Hi there,
When this newsletter goes out, I'm on my way to stackconf in Berlin, having just returned from Ruby Unconf (which was great!) in Hamburg last week. The week before that was stressful, and with the conference on the weekend, there was no way for me to get a newsletter out by Monday morning. Apologies. And thanks to utter exhaustion, I spent most of last week sleeping. I only felt halfway recovered by Friday, and I had to make time over the weekend to get this newsletter out. All this doesn't feel sustainable. I'll have to put some serious thought into how many plates I'm able and willing to spin, and what exactly these imaginary plates should represent. One thing is clear: I have to make it a habit to take time off long before my body tells me that the time for laying down is now and there will be no discussion.

Mentor Monologue

Are you getting Paid Time Off? If you're employed, you probably do. It means that even when you're taking time off work (within limits), you won't forgo any of your salary. Thanks to the people who fought this right out for us over the last century or so, it's part of any proper employment contract today. Your employment includes time you're not spending at or on work. In other words, taking time off is part of your job.

But what if you're self-employed? For small business owners and freelancers, work time often translates directly into revenue. The opposite is true, too, that no work might result in no revenue. That means that taking time off is bad business, right? No. You have it bass ackwards. Not only is *not* taking time off bad business, it's outward self-sabotage. If your job is to make your business succeed, taking time off is part of your job.

As I was just harshly reminded of, not taking time off on a regular basis tends to have really bad consequences. Sadly, this happens far too often, and not just to self-employed people. According to recent studies, not even half of the employed adults in the United States have been using all or most of their paid vacation time. I can't go into the many reasons for this "vacation deprivation" here. But let me highlight its negative outcomes.

The set of conditions commonly called "burnout" is only a later stage in a longer sequence of deteriorating levels of health, productivity, and joy. Earlier signs that work is getting to you are waning job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and poor work-life balance. I know by now that these are signals telling me that a change of pace and course is necessary. When work is turning into a slog, when my life is dominated by task lists that I find hard not to ignore, then I'm the worker equivalent of a swimmer about to drown. If I keep ignoring the signs and don't start doing some focused and intentional moves to take control at this point, failure is imminent. Sadly, last week's breakdown makes it all too obvious that I'm still struggling with taking this insight to heart.

Chronic stress and overwork impact our mental and physical health in significant ways. They impair our productivity, the one thing we're putting ourselves in the wringer for in the first place. People impacted suffer from less creativity, reduced ability to focus, and memory lapses. Physiologically, overwork fosters obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It also makes us more prone to depression, anxiety (something I need to look into for myself), and substance abuse. But the damage is not even limited to ourselves. This imbalance can also negatively affect our relationships with family and friends. And if you're worried how your team will fare while you're taking some well-deserved and well-prepared holidays, consider how it will impact your colleagues when your noble martyrdom ends up forcing you to take extended sick time out of the blue.

To make it easier for you to take time off regularly and get the most out of it, here are a few tips.
  • According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, good recovery requires four ingredients: Relaxation, or allowing our mind and body to wind down. Control, or deciding how to spend our time and attention. Mastery, or being challenged enough to get into a flow state. Detachment, or being so absorbed that we forget about work. Build them intentionally into your resting periods.
  • Get enough sleep. Do it. Eight hours straight. The science about it is clear.
  • Don't just turn into a vegetable during your time off, though. An easy way to experience challenge and flow state is moderate exercise. It'll make you more resilient, and help both your brain and your body to prepare for new challenges.
  • Switch off your phone and its distractions. Everyone and their dog says it, and they're right. Yes, even the dog.
I'll take this as another opportunity to recommend the book "Time Off" by John Fitch, Max Frenzel, and Mariya Suzuki. But don't just read it like I did, also take the steps required to put its helpful advice into practice.

In The Server Room

I'll announce new upcoming events once I had the time to figure out how to run this operation in a sustainable way.

Recommended reading

As an online teacher, I always recommend additional material to my students with which they can expand their horizon. Here's a list of reading tips I've curated for you.

Home-Cooked Software and Barefoot Developers

Maggie Appleton: "The slightly bold theory I put forward in this talk is that we're on a verge of a golden age of local, home-cooked software and a new kind of developer – what I've called the barefoot developer."

Replacing system tests with unit tests

Turns out that end-to-end tests aren't the end-all-be-all. 😁


A branching strategy I really like because it combines the features of peer review without overly keeping you from shipping changes.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you found my News from The Server Room enjoyable and helpful. If you have any feedback or questions, simply reply to this email!
Take care!
Jochen, the Monospace Mentor