Leaena

Engineering Block? – Having Time to Work on Your Own Projects Is a Privilege

Aug
24

Sleeping kitten breathing

Confession: I haven’t touched code outside of work in weeks. I’ve spent most of my free time recharging. Snuggling cats, hanging out with friends, being a slug on the couch and binge watching tv. All of these things lately have been much more exciting to me than poking at code that isn’t work related. I’m not the only one who feels this way. But I also know that I’m in the minority of people who don’t have a lot of extenuating circumstances surrounding their free time. I don’t have a family to take care of (unless you count my cats and my friends – which I do).

It seems to be that we as engineers are expected to code all the time. I myself used to want to “live and breathe code”, but that takes an awful lot of brain power and I’m not sure the type of person it makes me. You see, I am firmly in agreement that coding feels like a foreign language (side note: I don’t agree with the arguments that coding should count as a foreign language requirement, they definitely fill different niches in that regard). And spending your whole working life translating a foreign language is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it’s AWESOME that I can think of something that would be useful for me to have and then I can go build it, but after I’ve spent at least 8 hours in at least one foreign language I just want to go home and let my brain thing in English for a while.

Oui kitten with beret

What’s especially hard (for me at least) is that I feel like I’m slacking if I just use technologies and frameworks I already know about in personal projects. If I’m going to be working on a personal project I should be learning something, right? So I get super sidetracked and slowed down learning all sorts of new things and then by the time I get back to the task at hand I’m exhausted and want no part of it.

I think probably the best way for me to handle this is to try to get back into it with just fun projects, projects that I don’t have to research, the just have to get built. But I also have to allow myself the possibility that personal projects might just not be for me. I can get my coding kicks outside of work by mentoring, attending conferences and even just reading about code.

  • Hi Leaena, I totally agree with you! I have the same conundrum… so many ideas but totally wiped by the time I get home or done with my day if I work from home. What about open source projects? Maybe that is a way in where we can poke away along with others and not have over achiever let down for not ‘completing’ something. I also totally know the rabbit hole of which you speak when tangental learning sidetracks me from the original idea for hours until I circle back around and only have the energy to close my laptop and watch a re-run of Sherlock. 🙂

  • AfterCrying

    You are in good company. I don’t code all the time on my off time. I read, play games, putter around the office, play music, write, or just catch up on Z’s. When I do code on my off time, usually my goal is *fun*. I’m not always using the latest and greatest, or breaking new ground with my personal projects, but when I do it’s because it’s something I think I’ll have fun doing!

    As far as foreign languages go: thinking in code has gotten a bit easier for me over the years, and lots of practice in developer technical support answering basic coding questions allowed me to get quite proficient at the basics – but it’s still challenging! Whenever I play with Haskell (which I do occasionally do in my spare time) it is particularly driven home to me how foreign a language it is – I always feel like I’m croaking out some badly-pronounced phrases from my tourist handbook when I code in it. To me, that’s part of the fun. 🙂