I've been a professional programmer for many many years (20 years) and now I've lost interest, at the moment I have trouble even knocking out a few 100 lines of simple stuff. It will take me 3-4 days rather than 30-40mins

Anyone have any tips how to get your interest back?

Since I was a kid I've pretty much been into programming/coding as long as I was awake. I used to finish work and hit the interwebs for new stuff until bed. Now I am lucky to make LOC counts at work seem reasonable.


Thanks everyone - some great suggestions - a lot I didnt think of - although not looking forward to the exercise I probably need it.

  • 1
    Whats your work environment like? Any changes that could be adversely affecting you?
    – Devin M
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 5:54
  • Apart from a world recession and department cut backs with less staff :-) no. But seriously - programming is a hobby that I get paid for. You are hinting at a change - and that may be it - but I have unwritten benefits for staying - but its worth considering. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 5:57
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    try anthony robbins ,just search his name on youtube. we all need something like this once in a while
    – maz3tt
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 11:11
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    Seriously how is this not constructive...we all go through slumps and could all use advice on how to get over them. Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 17:43

6 Answers 6


Nobody here knows what will inspire you better than you do, but here are a few ideas:

  1. Switch projects. Programming is like writing -- it's a means to an end, not so much an end in itself. If you don't believe in the value of what you're doing, you won't feel that there's much point in doing it. So look for a different project at work that you can switch to, something you can get excited about. If it's not possible to switch completely, look for an additional project that you can spend at least some time on.

  2. Try learning something new. Challenge yourself by trying a project in your own time using a set of tools that are very different from what you've been doing for the last n years. You could try your hand at a functional programming language, or build a web site, or build a project based on Amazon's EC2 or Google's App Engine, or try developing an app for Android or iOS, or pick up an Arduino and try some embedded programming, or corner one of the mainframe guys at work and ask to learn a little COBOL, or...

  3. Take a vacation. When was the last time you took two or three consecutive weeks off? Consider making it a real vacation, where you unplug your computer and don't touch it for the duration. Don't even read about computers. Do some landscaping around your house, finish your basement, do an in-depth study of cupcakes, take up photography, spend some time with your family, travel... anything that doesn't involve typing. Sometimes you need a break from something before you can enjoy it again.

  4. Go back to school. Realize that you don't have to be a programmer forever, especially if you don't find it rewarding. This could be a good time to start thinking about what you want to do for your next act. Or, after a semester of learning about EBITDA and indirect labor costs, you might suddenly realize that you love, love, love programming after all.

  5. Start exercising. It can be hard for desk jockeys like us to believe, but many people swear that exercising gives you more energy, which might help you feel a little more motivated. It can also serve as either a mental break from work, or as a time to think deeply.

  6. Talk to your doctor. Diminished motivation could be a sign of depression or other illness. And even if that's not the problem, your doc might be able to suggest some changes that'll have you feeling a lot better.

  7. Make sure you understand how the work you're doing fits into the bigger picture. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees, and a talk with your manager about how your work impacts the bottom line could provide some of the motivation that'll help you get back on track.

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    +1 on the vacation. I took 4 weeks of after having finished a PhD last year, changed jobs, moved to a new house, and gotten a second child. Taking time off really helped to clear my mind... Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 8:59
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    +1 For exercise. I started workign out each morning before work a few years back and it completely changed my mood for the day. Now I find that if I miss my work out I'm lethargic and find it hard to get going, which is what my original problem was.
    – Jaydee
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 10:21
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    @Caleb - Wow lots of things to try - many I didnt think of - thanks! Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 4:55

My motivation improved greatly by starting to read certain blogs and books, and by listening to podcasts and watching videos of dedicated programmers. Perhaps this is all too familiar to you, but if it isn't, why not treat yourself by widening your horizon professionally?

  • Thanks for the links - I will check them out - been a long while since I read any Kent Beck Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 4:57

A change is as good as a rest

Could you take on additional/different responsibilities, such as some business analysis or customer liaison work to give you a "break" from the coal-face?

The best advice I can give though is to understand why you've lost your mojo. This is something only you can answer, but as with programming you can only really begin to solve a problem once you've debugged it to determine the root cause. Anything else is pretty much just going to be the equivalent of putting a plaster on it.

If all else fails, take a holiday (or a sabbatical if your employer offers them and you're eligible); sometimes a rest is better than a change.

  • yeah a rest would be good - not sure I've got the time (usual excuse) new responsibilities is a good direction - I am going to check into what new things I could be doing. Thanks Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 4:58

Take a break. Do something else. Have a vacation. Watch a movie. Relax.

Things change and your interest will come back, or it won't. Just adjust your situation.

Ask for something else to do at work and be good with yourself.

  • A few people said that - it is sounding like this is worth a try Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 4:59

Three things can help get your programming mojo back:

  1. Get an SSD.
  2. Get to know your IDE cold. Committing several super-useful shortcut keys to memory can bring back some of the fun that you've lost and make you super-productive in the process.
    1. If you're a .NET developer, buy a Resharper license (even if your employer is petty and refuses to pay for it). Get to know the most useful Resharper shortcut keys cold. These will put you ahead of the pack.
  3. Buy a Pluralsight subscription, and watch the webcasts at 1.5x speed.
  • Thanks for the Pluralsight link Jim - looks intersting. IDE :-) my IDE is vim and bash :-) but plently of new hotkeys to learn in vim - will dig out my vim quick reference and start looking through the few 1000 shortcuts available Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:04

Do something you enjoy. Maybe work is not motivating you enough.

Do something new .. the computer science field is buzzing with new things to do.

20 years ago, you probably did not have Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Mining, Distributed computing.. try your hand at some of these.

A good place to start is some Graduate level courses at Stanford or MIT. Some MIT/Stanford courses are open on the web.

  • 2
    ...you probably you did not have Artificial Intelligence... Uh, the term artificial intelligence dates back to the 50's, and it was certainly well known in the early 90's. Believe it or not, we had television and radio back in the 90's, too. Cell phones and the web, even.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 6:55
  • Yes.. you absolutely are right. I meant it was not so "mainstream" in computer science as it is now. The methods have also changed a lot since then. I learned programming in the 80's, so I do know something about the 90s :)
    – Chip
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 7:00
  • Thanks Chip - I've been trying to find some new stuff to do - keep looking at python - but I've got no use for it at the moment :-) Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:00

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