Flies all green ‘n buzzin’ in his dungeon of despair
Prisoners grumble and piss their clothes and scratch their matted hair
A tiny light from a window hole a hundred yards away
Is all they ever get to know about the regular life in the day;
One of Frank Zappa’s most memorable songs, it sings about a dungeon where sinners or maybe crazy people are tortured. Yet, the scene is strangely familiar (well, I hope not the part about urine). I felt specially affected by the part about a tiny light a hundred yards away. How many times have we left the office to find no daylight after putting in 12 hours into a project?
As developers, most of us are motivated and passionate about our jobs. We also usually get to have short delivery times, these two are not a nice combination, we end up trapped in the dungeon that is the lab or our cubicle, typing away like madmen, debugging when we should be sleeping. I’ve been through that many times,strangely enough, I sometimes even enjoy it. I think it all has to do with finding a balance, our work has this characteristic of sometimes having peaks, sometimes because something has to be finished on time, sometimes because we just can’t solve a bug (which, in many cases has a very simple solution which we could’ve solved easily by being well rested).
I’ve found that my balance comes from accepting these peaks of work, but not letting them last too long, maybe a week or two of hard work, versus a month of normal work. Sometimes you have to be strong and put your foot down, you have stuff to do and then someone comes over and asks if you can do “a little piece of code that should not take more than a couple of hours”, sometimes I’ll do it, sometimes I’ll say: “sorry, I have too much to do right now”. Most of the times I will try to do it, specially if it’s important or if I’ll get some unique learning out of it, but it’s important to know when to put your foot down. This is were experience comes in handy, learn to know your limits, and learn to know when a two hour task is actually a two hour task…and remember there’s life outside the dungeon of despair we lovingly call office.