Software development is a stressful position. You’ll be making accommodations for demanding clients, writing hundreds of lines of code, solving mystery bugs, and working long hours in pursuit of your goals. If you’re passionate about your work, you might be tempted to work as much as possible, cycling in new projects on a near-constant basis and pushing to meet every deadline. However, if you want to boost your productivity and stave off burnout, it’s far better to take vacations periodically.
The Benefits of Vacations
Vacations serve many functions for software developers, including:
- Breaking the routine. Burnout is prevalent in the field of software development, in part due to the demands of a repetitive, stressful routine. You’ll be working long hours most weekdays, staring at a screen in the same environment, with the same people. It can get old after a while. Vacations give you a chance to get away from this, so you can look at it with fresh eyes afterward.
- De-stressing and enjoying yourself. Obviously, vacations give you a chance to de-stress. While you’re away for a few days, you won’t have to worry about what’s going on at work, and you can instead focus on enjoying yourself. It’s an act of self-care that can renew your mental energy and help you be more productive.
- Learning to think in new ways. Under the right circumstances, taking a vacation can actually help you think in new, creative ways. For example, you might visit another culture and get into the mindset of the people there, or you may meet some new, interesting people who challenge some of your biggest assumptions.
How to Take a Vacation as a Software Developer
That said, not all vacations are equal. There are some important tips you’ll want to follow to get the most out of your vacation time:
- Get away from the screen. Your first job is to get away from the screen. Rather than playing video games, watching movies, or wasting time browsing the web, take some time away from digital devices. You spend enough time staring at a computer screen, so consider going camping, hiking, or partaking in some other outdoor activity. Pack a hitch cargo box full of everything you need and try to avoid relying on technology when you’re gone.
- Turn off notifications. If you’re like most people, you’re constantly getting notifications from work, alerting you to new emails, new instant messages, new tasks, and work-related events. These are helpful for keeping you in the loop during the work week, but while you’re on vacation, they’re only going to stress you out. Turn off all notifications, including work-related and non-work-related notifications, allowing only one channel of communication for emergencies.
- Take many consecutive days off. For the most part, it’s psychologically better for you to take off many days in a row, or even a couple of weeks, rather than taking a day or two for a long weekend, or taking off individual days periodically. This gives you time to truly separate from work, allowing you to experience a kind of “reset.” This may be more or less feasible depending on the nature of your work and your employer’s policies. If you accumulate vacation days gradually, make sure you save them up for one big vacation.
- Go somewhere new. While it’s tempting to go somewhere you already know, for nostalgia purposes or because you’ve developed a connection to a certain location, it’s much better for you to go somewhere new. Going somewhere you’ve never been before will totally break your normal routine, and expose you to new sights, new cultures, and new experiences.
- Talk to new people. Along similar lines, you’ll want to go out of your way to talk to new people. You’ll learn something new, or at least get a chance to see life through someone else’s perspective. If you’re lucky, you might run into another software developer and learn something new about the field. You could even find a new job opportunity, or a new client.
- Balance structure and free time. Some people like to take free-spirited vacations, planning nothing and letting their whims guide them. Other people prefer to rigidly structure their schedules, accounting for every minute. In reality, neither of these methods are perfect; one is inherently stressful and limiting, and the other might cause you to miss some important sights and experiences. Try to find a balance between these extremes.
Even if it means postponing a project or making less money temporarily, it’s important to take a vacation—especially if you’re stressed about your work on a regular basis. Ultimately, it’s going to help you be more productive, enjoy your work more, and improve your outlook on the future of your career.