Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves to keep up-to-date?

Like millions of others, i'm in an incredibly fast paced industry - namely the technology industry. Whilst I work at a relatively small creative agency (just 8 of us), there are underlying traits that most of us adhere to regardless of who you work for or how many people there are in a company.

One of those traits seems to be that we have an (unhealthy - I.M.H.O) obsession with keeping up-to-date with the absolute latest news, startups, products and projects that are being released.

"How can I be any more up to date? I'm alive now. That's pretty current where I'm from." — Dylan Moran

I’ll hold my hands up and accept that I, too, am guilty of this.

  • I’m obsessed with the large collection of blogs and news sites that I follow and browse through every morning.

  • I’m obsessed with my Twitter stream where I follow industry experts, technology evangelists, fellow developers, designers and other creative and technical folk.

  • I’m obsessed with Hacker News, Smashing Mag, Offscreen Mag, The Next Web and the like, making sure I know about that new library/plugin/site that has just been released.

Right from the moment I wake up, lying in bed, bleary eyed, trying to find my phone, the first thing I do is check the news and Twitter. Perhaps that's my first reaction as I don’t want to get out from under the warm, cosy duvet, or perhaps it’s that I'm scared of what will happen if I’m out of the loop and not up-to-date.

We seem to put this unnecessary pressure on ourselves throughout the entire day, waiting for the next JavaScript library, grid framework, open data set, API or to be released – well, at least I do.

Does it really matter?

I have found myself asking the question "does it really matter if I miss the latest cool project that’s just been released?" What’s the worst that will happen? What if we were to take a year off from web development, how long would it take us to catch up with the latest trends and technologies?

From my perspective, being up-to-date as a web developer is vital. It’s important to know and be aware of all of the tools, projects, services and products to make an informed decision about which is the most suitable for a particular project. Not to mention to spark ideas and draw inspiration from, especially when given the holy grail of briefs, “we can do what we want”.

I had a conversation with Rob, our Creative Director, over a beer and explained just how fast paced the developer community evolves and why I think it’s important to keep up-to-date. He made an interesting comment of taking a step back, away from the daily pressure of constantly reading news and tweets. Rob suggested to do research and get up-to-date at the start of each project, rather than being swamped with a constant stream of information throughout the day.

Whilst I like the idea of taking a step back, I honestly don’t think this is entirely possible, especially in the technology industry. Perhaps there is the happy medium though. The notion of using people as filters has been around for some time, letting others filter through the constant stream of information and redistribute it through weekly newsletters. Maybe it’s just me and others have more self control over their daily digest of news, but I just can’t comprehend disconnecting from the world — I know it’s unhealthy.

It’s apparent that others seem to have taken a similar approach to what Rob suggested. At least once a day I see the very familiar question being asked by people who have took the decision to step back:

"What are all the cool kids using to do {x, y, z}?"

It’d be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on this. Is this just me self-inflicting this pressure or is this what comes with having a job in a fast paced industry?

Mike Stephens @bitbytebit