We go about our live coping with the day-to-day (sometimes we just barely cope) with life as it comes at us. As it hits us in the forehead. If we are lucky we react correctly and we can go through life with as few issues as possible. How often do we just look up? Look into the faces of the people around us. Heck, how often do we just look up to the sky? You say every day. You say all the time. Do you really? Be honest with yourself.
Let’s go back to when I was a kid. I don’t know….how old would I have been? I was at least in junior high school anyway and I was smacked in the face with a realization. There I was mowing the lawn of a lady neighbor down the road. Just walking behind one of those Gravely tractors. Have you ever seen one of those? They’re pretty good sized machines. Anyway, there I was just a walking behind the mower… ya know, it would take all day to finish that lawn.
Well, I realized, or I thought to myself ——when was the last time you actually looked up to the sky? Wow! I stopped. I looked up to the blue sky, I watched the clouds floating by, I looked at the treetops dancing lazily back and forth in the woods surrounding the yard.
It was then that I realized I was in some sort of rut. I was stuck. What sort of person never looks to the sky? Never looks further than your own toes? I realized years later that I was just reacting to life as it flowed past me. What’s that saying—-I wasn’t taking time to smell the roses. I remember thinking at the time that if I was living like that in my early to mid teens—–how was I going to get through life as I grew up?
I never forgot that moment. Many times as the years rolled by I would remember it. I would stop what I was doing (if possible) and just “see” what was going on around me. I would stare at the sky, the clouds, whatever consisted of my environment at the time. I just wanted to think about the world around me. I guess you could say that I wanted to be a part of the play that was my life and not just a prop.
So, why am I talking about this on my podcast? What does this have to do with technology?
In my opinion, we geeks are by our very nature scurrying here and there putting out fires on our networks, in our databases, taking all that we are responsible for well maintained and running at top efficiency. We can do many things. We put out fires, we manage projects, we are many things to our employers. The problem is tech is everywhere these days. Every department has come to rely on the IT Department to put out their fires.
It isn’t just that we know the secret handshake or the secret knowledge. The reason we are employed in the IT Industry is because we can multitask like no others. We have abilities other people do not have. Sometimes to our own detriment. Sometimes we don’t know how to say no.
We go to work day in day out and BAM—-before you know it it’s 4:00 and we go home. How often have you said “I love this job because the time does fly by”. Think about it. Have you ever been completely caught up? Ever in your career? All your projects completed, everybody is happy, nobody clamoring for your time? Nothing broken? Everybody trained?
I know school districts here in Michigan that have a running average of between 300 and 600 open tickets per technician. I also know of some departments that are snickering right now because they wish they only have an average like that. As I said, it’s the nature of our job that our work is never done. How do you cope with that? Is it possible to take enough time off so that pressure won’t affect you negatively?
Do you dive in head first, immerse yourself in that morass that is your career and don’t slow down until you show signs of exhaustion, and/or burnout, and/or depression?
Let’s take a little break here.
I was in sales for a very large portion of my career. My first sales job was in Minneapolis and my boss —what was his name—-Arnie Stern. He was a short guy full of energy. Full of the sort of energy that people have when they are hugely successful they greatly enjoy their work. He would come to work in a leather blazer sometimes. Or leather pants sometimes. Or both sometimes. —Hey, what can I say—it was the 70’s.
He would harp on the same mantra over and over again to his new sales peeps. He would say “your number one job here or anywhere you are working is to protect the instrument”. The instrument was you. Your body. Your health. He would tell them that you must do whatever you have to do to keep healthy and never be sick. There was absolutely no excuse for calling in sick.
He would say that if you are sick then you are useless to me. You are useless to your family because you can’t work and you are useless to yourself. He went on to say that it is incredibly hard to function at 100%+ every day as it is but if you screwed around until late last night and now you are tired what good are you? If you are not here you are not making money. If you are not making money you will be fired.
That is an extreme point of view to be sure. But work in our industry is tough enough. If you add in your struggling because you stay out too late the night before well then you have a recipe for burnout or exhaustion.
You see, I may not be talking technology today but really I am. In this current economic environment it is tough enough on the human. So if you don’t have a plan, if you just react to your environment, if you never stop to smell the roses you are asking for trouble. Work hard but work smart. Automate the tasks you can. Stay organized. Me? I make lists of projects or things to do and check them off as I complete them. I was told by a psychologist friend years ago that the act of checking off tasks as they are completed actually helps stave off burnout. It gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Please share your thoughts with me on this subject by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ok, so why did this even come up? I was inspired this morning by an article on espn.go.com and that is coming up next.