This post is the fifth part of a ramble-rant about the software business. The current posts in this series are:
Be The Best You You Can Be
When your life is over, your tombstone will not read "...was just like Andy Leonard." Well, I certainly hope not. I hope your epitaph will be about things that are important to you now.
Whether we realize it or not, we are being ourselves every day. Want to know what's important in your life today? Look at your plans for the day. Don't just look at your Outlook calendar - look at the plans you have for the evening and the morning before work. The things that are important to you are there.
Before you start beating yourself up (or start thinking that I'm beating you up), you have to include things that you normally don't think about: You're going to call your spouse or significant other just before you eat lunch to see how their day is going, right? That's important. When you finish working this afternoon / evening / morning, you have a standing date with your kids to play a video game, or help them with their homework, or just hang out with them and watch television, right? That's important. There are weekly activities you and your family participate in as well - stuff like soccer practice or karate or dance class (Emma calls hers "dance cwass") or religious ceremonies / meetings on the weekend, right? That's important. There are monthly, semi-annual, or annual developer community events or code camps or SQL Saturdays that you support by attending, volunteering, or presenting, right? That's important.
It's easy to feel guilty about working too much. It's real easy in IT. I know lots of geeks who feel guilty about working too much. I don't know anyone in this category who can afford to not work. If you have enough money in the bank to handle or insure every foreseeable future event and you're still working too much, then you should feel guilty. For the rest of us, work is necessary.
Notice I didn't say it's a necessary evil. If your work is evil, stop right now and find another job.
If you're working to support yourself and your family, stop feeling guilty about it. "But Andy, I had to work until midnight last Thursday - a 16-hour shift!" Ok, do you do that every day? Or even every Thursday? I bet not. If so, your work may be a necessary evil and I covered that earlier.
I bet some emergency popped up and you pulled the double-shift to get things back on track. You can feel bad about that, but it's actually part of being in IT. There are unpredicatable outages in IT. By definition, you cannot plan for the unpredictable.
"Are You Going Somewhere With This?"
Yes - and I'm glad you asked!
It's ok to be disappointed when work intrudes into life. It's not ok to have that diappointment spiral into guilt. If you do, you then have a whole new problem to deal with. What's worse, it's a problem you manufactured. I don't know about you, but I have enough to deal with already. I don't need to be building new issues to consume my heart, mind, and time.
Balance means that sometimes you lean this way and sometimes you lean that way. If you pulled a 16-hour shift last Thursday to bring a dead server back to life, you should be able to schedule an afternoon off this week or next. Is that fair? No. Fair would be getting an entire day or day and a half off for the extra 8 hours you pulled.
Pay attention, this is important: Life isn't always fair.
Balance is important. So is recognizing you're working for a reason, and that reason is not selfish. There's no reason to feel guilty about that.