Just this past week, I hunkered down to study for my certification upgrade to Windows 2003. 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 two 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 heres the big secret:
Control the things you can control.
I know, profound isnt 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 youd 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- dont try to change the things beyond your control. Let those things go and focus on whats 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 cant 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- Lets face it: theres 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 column. 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.