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Developer burn out!

08-13-2011, 06:50 PM
#1
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Victoria BC
Posts: 1,170
Developer burn out!

My team (iLifeTouch) is overworked, dead tired and not as productive as I would like them to be. We are taking a 3 day weekend but my worry is on Tuesday when they get back, we might quickly fall in to the same routine and the same symptoms will quickly set in again. (including bugs and mistakes)

We have specialized in utility apps that are tedious and boring. Might have to throw in a really fun project just to keep the energy levels up.

We have streamlined the business, meaning everyone (4 man team) has their specific tasks and that is all they do. At the end we pool the different elements together to complete the app. This has worked great for us so far but we want to start pushing the envelope of design a little bit further. The stress will increase and the idea is to figure out a way to handle the next six months more effectively.

We have purchased a folding ping pong table , improved the kitchenette (stocked with food and drink) We are going to hire more staff to take off some of the pressure, we want to reduce the hours, take weekends off.

Basically we are hoping to end up with the same results and efficiencies working 45 to 50 hour weeks. (Instead of living at work)

So my question is what do you guys do when you feel burnt out and lines of code start to melt together? Any secrets?

One nasty thing we have done in the past is to start a new project when we hit a brick wall while coding the current app. Not a great idea since we now have 15 apps that are 75 to 90% done and are taking forever to complete.

One thing is for sure working as a team is 10 times better than being a solo artist.

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Last edited by Syndicated Puzzles; 08-13-2011 at 09:27 PM.
08-13-2011, 07:44 PM
#2
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Hollywood, CA
Posts: 1,869
Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndicated Puzzles View Post
My team (iLifeTouch) is overworked, dead tired and not as productive as I would like them to be. We are taking a 3 day weekend but my worry is on Tuesday when they get back, we might quickly fall in to the same routine and the same symptoms will quickly set in again. (including bugs and mistakes)

We have specialized in utility apps that are tedious and boring. Might have to throw in a really fun project just to keep the energy levels up.

We have streamlined the business, meaning everyone (4 man team) has their specific tasks and that is all they do. At they end we pool the different elements together to complete the app. This has worked great for us so far but we want to start pushing the envelope of design a little bit further. The stress will increase and the idea is to figure out a way to handle the next six months more effectively.

We have purchased a folding ping pong table , improved the kitchenette (stocked with food and drink) We are going to hire more staff to take off some of the pressure, we want to reduce the hours, take weekends off.

Basically we are hoping to end up with the same results and efficiencies working 45 to 50 hour weeks. (Instead of living at work)

So my question is what do you guys do when you feel burnt out and lines of code start to melt together? Any secrets?

One nasty thing we have done in the past is to start a new project when we hit a brick wall while coding the current app. Not a great idea since we now have 15 apps that are 75 to 90% done and are taking forever to complete.

One thing is for sure working as a team is 10 times better than being a solo artist.
hard to say. whoever is running the production should spoil the workers a bit. bring them some food, when they hit the (eventual) late-nights, make sure to let people out a bit early on friday, maybe drag them out to a bar (or strip club :P) after work and buy them a couple of rounds Do what you can to keep morale up, and have meetings with your crew to keep them on the up-and-up about the realities of things, but trying to keep an eye on the positive. keep it light, if you're the boss then "BE the boss" but make sure you are making your employees feel appreciated.

Try to drive home the point that if you can all make it through the rough start-up part, better projects (and more $) will be coming in. Spread it around a little to engender some good will.

Movie nights are good one in a great while, get a nice comfy leather couch and a decent HDTV and put some consoles & games out to invite people to take a break and play with one another. You don't have to go too crazy spending a lot of money, but spend a little so they know you want them to work comfortably and build this thing up.

There are definitely perks to working in a much smaller capacity (tiny teams, 1-4 people) as opposed to the office lifestyle. There's pros and cons in both cases. I've had some of the best experiences of my career in either case; but ultimately I want to be in charge, or at least work alongside people at the top level who share my passion and understanding of how/what/why/when.

08-13-2011, 07:44 PM
#3
Joined: May 2011
Posts: 114
Well, I haven't really developed all that much, but I have been overworked in different jobs a lot. I don't know how feasible it would be, but I always felt the least burned out when I could choose when I was working and when I wasn't. Sometimes the solution to some problem I was working out would hit me at midnight and it was great to be able to work then and then play video games during the next day.

I've always felt that having set work schedules were a somewhat antiquated notion in the tech world, and that letting people make more of their own hours with an eye on deadlines was a better way to go. Working for myself now, I program 10 - 12 hours a day no problem since if I feel like I'm getting burnt, I can take an hour break to play video games or read the news.

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08-13-2011, 07:57 PM
#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndicated Puzzles View Post

One nasty thing we have done in the past is to start a new project when we hit a brick wall while coding the current app. Not a great idea since we now have 15 apps that are 75 to 90% done and are taking forever to complete.
I would focus on finishing as many of the apps as you can. Nothing picks up the motivation more than getting things finished.

Also you learn do and don'ts for each project so doing them in parallel means you are missing some of the lessons learnt for the next project.

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08-13-2011, 08:18 PM
#5
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Victoria BC
Posts: 1,170
Thanks for the responses some good stuff to digest. One thing I forgot to mention is we have created a code library where we place stuff for future use. This has been a great resource and time saver. It actually has enabled us to build some smaller apps directly using these resources.

One thing that is crucial to any team is how the team gets along as a group. The more employees you add to the mix the harder it gets to keep everyone happy.

STR8TS , STR8TS 6X6 , DOMINO DICE , PUZZLE DICE,
CAVEMAN TEST, 1 TO 25, SUDOKU+STR8TS, ZARTE, ABSORB WATER, YOU, TIME SHEET (PHOTO VERIFIED),Office Alarm, Travel weather, dock clock,
08-14-2011, 12:45 AM
#6
A 3-day weekend sounds like the ticket. My group and I all have other full time jobs, we do the IOS thing in the afternoon and on weekends, meaning insanely long hours for us, with no extra pay for the time we put in. We force ourselves to take the occasional weekend off.

And I mean a sitting on the couch, being useless and sleeping for 12 hours a night type of weekend off. You have to recharge. But when you recharge, you gotta mean it.
08-14-2011, 01:59 AM
#7
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 977
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndicated Puzzles View Post
One nasty thing we have done in the past is to start a new project when we hit a brick wall while coding the current app. Not a great idea since we now have 15 apps that are 75 to 90% done and are taking forever to complete.
This is problem #1 from my perspective. It would be VERY demotivating if I had 15 projects on the go and none of them finished and in the App Store.

Whoever is doing the project management at your company is doing a very poor job of it to allow this many projects to remain incomplete, especially on a 4-man team.

I would get the entire team to focus on getting one of those 90% projects out the door in the next week or two. Try to do the necessary launch marketing too to increase the chances of it being successful.

Then throw a little launch party for your team to celebrate their achievement.

Do it again and again until you are down to 2-3 projects.
08-14-2011, 03:25 AM
#8
My team is spread all over the world. We do skype meetings and have a lot of way to communicate, but one thing I used to do for motivation and productivity boost is rent a cool house in the countryside for 15 days and gather everyone. We work from 9AM to 10Pm then have fun and play games. Tiring but the result after 15 days is crazy, like 1.5 month of work.

But that's more for motivation and productivity than burnout...

I read that when Double Fine was working hard finishing Brutal Legend, everyone was going crazy and Tim Schaffer had them all take a 2 week break creating crazy projects by team of 5 or 6. That gave birth to Costume Quest, Stackings etc.

Personnally, I' usually burn myself in every project. Work too much, don't take enough breaks... And I'm in it right now so I'm a very bad advisor. Probably the thing is work less. Be reasonnable on the long time. A 3 days weekend when you are burned isn't enough. A month would be the minimum. 4 worked weekends a year should be the max.

So all in all, finish some apps, take a good holiday break, and when starting something new: change you habits. Take your weekends.
08-14-2011, 08:57 AM
#9
Joined: May 2010
Location: Lincoln, UK
Posts: 344
Even working 45-50 hours every week is counterproductive as you get burned out. Longer hours don't make you productive as many hours are wasted making mistakes because you are too tired, and more hours spent fixing them.

Working weekends should be the exception rather than the rule, and at least 1 week in 4 nobody is allowed to do any extra hours. Go home, have a life, arrive at work refreshed and enthusiastic.

And think it terms of productivity being how many apps you release, not hours worked. So get those part uncompleted projects finished. The most likely reason you are hitting walls is because you are burnt out, solving that is the first issue.
08-14-2011, 09:32 AM
#10
Joined: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Canada
Posts: 245
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonjump View Post
Even working 45-50 hours every week is counterproductive as you get burned out. Longer hours don't make you productive as many hours are wasted making mistakes because you are too tired, and more hours spent fixing them.

Working weekends should be the exception rather than the rule, and at least 1 week in 4 nobody is allowed to do any extra hours. Go home, have a life, arrive at work refreshed and enthusiastic.

And think it terms of productivity being how many apps you release, not hours worked. So get those part uncompleted projects finished. The most likely reason you are hitting walls is because you are burnt out, solving that is the first issue.
That bit is the most important. It's harder to concentrate when you're tired. We all want to get things done and quickly, but taking breaks is also important. Sometime I find that solutions to problems sometimes come when you're thinking or doing something else. Passion and desire are great when working on a project, but you have to enjoy the process to get the most out of it and be truly fulfilled and energized by it. As well all know, it takes a lot of hard work to start off with .......... but who says it can't be fun as well.

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