This post originally appeared on ONTRAPORT’s engineering blog. I’ve cross-posted it here for posterity.

Software development is hard work. A project takes many turns before it’s pushed live, and sometimes you have to work more hours than you wanted and/or cut corners to hit deadlines. At ONTRAPORT, our busiest time is mid-summer into early October when we host ONTRApalooza, our annual user conference.

At the close of ONTRApalooza, there’s a sense of relief (and excitement) of hitting the goal, but there’s also a lingering feeling of burnout. Over the past couple of years we have worked hard to eliminate that post-conference hangover. Working longer hours at the zero hour is a symptom of processes not being followed (or lack of processes).

For the past three years we’ve looked at the last quarter of the year as an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong during the year and a chance to address any technical debt we incurred.

This is a good plan for a number of reasons:

  1. Taking time to reflect fits in with society’s idea of reflecting on the past year. It’s ONTRAPORT’s way of internalizing that value and showing that we care about the past and do not want to repeat mistakes. It fits in with our value, Care for Our Community.
  2. It lets us address the areas where we cut corners — providng engineers a greater sense of ownership in determining their results, which is important as you’re more likely to take care of things which you “own.”
  3. It allows us to take on smaller projects that we’re interested in, which allows us to learn something new or investigate a new technology.
  4. It gives the department time to cut down the backlog of business maintenance tickets, keeping our Customer Support team happy.

I encourage you to pick a quarter during the year to reflect and take on the smaller projects that you put off during the past year. You might find that it’s one of the most rewarding times in the year.