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What to do when you lose motivation

Jun 11, 2012

When your motivation runs short, its time to make some changes

In an effort to contribute more and more articles online which focus on more "human" areas of work and development in the Web Development and Computer Science field, this article covers some blocks which just about everyone runs into in their day to day life as a programmer, designer, developer or code monkey. Your work, your life, your way of thinking is what gets you from point A to point B. It doesn't matter which side of the fence you stand, whether it be Web Development, Open Source development, Rails, PHP, Functional or Imperative programming ... you will run into the same problems in the end if you don't take the next step forward. On occasion, however, everyone runs into blocks, burns out, gets unmotivated or just completely starts to hate their work and life in relation to what they're doing. What's important is not to get stuck or depressed about it, but to analyze and reflect on what's bothering you and move past it.


Over the weekend I was chatting with an old friend who moved to California to work at Google. I brought up an issue that I've been having lately regarding career, work and motivation in what I was doing. You see being a web developer for close to 10 years has made me realize that the web field is heterogenous in regards to talent and skill. The skill of the developer is comparable to what they know, but for them to learn what they know then they must be able to sell their services with confidence and trust. But in the end, all the people who use the internet really just care about if what they're using works properly. So any developer who can make something work is good enough to develop online. When I was bouncing this idea off of my Google friend and he had some interesting advice to shoot back. Lets go into detail on the three major issues that we talked about.

Lack of Motivation

I had mentioned to him that I was very under motivated with what I was doing. The same stack of web development technologies (Rails, MooTools, NGINX, MYSQL, CSS3 and HTML, and their various testing suites) has really began to eat me up lately. Same problems, same bugs, same headaches, same nonsense. His wise words were that if you feel under motivated then its a clear sign that you feel that you're not learning anything new or just bored or unhappy with what you're doing. You may have to consider changing what you're working on or switch jobs completely. Remember that being a programmer isn't all that the computer science field has to offer, so, as long as your passion still lies in that area then its a matter of reiterating your priorities and taking it from there. Simple things such as starting a side project with a completely different stack, learning a new language or starting out from scratch in a completely different area of Computer Science, Web Development, Graphic Design, Engineering are all challenging things that are worth the payoff. Who knows you may find something new that you can mix into your skillset or to switch your focus onto entirely.

Getting Stuck

Whether this comes before or after a lack of motivation its important to pay attention to when you're not moving forward in your career. Only so much the same thing is good, but if you're doing the same thing day in and day out then, despite you being faster and more efficient at what you're doing, you're really just slowing yourself down in the long run. Respect the fact that you took time and effort in studying and becoming who you are and that you can just as easily do the same thing again if you have to. So if you take on a new project where you don't know how to do everything 100% then trust yourself and be confident that when you search for solutions and answers to your problems then they will come very quickly to you since you're focussed on what you're looking for. You won't get stuck when you know what you're looking for, but you will get stuck if you don't know what you're looking for. My Google friend had mentioned that if you feel stuck with where you are then its important to chat with other people in the same industry to see where they are and that could help you figure out where to go next. Such great advice from such a knowledgeable mentor.

Don't Limit Yourself

If you work on sometime long enough then you'll see what you like and what you don't like. The next logical step is to continue working on what you do like and then repeat the process once you get further into what you're working on next. Keep a diary, blog or notes on what intrigues you and what makes drives your passion. The important thing is not to set limits on what you want to accomplish because if you know what you like and and what you don't like chances are that you can really improve what you do enjoy working on and chances are that employers will pay you for it. Remember that your working years are important, but what's more important is to do what makes you happy. It will show in your work, your reputation, your persona, your attitude and in your life if your work isn't making you happy. Maybe you're taking on too much work and the crappy, boring, mundane or repetitive work that you're doing is something that should be delegated or outsourced to someone else. Maybe your rate is too low and you're attracting clients or employers that do not believe that you can do better. Do something about it. There are all kinds of development jobs out there that are by no means standard or match their description, so its really up to you what you want to work on next. Use your imagination in finding out what intrigues you and take the next step forward to manifest that. These kinds of decisions right here are what you need to take so that you can take on bigger challenges.

In regards to what me and my Google mentor chatted about, I brought up this very issue and what the response that he gave me was very similar to what I just wrote in the paragraph above. Be happy that you're aware of what bothers you. Be happy that you realize its time to make a change. This means that you're ready for bigger and better things.

Wrapping it up

So the major areas that I talked about here are Lack of Motivation, Getting Stuck, and Limitation. Pay attention to how long you've worked on the same problems and see if you've gotten any better. Chances are that if you're burnt out, demotivated, angry, frustrated or clueless then its time to make some changes. Feel comfortable to delegate or outsource the boring bits of your work to someone else and take on the areas of the work that you're doing that really makes you passionate and excited to learn and do more. Think about the amazing opportunities that you can give someone else by offering them different work and/or by teaching them how to do it. The more challenging and demanding work will probably pay better so why waste your time doing the disappointing stuff. From there, pay attention to what you want and then go for it. And by no means do not put any limitations on what you wish to accomplish, because chances are that if you feel that its necessary to do then chances are that there is someone out there who is willing to pay you for doing it.

If you made it this far then thank you for reading this article. Please join the Yearofmoo Facebook Page or follow the @yearofmoo on twitter. Be sure to bookmark and share or comment this article if you enjoyed reading it. And if you ever get stuck on sometime in your development career then feel free to revisit this article again to give you insight to take the next step forward.

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