I’m not sure how much I’m just normal here, or how much of my inner self I’m revealing, but I’d like to share some strange motivational cycles I’ve been having over the last eighteen months or so.
Back in around 2010, I was working for a small games publisher in Cardiff, it was a salaried position, and I was the only developer. Life was good. There was a lot of work to be done, but it’s quite fun writing PHP code that determines who wins in a fight between the player and a big-tree-man. When that job came to it’s inglorious end I didn’t have a lot of trouble finding a new job as a developer for a streaming video company in Swansea, and that was interesting too. It was a small team and I was quickly made the CTO rather than the lead developer which gave me responsibility of the technology and direction of the technical department. That was cool.
Six months into this new position, I started developing a scary cycle of productivity. I would go through spells of huge motivation where I would single handedly code the latest version of our API, or redesign the architecture of our video advert delivery system. But I’d also get doldrum days (or weeks) where I found it nearly impossible to motivate myself. I’d sit at my desk reading BBC Sport, messing around on Twitter and IRC, and, more worryingly still would get next to nothing done. When I was doing my 1-2 days a week working from home this was even more difficult, with distractions sitting around every corner.
I came to the conclusion that I needed a change; something to kick-start me out of this up and down cycle. So I decided to join Roave part-time, and work on different and new products half my working week while I continued to be CTO at the video advertising company the other half. At first, this was a relief. New and interesting projects every few weeks or months would surely keep me fresh.
But it actually made things worse.
Now I only took home half my salary plus whatever time I billed on my freelance work. When I was in an upward phase this was great, but when I was in a motivational slump things were terrible. Now I had to complete work to get paid, and that’s actually a worse position to be in. It started to get very bad with me anxious even during the productive phases that a non-productive phase was around the corner. I started to worry about my income, which is a natural thing when you are married with two kids, but that worry became a constant weight around my neck. I stopped sleeping and actually missed doing any work around Christmas 2013.
Luckily, the person who was hiring me at the time was a very, very nice man. I passed some of the work given to me onto another developer friend to take some of the pressure off the deadlines, but things really weren’t improving. So I did something counter-intuative and went back to working full time at the company in Swansea. This definitely took one of the stresses away, I knew exactly what was going into my bank account and when, but the slumps in motivation quickly returned.
Then I took the most extreme measure yet. I decided that I had to have a clean break from the problem and try and start again in a new environment. So, without any idea of what I would do afterwards, I put in my notice at the full time company in Swansea.
I’m under two weeks (at the time of writing) from leaving that company and starting to work full time for Zend as their Technical Lead for Training and Certification. Effectively this means I’ll be responsible for ensuring the quality of all technical training and certification material, along with promoting those products in the community, and taking some training myself. This is no less responsibility than my current role in my mind. I’ve had to complete the very long three month notice period which has obviously been difficult in itself.
But I’m excited. I have a ten day holiday with the family booked for the end of the month, and when I come back I can’t wait to get going full time at my dream job with Zend. It’s hard to judge how my productivity is faring at the moment because I think it’s natural to see a decline as you work out your notice in an old job. At this point I’m feeling run down and constantly tired (I’m working part-time for Zend as I finish here), and I still have the worry that I’m crazy taking a full time remote position with my history of productivity being in cycles.
I’m wondering if I can alter my lifestyle, exercise more perhaps, or change my diet to help. These may seem extreme measures but I’m willing to do what I can to try and cut these problems out of my daily life.