing technology.
That reminds me of “greedy algorithms” that are pretty efficient in finding some more or less accurate solutions by selecting the best option at any given moment. Unfortunately, one-dimensional optimization rarely finds itself useful in the game of life. There are many aspects that we tend to ignore in the mid to long-term perspective.
It turns out that the quality relaxation is as relevant as the amount of time of highly-focused work. Without that in mind, you risk overexertion, chronic stress, and irregularities in your daily routines. All of that may lead to various physical and mental problems, including a cardiovascular disease and anxiety, just to name a few.
The main problem with many productivity ideas is that they assume that your body and mind will work as properly as they are right now, so you can push yourself to the limits. What really happens is that when you change your routines, you change the context as well. Spending more time in stressful situations and less time in leisure will have an impact on you. Thus, the only way to achieve your goals is to keep the proper balance.
Making small incremental changes will help you improve steadily and increase the ability to recover when something unpredictable happens. Be responsible with your health, especially if everything is well, because that’s when we tend to pay less attention to negative aspects of our decisions.
When you feel confident about your short and mid-term decisions regarding your professional life, you may want to take a moment to think in terms of a really long time, like 5, 10, or 20 years from now. The most common suggestions you may hear are things like being in good physical shape, eating healthy food, and sleeping well. However, when we consider overall well-being for the following decades, we mustn’t forget about the proper perspective on life.
When you aim for a satisfying and balanced life, you have to define what constitutes the actual you and what affects this image from the outside. The first thing to notice is the time. When you determine your wellbeing, you cannot consider only the present moment or the state in three months from now. Instead, you have to take into consideration the whole span of your life. Another thing to notice is that you are not in a void throughout your presence but actually among other people. That is why, you have to consider the different lives of people around you, to make sure those interactions will bring you good.
All in all, to make sure you will have a proper perspective, you cannot pay attention only to the current situation and the current you. On the contrary, you need to consider all the future circumstances and all the people around you. Only that attitude will help you design a pleasant life.
Humans are extremely social creatures, so whether you like it or not, there is an excellent chance that you need people around you to live and work productively for more extended periods. Don’t ignore those feelings, because you can do it only for so long until the negative consequences reveal themselves many years from now. Severe lack of those interactions may lead to mental health issues, and then as the psychological state deteriorates, it brings down the physical one as well.
Investing in a relationship, your friends and family is challenging and takes a lot of time. This time may not be productive as you like, but the alternative is the abrupt end of productivity somewhere in the future. Time spent with your close ones is an investment in your long and successful career.
Being a professional programmer is about more than just the technological aspect of your career. Pragmatic decisions throughout your entire life define absolute professionalism because those choices affect your body and mind and thus impact your career immensely.
Every change in your routine may bring advantages and disadvantages in many ways, don’t focus yourself purely on the positive sides, and don’t forget about potential negative consequences.
The most important lesson is not only to be professional and reliable right now but instead to be consistent in your endeavor. Maintaining that consistency is not easy and requires a proper perspective on your abilities and limitations. Be professional long term!