I work overtime a lot, and it's pretty stressful. I'm also worried that amidst all this effort working for Meta, I'll lose track of who I am overall and what I can do for other companies. What can I do to strike a better balance here?
Great question, and exactly the topic of a recent video I made.
In particular, as an engineer at a large company like Meta, I'd recommend you focus on defining an area where you are the master, but don't try to master too much surface area. Be clear with your tech lead/manager on what the impactful work is, and focus on that.
I'm really sorry to hear that you're going through this - This is unfortunately a common scenario for software engineers at Meta. For some initial advice, I recommend going through this Q&A from another E4 at Meta: "How does one effectively handle pressure especially when the stakes are high?"
On top of the advice from that Q&A, I highly recommend talking to your manager (assuming you like them and have a good relationship). One of the big things about Meta is that work-life balance is almost always something you need to consciously work towards - It's not something that comes "for free" with your team. Here are the main things to do in that conversation:
I'll lose track of who I am overall and what I can do for other companies.
The cool thing here is that if you fix this problem of over-working and burnout, this problem will naturally get solved as well. Here's why:
All that being said, talking to people and not being alone is one of the best "cures" for this kind of situation. If you have any follow-up concerns/questions, I'm happy to provide more thoughts into Taro or answer them privately on Slack.
I was in a very similar situation 2 years ago. There's 6 things I did to lift myself up out of the situation:
Prioritize sleep: Ensure you get enough restorative sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and a calming bedtime routine. Personally, I use a Whoop to track my sleep and get nudges on when to set my bed time. I went super deep here and got blackout curtains, taped my mouth shut during sleep, set temperate to 60 degrees and created an evening routine rather than a morning routine. My friends think I'm aging backwards now.
Deep breathing & mindfulness: Practice deep breathing techniques, such as "box breathing," to manage stress and help you feel more grounded. The Whoop app has a section on how to calm yourself down and tracks your stress. Personally, I developed a meditation, breathwork and other mindfulness practices (e.g. yoga nidra -- which Sundar Pichai also practices) that I can do in 1 minute or 20 minutes depending on the day.
Exercise: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine to boost your mood and improve mental clarity. Plan your days around your workout. Group fitness classes like Barry's Bootcamp are so beneficial for being around other high achievers who are looking for a way to rise out of stress.
Pursue hobbies: Dedicate time to personal growth, hobbies, and self-reflection to maintain a strong sense of identity outside of work. For me this was boxing. But for you this could be cooking, learning an instrument, photography, hiking or creative writing.
Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, and communicate these boundaries to coworkers and supervisors. I highly recommend reading Connect by Dr. David Bradford and Dr. Carole Robin at Stanford. These techniques ares so applicable to our situation.
Seek support: If needed, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. I also hired a contemplative counselor to help me work through challenges that I'm facing at work and work on my own emotional regulation.