Hi. You probably work at a computer like me. And like me, I’m guessing you love your career. Open-source software in particular seems to attract very passionate people.
It’s easy for me to forget to take care of my mental and physical well-being. Even today, as a cynical jerk in possession of the typical array of freelance client horror stories, long bouts of
stupidity questionable technical goals doing things like working with Objective-C, and even having the fortune of dealing with a few burn-outs over my career, this issue resurfaces periodically.
I’ve gradually learned to spot signs early, and respond by taking a typical vacation, or a variety of other stress-relief measures.
However, much like preventive maintenance on a website, what’s really important are not the staccato occurrences of a two-week long vacation once per year, but your on-going attention to having recurring, healthy practices that minimize the impact on your mind and body that having a badass career in technology creates.
Oh wow! If I just cancel plans with my friends this weekend, I can actually turn this thing into a really handy jQuery library!
Wow, if I just work through the night, I can knock out this client site, and get paid sooner!
STOP IT. Are you starving? Is the rent late? If yes, then just stop reading right now and go hustle. Sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do. But if you’re like most colleagues, you’re a well-paid professional that can afford to give yourself at least a few hours per day in which you concentrate on self.
Hey, look. If you haven’t been nodding along so far here like “duh, Abraham”, I know what you’re saying to yourself. I was there. In weak moments, I still find myself there.
But Rami! My “self” sucks! There is no hope for my mind or body, the core of my psyche is but a massless purgatory, and my body is a mound of shifting sand to which I should pay no attention, as it will surely crumble before me!
I get it. Here’s my anology:
– Your body is a server.
– Your mind is code running on that server.
What happens when you set the max_upload_size to 1kb on a photographers’ site? Or start randomly inserting emoticons into mod_security rules? What happens when you ftp into prod and regex wp_ to lol_?
Bad shit, that’s what happens.
Eating at Burger King for three days in a row, followed by leftover pizza? Yeah, you just installed Joomla! 0.9 into wp-content, way to go pal. Oh cool, you’re going to drink for five days straight, then start on that re-branding project? That’s you moving from a lamp stack with PHP 5.4 to an IIS server with 5.2.
Good luck autoloading your ass out of bed on that one.
I’m a pretty average person, in that I don’t meditate for two hours per morning, or run nine miles every afternoon, or spend $1800 each month on health shakes imported from some tiny village in Peru.
But I want to share the simple routine I do nearly every day:
– Eat a small amount of protein about an hour after I wake (eggs, bacon, maybe a shake or soy product), and a small amount of natural sugars. Have some matcha green tea.
– Code for an hour or so, or practice guitar (anything creative in nature works here) before starting the actual work day. Many people more eloquent than I have written on this concept, including my friend Norcross.
– Silence my mind, if only for a moment. Sort of defrags your memory and focuses you. This is the core tenet of Buddhism, and beyond the comically limited scope of this post, but if there’s any take-away of value here, I believe it to be this.
– Have at least one hearty, old-fashioned lol. Yeah so what, it’s corny. Your mind has creative and analytical power, but it’s also still a reactive muscle. You provide stimuli, then it does things. You bring the lolz === happy brain. It immediately brightens your disposition.
– Define goals for the day. Even if it’s only one. Write it down. Seriously.
– Stop at least once per hour, if only for a moment, and do nothing technical with your mind. Look at a bird. Kiss your husband/wife/child/boyfriend/girlfriend/dog/cat. Space out.
– Cardio. It doesn’t have to be this BIG THING™. If you haven’t been working out – or even if you never have, I know the horrifying mountain that appears to be before you. I tried books, ebooks, trainers, diets; the only thing that helped me was when I forgave myself for focusing on my intellectual pursuits for so long at the expense of letting my body go, and made it ok to start slow.
Do five pushups. Use that exercise bike in the corner of your living room – yeah the one collecting dust with the conference shirts on it – don’t bullshit me, I see it right there. Use it for ten minutes. Just ten. Just today. Too tired after five minutes? Then stop after five minutes.
Forgive yourself. And try to do six minutes tomorrow.
That’s it. This has been a very long and gradual journey to self-improvement, with much more to go, but it’s made an eternity of difference in my life.
You’ll forgive the cliché – but if I can do it, you sure as hell can.
Yeah I don’t have an ebook link or anything down here. Just fucking handle your health shit, ok?