Dealing With Developer Overload

Being a developer and being prone to anxiety aren’t what you would consider to be a good mix. Even if a developer isn’t inclined you can certainly understand why today’s web development environment would make any sane person’s head spin. Even “experienced” developers can get dizzy at times figuring out which paths to take forward or even if they are taking the right path right now.

Remember This? Pepperidge Farm Remembers.

I would like to share my first tech stack knowing it will date me: HTML-2 and CSS. That’s it. A few years later you can add JavaScript and Flash to that list, but that was basically it in terms of front-end development. Classic ASP, PHP, and Coldfusion existed but there wasn’t pressure to learn these to publish web pages.

Today? Just take a look at this roadmap for becoming a web developer in 2019. Things certainly have changed.

Overload is Real

Developer Overload is real and I believe every developer has or will experience it (myself included). But what we have termed as Developer Overload now isn’t just simply a reaction to the complex world of web development. The simple fact that the world is a complex place and with it development is acceptable. But let’s consider three root causes that developers might have in their control:

Job Security (“What do I need to know to still have a job in 2 years?”) – Most of us have experienced Flash in its heyday but they aren’t as many Actionscript developers as there was 5 years ago. Most of us are stressed, but hopefully we like what we do. So we would like to keep on doing it.

Deadlines (“I have a deadline and I need to (re)learn this fast.”) – As developers, it’s common in our industry to “learn on the fly” under pressure. How many of us started working on a PHP or JavaScript project and then we run into something that requires us to go into Google and pull up a tutorial?

Our Natural Curiosity – The tendency is within us. We are explorers. Tinkerers. We hunger of new and more efficient things.

Any combination of these is something that many developers experience constantly. The effects are what you would expect from burnout and even certain types of depression: a lesser desire to be naturally curious, negative emotions, and not enjoying your job or work.

How To Deal

That is, after all, the title of this post. One can go into great length on each of these points but here are the highlights:


Because of the enormous amount of information out there, focus is one of the most valuable skills you can master as a developer. As developers we often bite off more than we can chew…we also tend to take that bite from the wrong side of the sandwich.

Focus isn’t about staying with the same platform or tech. It’s about determining what type of work gives you the most joy. This will require you to pick your battles and don’t be distracted by the next shiny object or what could be the next “big thing”.

What comes along with focus is checking your ego: developers are obsessed with the notion of “best practices” and using the latest and greatest techniques. But often we do NOT have to reinvent the wheel. That next blog you need to build may NOT need to be a static JAMstack setup – plain HTML or WordPress (or your CMS of course) but me just fine. Keeping things simple helps you focus on the more important things.


Organization means less surprises and having a plan. Use whatever apps or old school methods (bullet journals!) help you get more organized and you’ll feel more control in your life. Whatever the method find what works for you and stick to it. Include in your persona roadmaps a set amount of hours in a week to sit down and work on a side project, learn a new skill, or read.

Another great point that took me a while to grasp: learning more about keeping our code organized and well written is a good return on investment because it saves you time down the road.


We are no good to ourselves, our work, and our families if we have constant dread and are drowning in our work. Poor mental and physical health is an enemy of dealing with overload just like having system resources bogging down your IDE or compiler on your machine is an enemy to your dev time.

Physically make sure you are getting enough rest, you are paying attention to what you are eating, and think about your long-term health (do something about that desk or chair that you know is bothering your body). Mental health is also vital – many developers have to learn the hard way to take a break (from tech or just social media) and make sure they are getting the right amount and kind of human interaction (and talking with other developers about coding isn’t completely what I’m talking about).

Remember: It’s ok to break code. But it’s not ok to break yourself.

You Can Do It!

This post is only a fraction of the subject I talk with other developers about. But it’s a nice set of reminders to remember that Developer Overland is real. There is no real “cure” outside of leaving the industry all together. But realize that development is getting more complex by the day… a fact that recently many developers are pushing back against. There are a lot of pressures coming from work, family, and yourself – and it’s important to remember to apply self-care where you need it.

Someday we’ll be able to tell young ones about the golden age of web development and that we managed to rise above the challenges while maintaining our sanity.