It’s tough some times to strike that ideal balance between life and work. For me, I am always hoping to find that career path that leads to me being paid to do whatever I want (like travel places on an airplane, play soccer, drive sweet cars, etc). So until I find that path*, I continue to adjust the scales to balance my geeky IT job with my totally-not-geeky life. It is SO tough, but I came up with a helpful list to help.
Inspiration comes from Forbes.com’s 10 items list.
- Identify Priorities. What do you want out of work and personal life? Enough money to buy the sweetest gaming PC? More than enough money to retire early and start your own web company? Or perhaps your goal is just to avoid too much social interaction and spend quality time with your code. Whatever it is, make a list. Then, see if you think those priorities are appropriate.
- Edit Yourself Personally and Professionally. If you’re spending all of your time playing with electric-shock tanks, Sudoku, or photoshopping your coworkers into awkward pictures, you should probably take a minute to evaluate how much time you have to dedicate to your important tasks (those being the ones that your boss expects you to do). Apparently, if you get your work done, you can go.
- Learn Your Employer’s Policies. For some IT folk, this could require a HUGE lifestyle change: like showering daily and ALWAYS putting on deodorant. It’s important to know what your employer expects from your appearance and other policies.
- Have a Support System. You’ll probably want different support systems for different needs: support for helping when you can’t figure out the problem with your code, support for when you need a mental break and want to talk about the latest LAN game, and support for when you want to complain about a coworker. You might want to save that last one for somebody not at work.
- Communicate. If you don’t like to communicate in person much (because of body odor or personal bubble issues), hit up your coworkers on IM. Don’t overcommunicate, though. The entire 100+ IT department probably doesn’t care if you’re taking a day off so just tell the people you work with directly. You’re not THAT important.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage. Obviously, if you work in IT, you’re expected to use lots of geeky applications and all of the real-estate on your multiple monitors.. But something you might not think about is NOT to let technology take over your life. Don’t bring your iPhone to the dinner table with you.
- Telecommute. If you’re a developer and your boss likes you, you can work from home twice a week, plus have every Friday off because you work four ten-hour shifts. If you’re in Software QA, regardless of how much your boss likes you, you don’t get to work from home, take any Fridays off and your probably work five nine- or ten-hour shifts, plus check in on the weekend. But feel free to check about options for commuting.
- Find a Balance Mentor. If you see somebody who seems to have life well balanced, try to be like him. Just be wary that if he’s spending lots of time with his kids and you don’t have kids, this doesn’t mean that you should spend lots of time with HIS kids. Get a dog.
- Set a Time Frame. Write down your goals, make them specific and assign time to them. Go get ‘em, Tiger. Good goal: accomplish this specific development task in 1.5 hours. Bad goal: work really hard for another year until somebody thinks I finally deserve a better job title.
- Be Sure to Ask. If you don’t ask for flexible hours, you’ll never get it. It can’t hurt. Unless of course you are on-call, then don’t expect your boss to be okay with you not answering the pager on a Friday because you decided not to work that day. That’s a good way for your boss to give you REALLY flexible hours – the kind where you don’t come back.
*Or find me a sugar daddy.