The Modern Software Developer Newsletter
Wellbeing & Performance
Issue 1 – Self-Awareness
Welcome to the RD Coached newsletter where I bring you content based on what I believe is needed to be a modern software developer, having spent over two decades in software development.
This newsletter is not technical and focuses on software developers as people first, developers second. As such, we’ll look at what you can do to protect your physical and mental wellbeing, which will play a huge role in your performance as a modern software developer.
When it comes to your physical wellbeing, what you put in your body from a nutritional standpoint is important if you want to feel good. But even before you consider making changes to what you eat, you can start building a habit to start to control how much you eat.
Let’s start with a simple healthy habit that anyone can start practising immediately. This habit is useful whether you’re trying to lose weight or not.
Eat until you’re 80% full
If you’re looking to improve your health, just like when we build software, it’s a good idea to keep changes small and build on their success. Forming habits is a great way to do this.
Next time you’re eating a substantial meal, try and bring some self-awareness to the table. Reduce the speed that you eat and only eat until you feel 80% full. When we eat, the goal isn’t to eat until we are so full that we can’t eat anymore.
You’ll find that after 10 minutes or so, you’ll feel more full than when you stopped eating and over time, you can start to refine your portion size to the appropriate amount.
Bringing self-awareness to your mealtime can actually make that experience more enjoyable. If you need to distract yourself, use the opportunity to ask your partner or your children about their day or tell them about yours while they’re eating; at least you won’t get interrupted!
All physical activity counts!
It’s difficult to talk about physical wellbeing without mentioning physical activity. Unfortunately, too many people opt out of making physical changes because they set the bar too high for themselves.
Fitness isn’t just about excelling at sport.
Physical activity is vital if you want to perform at your best. Just realise that all forms of physical activity count, so find something you enjoy doing and turn it into a habit.
- Taking the stairs when you normally take the lift.
- Going for a 5-10 minute walk everyday.
- Cleaning the house and doing work in the garden.
If you want to step it up a bit:
- A gentle swim
- A short jog
- A bit of yoga
It doesn’t matter what you decide to do but do something. Start small and build on it incrementally.
When it comes to software developers, I think mental wellbeing is massively overlooked, and yet, it has a huge impact on our performance.
The mental wellbeing of software developers was the primary reason I founded RD Coached, so we’ll be exploring this a lot more over the following months and years.
As a software developer, self-awareness is a true superpower, if you have it.
The good news is, you can develop it.
When you work to become self-aware, you open many doors for yourself.
A few questions to ask yourself might include:
- What are my strengths and weaknesses? All of them – not just technical…
- When do I feel at my happiest and saddest?
- When do I doubt myself the most?
- When am I most productive and least productive?
- What motivates and drives me?
- What gets me excited?
- Am I hydrated or not?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- How do I talk to myself? (helpfully or unhelpfully
When you think you know the above, seek to validate.
How do I validate this?
We all have our own view of the world, the world according to us if you like, and this can lead us to believe things about ourselves that may not always be true.
For example, The Dunning-Kruger effect describes our inability to recognize our own lack of competence in an area. Research has shown that some people express a high degree of confidence about something they’re actually not very skilled at doing.
So how can you validate what you think?
You collect data:
- Document (or Journal)
- Feedback (get other people’s perspectives)
- Test yourself (take a test, exam or quiz)
One or more of these could play a role.
- You could list your strengths and weaknesses (document)
- You could note when something confirms what you’ve listed or when something contradicts it. (document)
- You could ask a trusted colleague what they think your strengths and weaknesses are and contrast that to your own list (feedback)
- You could take an online test and compare whether your results match your expectation. (test yourself)
Now you have the opportunity to start making data-driven decisions.
Now you have objective data to start making meaningful improvements.
As an example, I used to be very pessimistic; I wore it like a badge of honour. No worst-case scenario could get past me!
After doing some self-reflection and gathering feedback from those around me, I was horrified to find out that I was coming across as overly negative and not having the positive impact I thought I was.
Given this new data, I decided to experiment with being optimistic and positive. Smiling at people, praising their contribution and taking an interest.
Initially, it was met with shock and sometimes taken as sarcasm, but I kept it up.
Soon enough, I noticed things started to change around me. Collaboration was easier, people shared their ideas and thoughts more freely, and there seemed to be less tension around.
And guess what…? I felt better for it too!
Self-awareness is a great tool; use it to your advantage.
It’s not selfish to put yourself first; there’s nothing more important than your own wellbeing!
Until next time…