Lockdown Burnout

June 30th 2020

How have you spent your time in lockdown? Well, if you're anything like me, you've been drowning yourself in work and side projects to get through the long lockdown months. It's been glorious, I work in the morning, then geek out on side projects all afternoon. I'm at peak productivity, and have completed so many projects whilst the world has been falling apart.

Last week though, things started to go very wrong.

Monday rolled around, and I was excited for a new week of building things. However, by the end of the day, I'd managed to tick only half of the items off my to-do list. The next day my productivity plummeted even more. My focus had gone, and my work output was tiny.

So, on Wednesday, after a work call in the morning, I headed off to the beach for a relaxing day off. I knew I'd come back feeling refreshed and super productive the day after.

It didn't work though, Thursday was even worse. I sat at my laptop all day and probably achieved 1 hour of useful output. Worse, I was beating myself up because my day off had done nothing.

I had reached what I now call lockdown burnout. Maybe you've experienced this too. After 3 months of creating, building and coding during lockdown, something inside me had broken. I felt absolutely fine, I wanted to build, but I simply could work no more.

A single day off was not going to fix lockdown burnout. Instead, I took 3 days of pure rest: BBQ's, video games, reading, and even some camping. Not a single line of code was written.

Monday once again arrived, but this time things were different: I ended up having one of the most productive days of my life. One hour of work probably had the same productive output as 5 hours of "work" before my lockdown burnout. I'd gained superpowers.

Lockdown is a creator's dream. Its the ultimate excuse to stay indoors and build things all day. On the flip side, it can be really hard to know when to stop building when there's no end in sight. Programmers are hardwired to build and problem solve. We literally keep going at something until its done, even when you're not actually "doing" much.

Taking a break to get more done can seem so counterintuitive, but it really works. I'm not talking about the odd day off, but several long, uninterrupted days of deep rest to fully recharge.

If you've forgotten to stop the past few months, take a break.