Decoded Chats – Jason Lengstorf on work and life balance

Jason Lengstorf (@jlengstorf) is a developer at IBM and a consultant on matters of life and work balance. He blogs and writes at and speaks at events about his experiences with burnout and what he did to get out of that vicious cycle. We’ve caught up with him at Connect.Tech in Atlanta where he gave his keynote “How I cut my hours in half and somehow managed to get more done”. You can see the slides by following the link of this screenshot:

How I got my life back talk

In roughly 25 minutes we talked about the symptoms of burnout, what to do to avoid it and how companies and group cultures can help to support a healthy work and life balance. We also touched on the topic of age diversity and social media as a driving factor for people to feel they don’t deliver enough.

If you prefer to have an audio version, you can download it here (MP3, 22MB)

Here are the questions we covered:

  1. (00:06) You just gave a talk about how you got your life back as a developer after a burnout. How did you do that?
  2. (00:50) The big twist was that you achieved more by working less. How does that work?
  3. (01:31) Do you think there is a problem in our market that peer pressure drives us to stress out about how much we do rather than how we treat ourselves?
  4. (02:44) There seems to be an expectation that you keep learning and working on other projects in your free time. Have we failed supporting growth at work?
  5. (05:06) Do you think social media and its addictive nature excacerbates this issue? Is the speed of our information flow causing people to feel inadequate?
  6. (06:47) Is there a lack of diversity or maturity in our market? People with dependencies like families tend not to burn out as much as young men hired straight from school…
  7. (08:26) One point you make is that you don’t pick up the phone after hours at all and stick to a 5 to 9. That only works though when you work in the same tiem zone. What about distributed teams?
  8. (10:58) There seems to be a mistrust to the concept of working from home – especially in the US market. Seeing that there are many benefits to working from home, why do you think that is and what can we do to change that?
  9. (13:10) Do you think there is a lack of labour laws protecting employers from overworking? In Europe there are much stricter laws about vacation having to be taken, for example.
  10. (15:10) You just started at IBM, I’m working for Microsoft and we get a lot of people applying for jobs here now. Do you think there are merits to older, settled companies in our market that people start valuing more?
  11. (17:49) Do you think there is a bigger fear of losing talent in larger corporations so that they try harder to allow people to have a better work/life balance?
  12. (20:40) Would you say that having to “sell” yourself inside a larger corporation by describing your work in a hierachical structure is a blessing in disguise as it forces you to analyse more what you do?
  13. (22:43) What would you consider the biggest warning sign about burnout that you wished you’d had recognised before it went too far?

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