An anonymous reader writes: Hacker Benjamin Smith deconstructs the cycle of education, production, and rest that will be familiar to many software and hardware engineers. He breaks it down into four steps: 1) Focused effort toward a goal, 2) structured self-education, 3) side-projects to sharpen skills, and 4) burnout and rest. He writes, 'As my motivation waxes at the beginning of a cycle, I find myself with a craving to take steps towards that goal. I do so by starting a project which focuses on one thing only: building a new income stream. As a result of this single-mindedness, the content or subject of the project is often less interesting than it otherwise might have been. ... [Later], I almost always decide to teach myself a new technical skill or pick up some new technology. ... This is usually the most satisfying period of my cycle. I am learning a new skill or technology which I know will enhance my employability, allow me to build things I previously could only have daydreamed about, and will ultimately be useful for many years to come. ... [In the burnout phase], I’ll spend this period as ferociously devoted to my leisure activities as I was to my productive tasks. But after a few months of this, I start to feel an itch...'