Creators And Guilt

Sep 30, 2014

Allan Branch from Less Accounting describes my feelings about guilt when programming.

Allan uses entrepreneurship as a basis for an example of feeling guilty about not getting enough work done, or working too much, or not actually finishing anything. I feel all of these as a member of a dev team. Not necessarily an entrepreneur role, but all the same symptoms.

Here’s how it feels for me.

Feeling Guilty for not Working Enough

I thought it was just me, but I guess not. I will often look at my work at the end of the day and have this feeling of not pulling my weight. Feeling exhausted from working my tail off all day, just to see that it doesn’t look like I got much done.

Now that I am on a team, I have this feeling of making sure I don’t let the rest of the team down. It’s true that I definitely have more days where I feel bad about what I’ve done rather than proud of the amount of work I’ve contributed. I don’t know what the fix is. I’ve tried a few things. Instead of just tracking what I believe are billable hours, I have tried tracking everything. Not for the “boss”, but to help me see that even when I am not producing billable hours, I am still contributing something to the team. Honestly, it doesn’t help much. When it’s the end of the week and it’s time to submit hours and they are lower than I think they should be, that guilt is still there.

Feeling Guilty for Working Too Much

There is a flip side. Working so hard to get to a point where you feel you are contributing enough that you actually work too much. This feels equally as bad. As Allan mentions in the article, when you put in extra hours to compensate, you have to take them from somewhere. For me it’s my family. The words “Dad, you work too much” are spoken more than I would like to admit at my house.

Making Assumptions

I think a large part of this are assumptions. Most of us have other people we work with. And most creative people set very high standards for themselves. It’s easy to think that the other person is not happy with what you are producing, when in fact you really don’t know what they think. I’m super guilty of this. I often assume that I know what the other team members must be thinking. This is dangerous.

I’m going to list a few things that I think might help with guilt

1) Never assume you know what the other team members are thinking. Always ask if you really want to know. Beware. You may not like what you hear.

2) Keep an open mind about what contributing actually is. If you’re a developer, it doesn’t always have to be lines of code. If you’re a designer, it doesn’t always have to be sketches or comps. You bring way more to the table than what your hands can do.

3) It’s okay to give an honest day’s work. And sometimes a honest day’s work falls short of your expectations. That’s okay too. Nobody died and you can try again tomorrow.