Work and Home
June 9, 2000
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A growing topic among all companies and workers is the
balance between your work and home life. As many of you already know,
working in a high-tech career can often mean working long hours, including
weekends. The stress and strain of an Internet startup can often lead
people to abandon their lives entirely in favor of their work. What they
may not realize though is just how much they are sacrificing while reaching
for the "brass ring" of a million dollar pay out.
Best work vs. rest work
I had an interesting point driven home this week when my wife ended up
working extremely late for 3 nights in a row. Sometimes we like to think
that by pulling and all-nighter we are somehow proving our dedication
and loyalty to our project or our job. In fact, working excessive hours
often reduces the quality of your work so drastically that you end up
re-doing nearly everything you thought you accomplished.
Late at night, or early in the morning your faculty for productive work
steadily decreases. Your fatigue can cause you to veer in two different
directions. You can either begin to feel that everything you are producing
is either golden or trash. You can quickly lose any sort of perspective
about the work you are doing. In the end you will often find that you
forgo any sort of quality merely to get the project done.
Worse still, not only have you done sub-standard work on that late night,
your work performance will be hampered for days to come as you recover
from your all-night effort. Seen in this light, it should be clear that
driving yourself to the edge of your stamina can actually cause more trouble
in the long run.
No matter the deadline or the pressure you need to take time for yourself
in order to do your best work. I have often found that walking away from
a project for a short time can yield much higher returns than sitting
there banging your head against your monitor. This is especially true
when troubleshooting a particularly nasty problem. Often, it is only when
I take a walk or engage in some other work that the solution comes to
me. Your mind needs to mull over the input you have provided it in order
to turn out truly creative solutions.
I am convinced of the universality of this approach since it also applies
to my writing. While I write on strict deadline I find that a column must
be turned over many times in my mind before I am ready to commit it to
paper. I call this my rest work. I do something enjoyable while my mind
continues to work in the background. Of course, some people can turn this
mulling into procrastination if they are not careful. One way I can tell
the difference is by noticing how worried I am about an approaching deadline.
No worry means that that article is writing itself in my head and will
only have to be typed into the computer when it is due. Much worry means
that I am procrastinating and I haven't really decided what I am going
to write about. Perhaps you can use this guideline to manage your own
work in the future.
Too often you neglect an important part of your life just when you need
it most. Your family is a very important part of supporting your work
life. Taking time to watch a Little League game, a soccer match or just
spending time with your family can help to recharge you for the tough
work ahead. If you are chronically leaving in the morning before your
spouse or children are awake and coming home after they are in bed you
can begin to feel horribly isolated. You can begin to think that you are
fighting a battle with no one to watch your back. Your family is there
for you, but only if you are there for your family.
I hear from many people, though, that they don't reduce their time at
work because they are afraid of losing their jobs. If this is true, if
your company would fire you because you want to spend time with your family,
then this company doesn't deserve you. Any company that states this either
directly or through their company culture is guaranteeing high employ
turnover and an eventual decline. Even machines require downtime and regular
maintenance. If companies can't provide this to their employees then they
are assured of sub-standard work. Find yourself a company that understands
the difference between work and home before your home life disappears.
An important goal of any high-tech career is to do the best work possible.
Overwork and ignoring your family/friend support structure is a sure path
to burnout. I firmly believe that you are more likely to lose your job
by driving yourself into the ground than taking the time you need to balance
your work and home life.
Join the career discussion in the Career-Op
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