Programming is a really satisfying job. At least most of the time. Personally, I find it very satisfying to be; working on a topic, thinking about the process, the logic, the possible solutions, trying things out, learning and at the end being able to solve a task.

But what happens afterwards? Is that it? You have the strong feeling that there is nothing real left . It’s a common and a well-known fact that brain-workers do not produce something you can touch (tangible). That is the dilemma here: You work on something without having anything real afterwards. Programmers are faced with this issue everyday. Most of the time, though, it’s not a problem for us as we are really and trully ready to tackle the next challenge.

But is this healthy? To look back on a year of hard work and seeing that there is nothing (or at least very little)?

Nothing Left At The End?

I believe that looking back at the work that has been done you are faced with a kind of bias: Everything you are currently doing is hard work. Everything you are doing at the moment will be a success, and that is indeed satisfying.

But when looking back at the things you have done, the achievments seem to look smaller, less important, less heroic. I believe this is normal. This fact is known as the cure of illnesses. If you have a disease or a body disorder everything is bad. You feel ill. You feel bad. You wish that this situation changes quickly. This unhealthy status can remain for weeks. But after you have recovered and have been asked how bad it was, you might say: “Well, it was not that bad!”. This fact is very disturbing to people who might have helped you get up again and are constantly worried about you.

In many types of therapy the client has to define (on a scale of 1 – 10) the itensity of the problem. This usually happens at the begining of the consultation. This examines how bad the client is really feeling. After some sessions of healing treatment, it becomes clear how bad the worries have really been.

Treat Programming As A Disease?

In this case: Yes. How can you define and transfer the statement of “Actually, it was not sooo bad” to your working day? You cannot really define on a scale, how big your programming problem is. This would not help. But there is another way round it that might help:

Document your progress! Write down, what problems you have faced (and managed!), which issues you have solved,. You can then rate the issue as well as establish the size and the importance of the task.

You might do this in a form of a personal diary or perhaps as I do, – in a blog. After you’ve done this a few times you have something to look back and be proud of.

You should record your successes and achievements on the day that you have finished a task or have solved a problem. If you write down your experiences right after your success you are in a good and exalted mood. – I can assure you that two weeks later you will not remember the efforts and struggles you have been dealing with. Or – just as described at the beginning – you will make it less important than it really was…

Positive Sideeffects

I have been for years reprocessing my daily on my blog in German. (why do I mostly write in German? I might write something more about this, further along the line).

If I find out something new, I will write about it. If I solve a problem, I will write about it. Not all the time but quite often. In order to write about it I will need to look at everything again. Check out the original situation. Reconsider the facts. Reduce everything to the main issues. Yes, this takes some time and it is again work to do, but it helps

  • really understand the problem (It hoften happens that something just works but you don’t exactly know why – you are juts happy that it works now…)
  • cleaning up unnecessary code (again: after trying this and that there is often left some code that is useless)
  • spread the word – Help others.
  • helps to understand which things did lead to success (see my blog post The Programmer And The Forgotten Alternatives)
  • at least: I make sure that I remember what problems I have solved, what secrets I revealed.

Just Do It

I logically explained to you why it is important to write down your successes and experiences. So: Just do it! 😀

If you say: “But it’s a lot more work” I will answer: “Yes, that’s true. But this kind of work could belong to your daily routine like many other things like filling out your time sheet or tidying up your desk after a working day.”.

I cannot promise you that you will be healthier, happier or better if you follow my proposal but it could be worth a try. If you find it hard to gain new habits I’d like to recommend BJ Foggs Tiny Habits to you.

Pictures by Pixabay

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  1. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Hmm, interesting…

    Along the lines of “for with much wisdom comes much sorrow” – I’ve been more inclined to do this in the early ABAP days. Now, even if I actually find time, these are the usual stages:

    1. Hm, maybe I should post about this on SCN
    2. Ugh, I’ll definitely catch flack for using routines and Hungarian notations
    3. Need to do more research
    4. Oops, looks like there may have even been a better way to do this…
    5. Oh man, Paul Hardy posted another blog and my stuff does not even compare.
    6. Gah, fuhgeddaboutit!

    I think I have at least 4 blogs sitting out there in Word, never published. Although I guess simply writing might be just as therapeutic. 🙂

    1. Enno Wulff Post author


      That’s exactly what I mean: You must be proud of your success and your achievments. If you think it’s not worth posting it on SCN it’s ok. But only because someone else did the same or better it should not reduce your efforts and should not make you feel little.

      And if you find out that there was a better, more optimized way to do it, you achieved just another goal just by reflecting what you did. You can be proud of what you did even if you don’t tell it in a blog.

      btw: Compared to Paul Hardy everything is wahjustfortgetaboutit…  I guess, everyones monster is smaller and less scary than those of Paul Hardy. 😀


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