CXO

Combat the 'IT blues' with these tips

If you find yourself looking back longingly at the heydey that IT had a couple years ago and struggling to get excited about managing legacy technologies, you probably have a case of the IT blues. Here's a look at some cures that may perk you up.


During the late 1990s, the IT industry was hot. The merits of technology were being extolled daily throughout the media and were driving productivity benefits that caused the economy to soar to new heights. As a result, many companies were investing in new technologies and experimenting with cutting-edge IT solutions, and many workers were trying to break into the rapidly expanding IT job market. IT was the place to be. And then the bottom fell out.

In the past couple of years, many companies have cut their IT budgets and scaled back or eliminated grand IT projects that were in the works. This has left many IT professionals to manage legacy systems and older technologies. For some, much of the excitement and joy has gone out of working with technology, or at least it may not have the same kind of spark that it used to have. Over time, this situation can have a negative affect on the technology-thirsty individual. Fortunately, there are ways to conquer this feeling. Here are some suggestions on how you can conquer the “IT blues.”

Learn a cutting-edge technology
The reason that most of us experience career doldrums is that the interest or excitement we felt when we first entered the field has waned. Back then, we were being introduced to so much great new technology that every day was like a technology learning playground—especially during the exciting times of the late 90s, which raised our expectations. Unfortunately, most organizations can no longer justify the kind of rampant technology spending that was occurring a few years ago.

However, just because the organization you work for does not have the dollars to invest in new technology doesn’t mean that you can't learn more about new technologies and develop your skills in those areas. Granted, not having the technology in your organization may make it more difficult to become an expert. But think about when you first began your IT quest. You probably set up a home testing lab in the house, read volumes of books and magazines, visited companies using the technology, and took certification tests to prove your acquired knowledge. A case of the IT blues can be snapped in a hurry by jumping on a new and interesting technology with the same determination and vigor you had when you first entered the IT job market.

Continuing education
I am currently taking evening classes to finish my degree at a local university. My few remaining courses center on business and management. The great thing is that the subject matter has very little to do with IT. Since I typically spend eight to 10 hours a day thinking about technology, it is refreshing to spend what amounts to roughly 12 hours per week with something not focused on technology.

Although the course work can be hectic, I feel like a more well-rounded individual and get a breather from my day job. Even if you have finished your degree, you can still benefit from some continuing education classes. That may mean taking a management class or something else that can further your career, or it may mean a class in gardening or another subject that interests you. The point is to stimulate a different section of your mind from the one that is constantly thinking about technology. This will help you think about something besides the same old routine that has put you in a melancholy state. As a result, you should become sharper and more focused when you do have to think about technology.

Take up a hobby
Who has time for a hobby? That's what most of us say when we are confronted with the question of what we do for fun. Don’t mistake a hobby for something that adds to your stress or involves large amounts of your limited free time. Sometimes the best hobbies are those that are the least meaningful, such as collecting baseball cards. Maybe your thing is building model airplanes or maybe it's stargazing. Whatever it is, it should be something that you naturally enjoy, and it shouldn't take up so much of your time that it becomes stressful. And whatever you do, make sure it does not involve IT.

Exercise
This suggestion surely deserves much attention. One of the best ways to clear your mind of the mundane IT demands placed on you is to exercise. It's hard to worry about a system upgrade when you feel your heart is going to jump out of your chest while running two miles during your lunch break. The great thing about this IT blues cure is that it is great for your overall mental and physical health.

Regular exercise doesn’t have to mean numerous hours in the gym trying to be the next Mr. or Ms. Universe. Just try to maintain a regular routine of cardiovascular work and some light weight training for 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week. You will be surprised at how much clearer your thoughts are and how much more resistant to stress you become. As always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine.

Take a vacation
Telling you one of the best ways to combat the IT blues is by taking a vacation is a little ironic, since I am writing this while on vacation with my family a mile from the beaches of Pensacola, FL. Nevertheless, for a technology professional battling the feeling of a dull workplace, a vacation can be powerful therapy. If you're like most IT professionals, you probably have plenty of paid time off saved up, and what better way to use it than to take a real vacation? Let one of your coworkers watch over the servers. Put the new code on hold for a week. You can roll out that service pack when you get back.

I emphasize this because too often, we let our jobs be the reason we don’t take vacations when the fact is, we need a vacation because of our jobs. You don’t have to buy a ticket to Paris or take a cruise in the Caribbean. Just get away from work and don’t think about anything IT related. Visit the relatives or a high school friend, work on that project around the house, or better yet, just lie around the house and kick your feet up. When the vacation is over, you will likely return to work to find that your mind is much clearer. And those legacy systems you have to baby-sit don't seem like as much of a burden.

Summary
No doubt about it. Having the IT blues can affect your technology outlook. As you read about a new technology your company is not likely to implement or you hear about exciting projects that other companies are working on, you can certainly wind up depressed. All the suggestions mentioned here are designed to either elevate or refocus your attention and thoughts away from the monotonous IT work at hand. By using these strategies, you should find yourself ready to get back to maintaining the status quo—at least until IT spending increases and the fun starts up again.

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