I find that developers tend to become increasingly negative as they become more tired, stressed out, and overcommitted.

What tricks do you use to keep a positive attitude? Are there books or blogs you find helpful? Particular activities?

I'm looking for morale boosters.

Edit: Making this a community wiki

+5  A:

Tim Pietzcker
+2  A: 
"The canadian govt has apologized for Brian Adams on many occasions..."
The Adams affair is a good start, but the whole Dion subject seems to have been deliberately avoided... We won't even mention the Morissette concern.
One down vote. :( Well, it looks like the Perl programmers have rolled out of bed, because PETA would have already killed me and the Canadians don't have the Internet. Get a comb!
+2  A: 

I print Programming cartoons and put them in my cubicle. I'm not kidding, there's a programming cartoon that covers every programming stressor I've encountered.

George Stocker
+7  A:

and also

+5  A: 

I don't think the question is confined to programmers. Eating right, exercising, and taking breaks would be a start. I'm not sure it's possible to "trick" yourself into a positive mood.

Jonathan S.
+6  A: 

I recommend tackling the source of the problem instead of the symptoms. If you take steps to ensure that developers are not overcommitted, they will have less stress, get more sleep, and be more positive. As a pleasant side-effect, they will also produce more quality work.

+2  A: 

Nintendo Wii on working hours. :) Within reason, of course.

+1 for creativity ;) Plus, I <3 me some Wii Bowling
Kevin Fairchild
+2  A: 

I agree with Jonathan S, it is not limited to developers.

I just think about all the other things that I would rather not do (like work a fast food job, work with hazardous chemicals, go back to living with my parents). Works like a charm to motivate and cheer myself up.

Jason Z
+4  A: 

For me the biggest problem is our analytical mind and the necessity to think through worst cases and prepare for failing data and computation. We therefore tend to see life that way. How many times did I walk by a sign in front of the store, and even not looking caught the spelling error?

What helped me is to have a life apart from work that is completely different. For me it's pastoring a small church as an assistant pastor. Working with people that are so wonderfully unlogic, relational, but sometimes even optimistic gives me a lot. Think about children!

I know that in our profession we tend to value people highly that even program when they sleep. But all would profit if we would gaze over the rim of our plate from time to time.

Thinking in other realms, being creative, painting, reading (not tech books!), stop working when leaving the workplace (I know it's hard), go to the gym, ...

And invest in other working models as far as possible. Read "Peopleware" by Tom DeMarco as a starter.

Ralph Rickenbach
Why was this downvoted?
Robert S.
Upvote from me. Excellent advice and perspective.
Lieutenant Frost
+3  A: 

A little bit of music on a swift walk works a treat. Sometimes all you need is five minutes from your screen

Oh and whatever you do don't look at the stock index, very draining!

+2  A: 

My top tip is take some time out!

Everyone feels refreshed and more focussed after even a short break, so if you find yourself getting tired, stressed out and overcommitted, start by addressing the 'imbalance' by working nearer your contracted hours (I'm guessing that you'll be putting extra hours in).

Other than that, here are my other suggestions:

  • Keep coffee and caffeine to ~2 cups a day, drink more water instead
  • Do some exercise to tire out the body as well
  • Do things not related to work - visit friends, join an unrelated club or society

As for motivation, Zig Ziglar has a podcast called 'inspiring words of encouragement', which you can find on iTunes. It has a sales-type focus on occasion, but the morals and stories are good

All the best ;o)

+23  A: 

First, learn the value of the word "No" and how to manage the expectations of others. I've found that always being the optimistic "Yes Man" who will pledge to take the hill with 1/4 the resources necessary in half the time simply leads to frustration on your part and on the part of those to whom you've made the pledge. I used to fall into the trap of over-committing and then risk under-delivering due to my folly. A few sleepless nights and all-weekend catch-up coding session were enough to realize that I wasn't doing myself or anyone else any good by making committments I couldn't deliver without undue stress and frustration. I've found that if I am upfront and honest about my workload and my estimates, people believe me and everyone is happier.

Additionally, I leave work at work, as much as possible. Outside activities are good - hiking, geocaching, or simply taking a walk. I like to do non-computer (gasp!) activities, even mundane ones, to give the brain a break. Otherwise, I start to feel like nothing more than a cog in a machine. Life's short, live a little!

I like to keep things organized and use checklists (but I don't go overboard) to help with the organization. Having an idea about what needs to be done helps me reduce the stress of wondering if I'm done. It also helps me plan my day/week/project better.

I read blogs and listen to tech podcasts some, to remind me that there is other cool stuff that I can learn besides what I'm doing right now.

Just my thoughts.

+4  A: 

You need to change the way you think (this applies to everything concerning happiness or lack thereof). Everything you need to know is contained in this fascinating 22 minutes here: Why are we happy?

Dan Gilbert is very insightful and entertaining, I have read/seen other works by him and would highly recommend him.
I'm trying to find the time too - I just randomly came across that one about a year ago, and haven't managed it since :(
ack, 'to', not 'too'... but I'm not worried about it :)
+1 for perspective, +1 for Dan Gilbert's excellent explanation of why that's all it takes.
+6  A: 

Apathy is often an overlooked tool for avoiding negativity.

Detach yourself from the outcome and little things like lack of requirements, 180-degree-turns in business rules, and unrealistic deadlines all float on by...

By not caring about the project, you have plenty of time to focus on other more rewarding pursuits -- like family, friends, and honing your skills.

UPDATE: In case it wasn't clear to some, that was somewhat in jest... But, really, it does have some truth in it.

Find things that make you happy outside of work. When you are too heavily focused on your job, you'll lose perspective. That's not good for you and it's not good for the company. It's all about balance. You can't control the economy, your employers, or your coworkers. Make the best of what you have and don't worry so much :)

Kevin Fairchild
Apathy, I could take it or leave it ;)
Also having a 'I don't give a shit' attitude when you are a competent producer is probably the fastest way to get a promotion. ;-)
John MacIntyre
There is a lot of truth to this; a lot more then one might think. This "sort" of thinking has allowed me to do quite well in my efforts...
Frank V
+6  A: 

Math.abs(self). Only guaranteed if you're not zero already.

Math.abs(self) + 1 will work even if you are already zero.
Matthew Scouten
+3  A: 

To keey happy ; keep learning. I've found the difference between loving my job and hating it is when I'm learning and when I'm not.

Also, having non IT people discussing what IT products can do and what they can't do leads to endless frustration, both as a developer who has to deliver, and as a developer who has to interface with products which may not work as promised.

John MacIntyre
+3  A: 

Sex, sex is a good morale booster. I always feel better after sex.

If you can't have sex, then try exercises. I run, and running is good, but not as good as sex, so try sex first.

Oh, and then fishing, because you can sit with your friends, drink beer, not catch anything and still have a good time. You might try this after sex and before running if you aren't into the whole 'physical activity' thing.

I wish I could upvote this more than once :)
Drew Gibson

What tricks do you use to keep a positive attitude? Are there books or blogs you find helpful? Particular activities?

Check out The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Discusses in a scientific setting how your brain can react to a positive outlook. Great for programmer types.

Jason Slocomb

Simple tip to get you going: Come to work on time, and leave on time. Forget about it when you are not there.

Ali A
Disagree, I find that when I am genuinely enjoying my job and projects I am happy to work back a little and feel much more engaged. The weeks when I leave on time are the weeks when I am bored and uninterested.
Kirk Broadhurst
+6  A: 

I manage a small team of developers. The thing that I have found that they really do enjoy is being able to work on proof of concept projects using the most current tools and techniques available. While I am sure it varies from person to person, my developers tend to feel like they are in a rut from the constant monotonous work we have to do right now.

Because of letting them experiment on their own, we have started implementing some of the more successful products, using things such as LINQ, Entity Framework, ASP.NET MVC, etc. Allowing people to explore newer technologies on their own and making their own decisions is something that they both find engaging and forces them to look at how to apply these changes to current problems.


If you are talking about the condition within a working day, occurring just once in long a while, take a short nap in the office. If it does not work, go home. If this happens once every few days, change to a more holistic lifestyle. If it happens too frequently, say, on consecutive days, take a break, or change your project. Also, change to a more holistic lifestyle.

If you are talking about the condition persisting even after office hours and also on weekends, take a sabbatical. If it does not work, change your job, or even change your field.

+1  A: 

I agree with most of the other posts, which seems to have the theme of keeping a sense of humor about yourself. After that, it makes it easier to take a step back see some thing for what they are, and deal with them. Taking everything too seriously will lead to a quick flame out in just about anything you are doing.

Potbelly Programmer
+1  A: 

To me one of the most important thing to keep morale up is knowing why are you doing your job. Most of us need a clear target. If people know their a target and are working towards it and getting closer, they are more or less happy.

It may seem obvious but I have seen this situation:

  • We need to reach target A, but in order to reach A we need to reach B before... but... so we must reach F. After some time, we tend to forget A and get frustrated because we are working hard on F and don't really remember. Try to go back, get the full picture, and remember why you need F. Remembering A may be a morale booster, and may even help you in a technical way (but that's another issue).

  • Some time ago, when I traced back to A, i discovered I wasn't really insterested in A. At all. That may be a time to look for another job. A big change may be a huge morale booster too!

Hope that helps

Rafa G. Argente
+1  A: 

Break things down into manageable tasks. So you can finish each small task and feel happy about it.


If you need tricks to stay positive at work, that obviously says something about your view of the job.

In the long run, only you control your own destiny. You might have a million excuses not to move TODAY, but you should work on finding a challenging position that is financially fit and you enjoy doing.

I personally hate the saying "you're going to work, you're not going to fun!". Even if true, you can at least try to find something that is enjoyable.