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Andria Hibe

Outreachy Internship Blog

Everybody Struggles

08 June 2020

I want to talk about a different kind of struggle:

Developers deal with technical problems all day long and you learn very fast that not only do you need to have different problem-solving skills but that it’s also just as important to know when you need to ask for help. In fact, the simple action of explaining or talking about a problem you are trying to solve to someone can very well lead you to the solution. Similarly, a fresh pair of eyes may be just what you need to see the bug you have been trying to find for the whole day.

Rather than technical issues, however, I want to talk about dealing with personal struggles that we may encounter that can bleed over to our work. In striving to succeed and impress our peers and mentors, we may feel pressured to always be at the top of our game which can put undue stress on ourselves when the best thing we can do instead is to take a break and ask for support.

In today’s society, there is a big emphasis on productivity.

Everywhere online, and even offline, you’ll see articles on how to be productive, how to maintain productivity, etc. The pressure to be constantly productive is something I’m sure we’ve all dealt with.

It would indeed make life much easier if you could control your motivation and productivity by simply reading a few self-help articles by armchair psychologists, however the reality is that no matter how much self-control you may have there are many factors that affect productivity and motivation.

Personal issues, stress, and other factors can easily affect our motivation and, in turn, affect our productivity. By having it drilled in our heads that productivity is a direct measurement of competency day in and day out by peers and strangers alike, having a week or even a day of low productivity can put a person in a feedback loop of negativity.

Maintaining a consistently high level of productivity is so tied in with being competent, it’s difficult to reach out to someone and open up about being demotivated or unproductive without feeling incompetent.

It’s hard to ask for help at work since I feel like personal issues should stay in my personal life and should not affect my work — although I know that sometimes, logically, it’s inevitable.

But letting teammates know that I need a break or more support is good both for myself to alleviate the pressure to perform as well as the team as they will be aware and would know what kind of support they need to give.

Thankfully, my mentor is very understanding and let me know that I can talk to them even if it’s not related to work; they allowed me to take a break and to deal with the personal issues I had been dealing with and allowed me to take a breath, gather myself, and come back better equipped for work.

We have to accept that it’s impossible to be motivated and productive every single day, and that breaks are very much a necessity.

In our day to day routine, we should also remember to take care of our mental health and not neglect our lives outside of work. It never hurts to get a new perspective on a problem you’re stuck on, and reaching out for help isn’t something to be ashamed of.