What is your work/life balance like?

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industry

#1

Inspired by @JoeZMar’s thread and a conversation I had earlier with @lee (and while it’s all still fresh in my mind!) what is your work/life balance like?

Do you live fast (something I associate with big cities/high property prices/higher earnings/cost of living etc) or do you have a slower, more relaxed pace of life (often associated with the smaller towns/countryside etc). Do you live to work or work to live?

Perhaps a more important question is do you like your current work/life balance? Is there anything you’d change? What? And how do you plan to instigate those changes?


#2

I would say I am right in between slow and fast living. I feel I work to live to work Haha. I work my full time job and then come home and work on my startup. It’s been a time consuming year but finally winding down and trying to get into the business mindset. I am not complaining though. There is nothing more exciting then writing code you enjoy and are proud of in my opinion


#3

Always has been a total mess. Turns out I am one of these people you can very easily stress out and guilt-trip them into working themselves to death. I accepted that several months ago and ever since then I am actively trying to modify that mindset because my health is suffering and there’s only the way down to six feet under if one doesn’t learn to rest properly.

That being said, lately it has been really good! My new employer is fantastic – zero guilt-trips, zero pressure, zero passive-aggressiveness… seriously, can’t complain at all. From then on I am left on my own internal devices which are trying to self-sabotage me regularly but are gradually winding down and I started getting my best sleep sessions ever since I was 16.

Me and my wife enjoy the mixed approach – we live in our country’s capital because we enjoy the access to any and all events it might offer (and they are a lot) but we also are quite aggressive about keeping the noise and stress levels at a minimum back at home. Doesn’t always work, of course.


#4

When I started my apprenticeship as a developer in January 2014, I was super focused on programming. I learned so much, I coded so much, I spent my entire time with doing something software related.

Now, 5 years later, things are a lot different. I refuse to commute 2h to work (and 2h back) each day and demand working from home. I bought a horse last year (best decision ever) and want to get into photography again. I rarely code in my free time and just work for the money. I am not geeking out about software as much as I did 5 years ago. In fact, I have a very critical view about software these days.

IMO, focusing so much on software development let me miss out on so many things. When I was much younger and before I started coding full time, I was far more creative and in a much better mood. Being an uncreative and mostly grumpy person is not directly the result of the act of coding but everything that comes with it, e.g. endless discussions about software stacks, libraries, frameworks, hardware, coding styles, etc. All that stuff just stresses the hell out of me and I felt like I need a break or at least more distance to it.

So for the last 2 years, I tried to build up this distance and find other activities that make me happy. I also try to stay away from the mentioned software and hardware discussions. They are just not worth the struggle.

</rant>


#5

I spent years working as a dev in Paris, and we have a saying to describe the life of people who spend their days working: metro, boulot, dodo (metro/commuting, working, sleeping). After a few years living a drone life, I decided to go back in the countryside where I grew up with my young child, and plan on living working odd jobs now and then until she is old enough to take care of herself (mother lives far away), so probably until next fall. Ideally I would like to code on a half-time basis as that would be enough money whilst giving me time to take care of my family and other things, but that’s probably not an option, so I’ll have to think more about it.

@PhillippOhlandt A horse is too much for me, but I’ll probably buy a pig, some hens, maybe rabbits… Miam :3


#6

Yep, that’s defining me in the last 6 or so months. Life is not only about work, even if we love programming.

Same here. I started noticing survivorship bias and confirmation bias in a lot of so-called “educated” discussions on HN and Reddit. Especially in the lands of C/C++, JS and sysadmin work people are extremely conservative and/or will defend what feeds them to the death. It’s really not worth it engaging with a lot of them.

The more I do my own researches and only participate in discussions where I have something to add, the happier I feel.


#7

Nice thread. I’ll chuck in my quick bio.

I’ve been coding for 20+ years. I launched my first Internet ‘start-up’ (before that was a word) in the late 90s, and sold and launched several others in the early 2000s, in my late teens/early 20s.

I lived for a long time pretty much as what you might call a digital nomad – which seems second nature to Youtubers/social media types these days, but back then was a pretty untrodden path. I travelled around a lot, and moved to a few foreign countries, living off a laptop for 8-10 hours a day, and launching a few small-ish business ideas, before getting involved in some larger CTO-type roles for a number of years.

I’ve always worked remotely, so like most engineers I guess, the lines between work/life have always been pretty blurred. I enjoy coding, so never really deemed it ‘work’ in the typical sense. 8+ hours per day on the laptop was the norm. 10-12+ in the thick of projects that I needed to get out the door. But I think I kept things interesting enough with travel to feel there was a balance.

I’ve been back in the UK for a number of years, and currently live in my (original) small town. This doesn’t really suit me - it’s quite dull and I’ve found encourages me to spend more time indoors and making connections with people remotely, rather than locally. I’m pretty introverted by nature, so don’t tend to seek out large social or professional groups, and am selective who I work with. Still, I like to be surrounded by amenities and culture, and I especially like to be centred around places with great food… so short-term, the plan is to move to a more urban area. I also had some fun start-up related experiences a few years ago in London, taking meetings, raising money, finding talent, that gave me some first-hand experience on the buzz/energy/opportunity that comes to being more ‘in-market’.

I also have different priorities these days. I have a family now. Since my son was born, I don’t automatically default to opening the laptop lid. Life and work is a lot more structured - I plan my days, and try to make every moment count. When I was in my 20s, time was a distant concern; in my 30s, I’m more mindful of its incessant ticking, and making more of it. As a result, I’ve actually become a lot more ambitious, at least in the sense of spending less time on meandering projects. I no longer have just myself to think about, so financially and professionally, my outlook is more focused. I also want my son to grow up somewhere that could help encourage diverse thought, and give him exposure to opportunities and culture that can be somewhat lacking in a smaller town environment. I feel I have less time to muck around.

As a result of time optimisation, a few of the side-effects have become more pronounced for me: I’m more selective of the projects I take on; if I’m not personally excited by it, I pass. I’m generally less tolerant of time wasting in all forms. I watch less media in general, tend not to get caught up in headlines and mainstream news, and try to limit exposure to negative or junk in any form. I have less time for drama or noise, and try to drown that out where possible. I think I probably say ‘no’ a lot more these days and speak my mind more openly because of it, which I’ve found translates to better outcomes overall. Obviously this doesn’t always work out, but I try to be mindful of it.

I’m also a bit less hardcore on playing with tech. I used to love hacking away at stuff for the fun of it. These days, if there’s no obvious ROI, the guilt that I’m wasting time is far more pronounced. I have less interest in hobby-grade projects. Interestingly, I’ve found this has actually increased excitement for the stuff I am working on and tends to focus me more. It was easier in the past to get lost down a rabbit hole and surface 10 hours later, realising the thing I was playing with had no real tangible benefit. I’ve noticed I generally feel a lot better when I have a practical goal to focus my attention on rather than scattershot information consumption. That’s also because I have a larger range of responsibilities and things I need to get done to feel like a productive human being these days; the guilt kicks in if I feel I’m wasting time.

I guess, in a small way, that’s what led me to Elixir. A common thread in the roles I’ve taken on over the last few years has to be the best I could be at full-stack development, so I could advise my teams and partners on what makes sense for a project. Like many engineers, I’ve seen first-hand the effect of framework burnout - stack pieces that go from obscurity to must-have best-practices practically overnight, and then disappear and get replaced by something else a week later. I have less time for fanboyism these days, and don’t select something just because it happens to be cool this week, only if it genuinely brings something worth having to the table.

Elixir and Phoenix seem like solid choices to reach for by default in a large enough number of projects, enough to warrant getting familiar with them. It’s nice to have a de facto stack that answers 90%+ of my infrastructure concerns. That’s not to say I’ll stop learning the alternatives… just that buying into the hype of a new framework is generally less exciting and less worthwhile these days, when there are already ways to achieve the same thing without the constant burnout.

I guess that was a bit longer and probably somewhat tangential to the main question, but I think somewhat related to my general modus operandi in life these days, which is to waste less time and make more of it - at least as best as I can.


#8

I love my work/life balance. I live full time in an RV with my wife and two kids and we travel from state to state every couple weeks. It’s been a complete eye opening experience. We originally thought we’d do it for less than a year, but now we’re on year 3 and saving to buy a Catamaran to hit the ocean and go TranAtlantic.


#9

I’m on the slower side these days but been both over the past few years. We went from Sydney(Bondi/Clovelly), to Toronto(Financial district), to living in an RV travelling around the US and Canada, to Chiang mai and back to Sydney(Clovelly). A few years ago my wife and I left Sydney to move to a small beach town up the coast(Yamba). We’ve moved a bit further south towards a larger town but we’re still about 15 minutes outside it now on 5 acres in the country still near the coast.

I work for myself so I do work a lot but I also work from home so I have a lot of balance there where I will just get up and go hang out with my dogs, or take breaks in the day to go do stuff with my wife.

My current goal is to be able to take a 2 week vacation with no internet access and not have to worry about my businesses/systems. It’s a shared goal with my business partner and myself that we’ve been working towards for a few years now. Not there yet.


#10

I’ve had 30 years in this industry, and I would be happy if I never work in it again. I am at the crossroads and thinking hard about returning to a career in writing. I used to be “always on” back in my enterprise consulting days, and I don’t mind spending long hours on something I enjoy. But, the politics and lack of skill and expertise I find in the IT industry these days is daunting. So, right now I am concentrating on life and trusting that work will follow.


#11

For me this question about work/life balance feels wrong.
Are you aware that it implies that work is not life and life is not work?

This term reflects the mindset that we have to work in order to finance our leisure time. We spend so much time working (including me) that it is a waste of life time (and there is no other time) if we don’t enjoy it.

It is a way of thinking totally accepted by society but I suggest to question it and check if you really want to buy into this way of living your life.


#12

However you look at it, work is something you have to do even if you do not want to in order to survive. Of course it is important to find meaning and worth in our work, but this fact will always remain and even the best job in the world will be tiresome from time to time.

I think the French word for “work” really hits the stake, or is it the nail, on its head: “travail”. Travail derives from the Latin tripalium, which was an instrument of torture (consisting of three stakes). I guess it explains why we don’t usually equate work with fun around here :wink:


#13

This may have been true in the times of ancient latins but is definitely not anymore in modern societies. It’s simply a choice not to take little government money and to earn more for a different lifestyle. And if you deny that you make this choice - well, then you put yourself into a no-choice universe.

If you want to know how these philosophical thoughts translate to software development I can recommend the book “Unscripted” by MJ DeMarco. He gives many useful distinctions I was not aware of and also proposes alternatives to the “I have a job” way of living.

I’m glad I quit my job 5 years ago and enjoy the freedom I have now. However I have to admit that I probably would use my life time differently when I knew I would have only 3 or 6 more months to live. But still I enjoy most of my work including Elixir and Elm programming. :slight_smile:


#14

I agree with the rest of your post, and I have been doing similar choices myself, but that is possible for you or me only because we happen to have skills that are lacking in the marketplace. What was true for Romans is always going to be true, as the vast majority of people has to fight to get a job (low wage or high wage), and live paycheck to paycheck. There are people rich enough nowadays to never even have to think about work, as there were Romans owning enough slaves to do all the work, but that’s just not the reality for the vast majority of people even in heavily socialised countries such as France.

In short, choices exist only for the few whose skills are in demand (and those born rich).


#15

What is your view on business trips?

Next week the customer wants us to be at his office (4h train ride) for two days. We have to arrive on Monday evening and can travel back on Wednesday evening. I am really super upset because of that. I am away from my family, my horse, my social contacts, have basically no free time and won’t even see any money compensation for that.


#16

I do one at least one a month to hit up the Sydney elixir meetup. I live pretty far from anything like a tech scene these days though so it’s a real highlight for me.

You need to be working those expenses into your project fees.


#17

Well, I assume the customer pays us for the 8h we spend in their “workshop” each day. But the other 16 hours of the day which we cannot fully decide what we want to do won’t get paid.


#18

Yeah I mean make it worth your time so those 8 hours make you enough to cover the value of the other 16. That said I have had to travel a lot for work so it’s pretty standard for me and a two day trip wouldn’t phase me where as it sounds like it’s a big inconvenience to you(which is not a bad thing). So maybe there isn’t a value you can put on that to make you happy in which case you need to push back on the client or consider if this is a client you want.


#19

Unfortunately, I don’t make the price, my boss does, and as far as I know, it’s a fixed rate.


#20

If you’re really unhappy with i’d speak with your boss. Otherwise grab a city guide for where you’re going and make it a mini vacation. You don’t have to spend your off time with your colleagues.