Ask HN: How do you fight through the monotony of daily life?

38 points | by _davebennett 193 days ago


  • jakequist 193 days ago

    I was in your shoes ~15 years ago. My biggest fear was to become a corporate programmer for some bullshit company.

    Here's what I did about it:

    1. I asked the most attractive & wonderful girl out on a date. Mind you, I am a geeky programmer and nobody's going to mistake me for a sex icon anytime soon. Nevertheless, she was impressed by my boldness and said yes. Now we're married with three kids.

    2. I started a company as CEO. It failed. But being CEO stretched me into a new role and I grew immensely.

    3. I'm now working on a project that I think has a huge potential for positive impact on the world. I'm not motivated by money or glory this time around, but just want to see if I can grow and pull it off.

    I guess to sum it up: know what you want out of life and then be bold and take risks.

    • lulzury 190 days ago

      > I'm now working on a project that I think has a huge potential for positive impact on the world. I'm not motivated by money or glory this time around, but just want to see if I can grow and pull it off.

      As a new-grad, when I read this I cannot help but guess that you've somehow covered yourself for the future by saving for retirement. I can only envision myself not being at least partially motivated by "money or glory" until I can secure future financial stability.

    • quickthrower2 193 days ago

      I felt like this.

      Having kids changed this a lot for me, but I don't of course recommend having kids because 'you are bored'. An alternative would be to go live and work in a different country, especially that isn't too touristy or western. I guess anything that completely uproots your life and takes you out of your comfort zone will do it.

      Another thing I do is some side hussle but with more of a structured plan than I have before. This supplies hope that one day I can make an income without needing a job.

      • AznHisoka 192 days ago

        How has kids changed this for you?

        • hluska 192 days ago

          I'm not OP, but I can share a story that just happened a few minutes ago that illuminates how having a child helped me see the wonder in daily life.

          My daughter is almost three and we live in a Canadian province that's in the midst of a serious cold snap. We got some snow last night. The drive to daycare was slower than usual - roads were extremely slippery and it was an all around ugly commute.

          We drive by a performing arts/theatre complex on our way to daycare. The Arts Centre has very bright lights. With a light snow fall and ice crystals in the air, it looked like the light shone up in columns in the sky. Lauren was blown away by it, "See daddy, see daddy!"

          I have seen that effect so many hundreds of times in my life that I don't even notice it, but my toddler was absolutely mesmerized by it. There is a lot of wonder in the world and, for me at least, having a little person pointing out all that wonder really helped!

          For the love of all that you consider holy, don't have kids because you're bored!

      • kleer001 193 days ago

        This is an existential algorithm that everyone alive has to go through. It seems to me that you're asking about the solutions people who live in joy have found and/or made. It always involves a 'higher purpose'.

        Some inherited them, some build them from the bottom of a terrible hole. Nobody alive has been able to create a new one from scratch.

        Personally I found my purpose through lots of lectures and research into the ground truth of physical and metaphorical reality that all humans are subject to here on earth. Hint, lots of the solutions I 'discovered' and understood have been well established for millennia, a.k.a. there's no secret. Still, just as an addict has to want to change we have to find that purpose for ourselves.

        • muzani 192 days ago

          lol, my "higher purpose" is just finding something to commit to and committing to it. For a lot of people, that's marriage, but to me, I just want to do it better, faster, cheaper.

          • AznHisoka 192 days ago

            I guess you can do marriage faster if you really want, but not sure if it'll be better or cheaper :)

        • taffronaut 193 days ago

          I sometimes imagine going back to explain to myself as a teenager what I do for a job now. When you were young, what did you want to do? We are still accountable to that person we were. As a teenager, did you want a corporate job and a gym membership? I wanted to be the guy in a massively successful band behind a mountain of synths and sound equipment. In the end I design studio equipment for a living instead and play in bands in the evenings. I can live with myself.

          • throwawaymsft 193 days ago

            Being bored for 40 years isn’t your only option.


            You can move towards a life designed the way you like it. Good luck.

            • docker_up 193 days ago

              I have children and I am infatuated with helping them grow, learn and become good humans.

              I also am at a job with unlimited vacation and took 8 weeks PTO last year. So I make up for the days that are boring with my vacations.

              I don't feel the urge to "change the world" and I'm perfectly happy working hard at work on interesting problems, and coming home to my family and just being happy, which is the benefit of being almost 50.

              • jamieweb 193 days ago

                A job with unlimited vacation? Are you a contractor or remote-only worker or something? Or is this an actual desk job in an office?

                • docker_up 193 days ago

                  Unlimited vacation is common in Silicon Valley. It's not really unlimited vacation but it's really just a company policy of "work when you need to work, take a break when you need to take a break". Some people are more effective at taking PTO on unlimited vacations than others, however.

                  • quickthrower2 193 days ago

                    Did you have to fight for that time off? Or did you just ask? Did you get any grief in the office for taking so much time off?

                    I am interested because on the one hand there is policy, and on the other there is social reality. I imagine it takes some effort to make an unlimited vacation policy work in a team where some people might begrudge other people having time off.

                    • docker_up 193 days ago

                      Nope. My team is very chill. No one keeps track, I don't even fill out anything and my boss is very supportive. As long as I'm doing the work I'm supposed to and I'm performing at a high level, no one cares in my team.

                  • emj 193 days ago

                    Me and my partner took 43 days off each last year, ordinary desk job in Sweden, with paternity leave included in that. My producitvity did not take much of a hit.

                • itamarst 193 days ago

                  As a preliminarily step, work less, so you have the time to think about what you actually want to do. "8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for what we will" is a good slogan, though these days it should really be less than 8 hours for work.

                  (You can negotiate for a short workweek, as this person did:

                  • perilunar 192 days ago

                    > With maybe two weeks of vacation a year.

                    Why do people in the US put up with this? In the rest of the developed world we get at least 4 weeks annual leave:


                    • runningsystem 193 days ago

                      How about trying running, mountaineering or just being outdoors? If you like it, you can dedicate some of your time to such activities. Exercising over longer period of time keeps your mind and body busy and in a shape and reduces stress level. And you find a lot of like minded people in all age groups and can make friends with them.

                      • GaryNumanVevo 193 days ago

                        +1 for hiking. It's an incredibly tactile way to realize your own physical strength and endurance. Not to mention that it's cheap, good for you, and you'll see some truly incredible sights.

                      • mooreds 185 days ago

                        Why would you adjust to something you can't imagine doing for years? That sounds crazy.

                        Instead, learn what you can, save money, make connections, and then leave. As tech workers you are likely to be in high demand and could switch jobs, go contract, start a company (services or startup). Lots of options.

                        I worked at a job for a few years in my early 20s, had a quarter life crisis, and left to travel. After a few months I found myself pulled back to technology, and that showed me that while the company I was at wasn't a good fit, the domain was.

                        Also, the folks you work with in your first job may pop up again and again in your career, so don't burn any bridges when you leave.

                        • souprock 193 days ago

                          I made 12 kids.

                          This gives purpose to my life. In some sense, having kids is pretty much the meaning of life. Live would be pretty pointless without the kids. People are meant to have kids, and you can conclude this from your choice of evolution or creation. There is an instinct to be satisfied.

                          I'm only sort of in the tech industry, so maybe that helps. Government contracting rules put a limit on some kinds of insanity. The stuff that goes on in the game industry would never fly. Actually, I have it better than that minimum. My normal work week is 40 hours, and I get paid if I work more. I get more vacation (due to seniority) and flex time, letting me spend more time with the kids.

                          So I spend the morning with kids, walk or drive to work depending on weather, do stuff to support my country, come home, skip the gym, spend more time with kids, and repeat for 40+ years until retirement.

                          There is never a perfect time to start having kids, so you won't have any if you wait for that. Just get on it. I got started before I graduated from college.

                          • arandr0x 191 days ago

                            You'll make decisions. They will have consequences. For good or ill they will change your life forever.

                            No, but, seriously, I'm scarcely older so I distinctly remember what it's like to be young and watch stuff feel permanent for the first time. Having a job, a house, no immediate plans to leave your city, whatever. You wonder if that's all there is and if it's not why whatever else can't come any faster. You realize you've got mostly what you wanted and everything else you could want seems small or like someone's already done it. And you watch the days stretch and all alike.

                            So my prescription is:

                            * Wake up in the middle of the night (or stay up till the middle of the night, but sober). Go outside. Observe that your immediate world isn't, in fact, only what you usually see of it.

                            * Make older friends, they'll tell you you're full of it.

                            * Make younger friends, they'll think your boring old man life is the epitome of freedom.

                            • tmaly 193 days ago

                              When your young, you have more time and more possibility to take risks. Travel and learn as much as you can about the world. Once you have a family, your perspective changes, so the opportunities you have available change.

                              If your out of ideas on what to do, try the dreamline activity from the 4 Hour Work week

                              or even consider reading How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis.

                              • sotojuan 193 days ago

                                Have hobbies outside of sitting in the couch refreshing HN or watching Netflix. Hobbies where you get better at something.

                                • organicdude 193 days ago

                                  You need to find something or a set of things that are meaningful to you. Those things will change, so you need to keep chasing things that are meaningful.

                                  Otherwise, the bullshit of life will be too much...but doing meaningful things seems to dampen the blow of the natural tragedy and suckiness of life.

                                  • nyrulez 193 days ago

                                    Are you talking about not having free time or not knowing what to do with your free time ? These two are very different issues.

                                    For the latter, it's mind blowing to ask this question in this day and age. There are so many interesting things to try out and do today, you could last 10 life times and not run out.

                                    For example, I love video games. There are endless number of amazing games on PC and console. And enough variety to never really end. You could try that. Sometimes I get FOMO thinking about all the amazing games I will never be able to play due to lack of time. There is a game for every person type and it always keeps life exciting.

                                    You could learn a zillion skills or engage in creative pursuits. Music, rubik cube, programming projects, start a reddit community or participate in one. You catch my drift.

                                    • muzani 192 days ago

                                      You do it better. In most jobs, there's always a way to do it better.

                                      If you're just doing an assembly factory job, you can assemble it faster.

                                      If you just deal with lots of boring code, you can grind refactoring books and techniques.

                                      If it's a generic tech job, there are new programming languages to learn, frameworks, algorithms, plenty of things to do and enjoy.

                                      If you're a manager who has nothing to do, you can find a way to make your colleagues' day more interesting and fun. You can train juniors, get them to do better.

                                      Heck, even in the worst, most mundane days, I just visualize text and systems into images and try to move them around. There's a lot to play with.

                                      Work life is a lot more interesting than even the vacation periods.

                                      • davidjnelson 193 days ago

                                        I love working on things that get me excited. If the work is interesting it creates an upward spiral of momentum. Any way you could try different projects or teams until you find that spark? Sorry it’s monotonous now!

                                        • tmm84 191 days ago

                                          Two things I love to do for monotony are:

                                          1) Take a random stroke from a pen and use that as starting point for making something interesting on a piece of paper. Sounds silly but it is fun and I have had a couple of people ask for them when I was done.

                                          2) Go to a second hand store that sells a variety of things. Look all over the store and see if there is an item that screams to come home with you (if you want to make it harder take something with you to donate/sell before going). You never know what you are going to find and you'll have a story to go with it.

                                          • HNLurker2 190 days ago

                                            Sounds creative but if you are bad at drawing is over all useles Edit: sorry to hurt your ego, but everyone's way of dealing the empty hole is so invested into it(like religiously) and if you insult their way or propose better you are shattering their ego sometimes

                                          • stevesimmons 192 days ago

                                            I don't get this attitude at all... Find a business domain that excites you, find a company in that domain whose culture suits you, work hard to build skills that help you do your job well and give you personal satisfaction, and then look for opportunities to expand your role and increase the impact you have at work. Then your job won't feel like work...

                                            If the job you currently do can't deliver this, then find something else.

                                            (Plus, of course, what everyone else says about finding a satisfying family life, hobbies, work-life balance, etc)

                                            • nf05papsjfVbc 192 days ago

                                              - Consider working towards an early retirement. There are lot of resources on the internet and you can see if any of them "clicks" for you.

                                              - If you find that for extended periods of time, you have a persistent feeling of "everything is meaningless" and you fail to find joy or meaning in any activity, please see if talking to a counsellor/therapist could help you.

                                              • xaedes 192 days ago

                                                "Consider working towards an early retirement"

                                                I suspect this just delays the whole situation. With additional risks of burning your physical and/or mental health.

                                                • nf05papsjfVbc 191 days ago

                                                  Indeed, this is why I also mentioned the second point. Sometimes, it's a matter of feeling trapped and getting out of it - which is not far off for someone being well paid but living well within their means. The goal can give someone a strong drive. At other times, it's a matter of finding what really is bothering someone deep within their soul. Something entirely unrelated could manifest outwardly as boredom. So, in those cases, seeking to find this, then facing it could help one find a way to accept things or perhaps find a new drive towards an entirely different goal.

                                              • robin_reala 193 days ago

                                                Well, living somewhere that gives me 33 days elective holiday and doesn’t try to ration out sick leave helps. But I honestly just enjoy my job. I think relating it to actual people and working at scale gives you the power to think about the direct effect your code is having on people’s lives.

                                                • potta_coffee 192 days ago

                                                  I'm really struggling with this too. Let me know if you find any answers. I'm 35 and just so extremely bored with my work and routine.

                                                  • sunstone 192 days ago

                                                    Every three years change jobs and take six months off in between to go travelling. On the other hand it is stunning to be alive just on its own.

                                                    • towaway1138 193 days ago

                                                      To a point, you get used to it. But also, it's an ever-present aspect of human existence. See Schopenhauer, for example.

                                                      • wsgreen 193 days ago

                                                        I exactly feel this way. Trying to go remote and break up the monotony. Only way to live as far as I can tell.

                                                        • shoo 192 days ago

                                                          I spent my mid/later 20s becoming increasingly disgusted & sick of commercial software work, quit a job & ended a relationship, spent a few months somewhat depressed, doing very little, visiting family and friends.

                                                          At some point I read a lot about climate change -- not sure if I recommend doing this, but it certainly helps to put things in perspective. What will the world be like in 30 years? What do you want to be doing then?

                                                          I found in my late 20s I started to take a much longer term perspective on things. I've re-thought my relationship with work: previously work was kind of a thing i did by default, without really thinking why. Now it's something I do to generate money to invest toward things on a 5-10-20+ year time horizon. Maybe I need to grind away at work for 5 years. So what? Not that long. I did contract work for a couple of years and got a large pay rise out of it, which has stuck in subsequent permanent jobs. Work can still be a grind but it pays more than enough and I largely firewall work away from the rest of my life. If you start trying to save money when you haven't really focused on that before, that in itself can become a bit of a game. What's a good "move" to make? Move house to somewhere cheaper. Ride a bike instead of taking the train. Learn to repair your bike when it breaks. Prepare your lunch instead of buying it. Don't spend money on travel. Don't buy things, borrow library books. Don't pay for the gym, go for a run. Don't pay for a new thing, learn how to fix the old thing.

                                                          Some of my colleagues who are in their 40s just work part time, either so they can spend more time with family, or just because a couple of days work a week provides them with enough money, and they're far more motivated by having more free time.

                                                          Anyway, enough rambling from me. I'm also reminded of an essay I read a while back:

                                                            > My dad went through a period of removal when he
                                                            > was my age and working as a technician in the
                                                            > Bay Area. He got fed up with his job, and figured
                                                            > he had enough saved up to quit and live extremely
                                                            > cheaply for a while. That ended up being two years.
                                                            > I recently asked him how he spent that time, and
                                                            > his answer was that he read a lot, rode his bike,
                                                            > studied math and electronics, went fishing, had
                                                            > long chats with his friend and roommate, and sat
                                                            > in the hills, where he taught himself the flute.
                                                            > After a while, he says, he realized that a lot of
                                                            > his anger about his job and outside circumstances
                                                            > had more to do with him than he realized. As he
                                                            > put it, “it’s just you with yourself and your own
                                                            > crap, so you have to deal with it.” But that time
                                                            > also taught my dad about creativity, and the state
                                                            > of openness, nothing, maybe even boredom, that it
                                                            > requires. 
                                                          From Jenny Odell's "how to do nothing". It's worth reading the whole thing.


                                                          • pwason 193 days ago

                                                            I have never been or said I was bored in my life. Everything is happening all the time, everywhere. Open your eyes.

                                                            I work in IT, and I'm the IT guy when I go home, and when I'm on vacation. Apparently it's also my hobby, since I keep doing it decade after decade.

                                                            • temp26960 193 days ago

                                                              Maybe learn a new human language.

                                                              • garygause 193 days ago


                                                                • souprock 193 days ago

                                                                  Hmmm, be careful, because this advice doesn't apply everywhere.

                                                                  We hire old people. I know we have some past 60, and at least one is about 70. Somebody who decided to "change jobs and tech stack as much as possible" would be not so desirable however, because getting somebody settled in and up to speed will often take roughly a year.

                                                                • ArrayList 193 days ago

                                                                  Work is where you get your paycheck. Treat it just like that. Let it fund your passions.

                                                                  Cycling, music and meditation keep me sane. And enjoying culture - great film, etc...

                                                                  • tmm84 191 days ago

                                                                    I agree with cycling. The weather conditions, traffic and even the route can be different each time you get on the bike. Heck, getting a flat tire breaks up the monotony really well (also gets me using creative words in the process of getting the tire on and off).

                                                                    • ArrayList 190 days ago

                                                                      Hahaha! Yeah, getting a flat sucks.

                                                                      With respect to the route: I absolutely love turning down a road I've always wondered "where does that one go?" I've found some of my favorite "go-to" rides from that. It's such a blast. I feel bad for anyone that doesn't know the joy of road cycling.

                                                                    • PascLeRasc 193 days ago

                                                                      Cycling and playing guitar feel like meditation to me. All my usual background thought noise drifts away and I can either just focus on my activity, or enjoy not thinking at all and meander around almost unconsciously for a while. I love them both so much.

                                                                      • ArrayList 192 days ago

                                                                        Absolutely. Already got a century ride in Vermont planned for June.

                                                                        Trying to learn guitar!