How to avoid burnout as a software engineer?

As a software engineer, burnout can be a shared experience due to the demanding nature of the job. I've experienced burnout several times throughout my career, and I've learned that it's crucial to prioritize self-care and find a healthy work-life balance.

Here are six strategies that have helped me avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is essential to avoid feeling overwhelmed and burning out.

Even if I'm building a new personal application, I break it down into more minor features and more manageable tasks that could be finished within a set timeframe. This can help manage workload and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the work left to do.

For guidance on how to do this effectively, I recommend checking out "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen and "Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones" by James Clear.

Workload management

Managing your workload is crucial to avoid burnout. Prioritize your tasks based on their urgency and importance. Use project management tools like Trello or Asana to help you manage your workload effectively.

When working on a complex project with several deadlines, I used project management tools to help me prioritize my tasks. This allowed me to break down the project into smaller tasks and track my progress, which helped me manage my workload effectively.

For further reading on this topic, I recommend checking out "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" by Cal Newport and "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown.

Effective work

In addition to managing your workload, it's important to work efficiently and prioritize your tasks effectively. One technique I've found helpful is the philosophy of "One Thing." This philosophy, popularized by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book "The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results" involves focusing on the most important task that will impact your goals most.

When you're feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, trying to tackle everything on your to-do list at once can be tempting. But you can achieve more excellent results in less time by prioritizing the most critical task and focusing all your energy on completing it.

For example, if you're working on a project with several deadlines, it's easy to get caught up in completing all tasks simultaneously. However, by focusing on the one most important task to complete the project, you can make significant progress and reduce your stress levels.

In addition to helping you work more efficiently, the "One Thing" philosophy can help you avoid burnout by helping you prioritize your tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on the most important task allows you to progress on your goals while avoiding the stress of doing too much at once.


Taking breaks is essential to recharge your batteries and avoid burnout. Step away from your computer and engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, like taking a walk, meditating, or listening to music.

I worked on Headspace, but nowadays, I use Calm for my mindfulness routine.

For further reading on the benefits of taking breaks, I recommend checking out "The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal" by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz and "Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less" by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.

One example is when I sometimes work on a project for 10+ hours without taking a break, even if I'm in the flow at that moment. It has brutal repercussions the next day. I usually feel like a zombie. Instead, if I break my work into 60-90 min blocks with 10-15-minute breaks, I can keep myself productive the whole week.


Practicing self-care is crucial to avoid burnout. Take care of your physical and mental health by eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

When I wasn't taking care of myself as well as I could be and didn't eat well, I wasn't very productive. When I started doing bodybuilding at a pro level, although it's hard physically, it helped me feel more energized and effective, improving my work performance.

For further reading on this topic, I recommend checking out "The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life" by Shawn Achor and "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" by Bessel van der Kolk.


Setting boundaries is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Be clear about your working hours and ensure you have time for activities outside of work.

Sometimes I see people put in overtime because of imposter syndrome. It's a familiar feeling among software engineers. Recognize that everyone experiences imposter syndrome at some point in their career. I often do, even though I've achieved a lot in my career, and one would think it should be enough, but our mind likes to play tricks on our perception of ourselves.

Talk to your peers, mentors, or a therapist to help you develop strategies to overcome these feelings.

One example is when I used overwork as a badge of honor when I was younger, working 60-80 hours per week. I realized this was not a healthy way to live and that I needed to set boundaries. I learned to relax and enjoy the non-productive time, even though it took some time to stop hearing a voice in my head, 'you could be doing something more productive' when I just wanted to play some games or chill with music.

Related book "The Imposter Syndrome Remedy: A 30-Day Action Plan to Stop Feeling Like a Fraud" by Emee Vida Estacio


In summary, burnout is a common experience for software engineers due to the demanding nature of the job.

Setting realistic goals, managing workload, taking breaks, practicing self-care, and setting boundaries are crucial to avoid burnout. These strategies help to maintain a healthy work-life balance, avoid feeling overwhelmed, and prevent burnout.

By prioritizing self-care and finding a healthy work-life balance, software engineers can continue to perform at a high level without sacrificing their mental and physical health.

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