Leadership

Is it possible to have a life in IT?


I blogged about this several months ago and I would like to reopen this topic for discussion. Let me know how you maintain a life and work in IT. I am truly interested.

Several months ago, I hunkered down to study for my certification upgrade to Windows 2003 and SQL Server 2005. I spent 70+ hours of study and labs to prepare for this certification on top of my 40+ hour a week job. And did I mention I have a wife and three small children? The question I keep asking myself is can you have a life and work in the IT field?” The answer is yes! How? Well here is the big secret:

Control the things you can control.

I know, profound isn't it? Yes, we all have different situations and work in different environments. And sadly, there is no 3-step plan of how to have a life in IT. But you can take charge and choose to have the closest thing possible to the life you want, just by focusing on controlling the things you can control.

What factors tend to prevent you from spending as much time with your family/golf clubs/ friends/ vintage car as you'd like to spend? Take a look at the list below and see if any of these challenges are getting in the way of your life outside of work. Then try out some of the suggested solutions. Even being able to make one of these changes can have a great impact on your life and your peace of mind. And remember- don't try to change the things beyond your control. Let those things go and focus on what’s doable.

Emerging Technologies- One of the biggest challenges we face is constantly changing technology. We are in a field that requires us to constantly learn and adopt new technologies on top of maintaining already existing old technologies (and keeping up with the day-to-day responsibilities of our position). It can be overwhelming at times but I find that the best way to handle the pressure is to create a schedule. You can create your schedule that best suits your needs. I for example, take one quarter per year to learn existing technologies. This works for me do to the nature of my business model. For you it might be one day per month, per week, per year. The whole point is that maintaining a schedule allows you breathing room to learn and keep growing.

Certification- Like it or not, certification is part of our lives. We must continue to maintain our certifications even if we have the experience because employers require it. It is easy to let the certification process consume your life; there is always just one more certification, one more test, and one more upgrade to attain. The only way to not let the certification game drive you crazy is to come up with a set time dedicated to maintaining or upgrading certifications. Work schedule- Whether you work from home, travel the country, or go to an office every day, you still have some form of demanding work schedule that likely threatens to take over all of your waking hours. Many of you may be thinking “but I can’t do anything about that- my schedule is set and these hours are required”; you may skip to the next section. But to the rest of you- can you alter your hours? Understaffing/ Excessive work load- Let's face it: there is nothing you can do here other than hope for new hires.

What I can provide for you are ways to have a semblance of a life in the IT industry. You may not be able to do all of them but even if you can do one of them, you will have gained something by reading this blog. Keep in mind that I do not always practice what I preach but I am trying as well to maintain a life. Unfortunately, I do not always succeed but when I do the reward is fantastic.

3 comments
Eyecrawl
Eyecrawl

You make some very good points. Scheduling will not only keep you organized, it will give you a tool that you can use to say 'No'. Many people want to please everyone, and being in a demanding field like IT, you need to be able to set priorities and sometimes tell people that you are not going to do something (notice I did not say that you 'can't' do something or that you don't have time to do it) To go along with your points about certification, you also need to schedule a break for yourself. After finishing up my BS (while working 40+ hours a week, with a wife and 2 kids), I went right to work on certifications. I got to a breaking point and said 'I am done with certifications for the next month'. Instead I have gone to my son's soccer games, played video games and practiced guitar. Then I went back to studying for my certifications with a new zeal.

adanowotar
adanowotar

I liked your post. Does your wife work? How old are your kids?

junkfoodpimp
junkfoodpimp

I agree. Scheduling is important, but so is scheduling breaks. Taking a break is exactly what you need sometimes to get the motivation to move forward. After 27 months straight of fulltime work / school, or double fulltime school (24-30 credits) without summers to attain my AAS in IT, I needed a break. Now after only 5 weeks off of school while still working fulltime, I'm already looking forward to next quarter, and am excited to learn more and finish my BS. If you don't make the time for yourself, it can eventually let stress catch up with you that makes the little time you have unenjoyable.

Editor's Picks