While I was filling out my time-sheet (yes, I still fill out a time-sheet…more for costing rather than making sure I’m working), I entered in the time I spent on a particularly draining project. When I entered the time, I had to go back and double-check. The hours didn’t match the mental impact. This project consumed me; but, the hours didn’t bear that out. So I started to think back to see how that was possible…did I miss some hours?…what was it? Then I had the revelation: On my time-sheet, I wasn’t accounting for all the time that I was THINKING about the project. So while I might have only worked on it for 20 hours that week, I was thinking about it day and night…and that was what caused me to think of it in larger terms. Of course, that’s also why it was so draining.
This is one of those things that no one really talks about and many don’t even realize. So I really can’t call it an elephant in the room…maybe an elephant that most people can’t see…kind of like the Thestrals from Harry Potter (…sorry, my son’s really into Harry Potter)…but I digress. The “thing” is that not being able to take your mind off of work or at least a particular project has an impact on how drained you are by it. As IT people, the more projects you get into the more this becomes incredibly important. Your brain needs time and space to recoup.
In the recent past, I was put into a position where I half-jokingly said, “…I am multi-tasked to incompetence…”. The meaning of this is that I was doing so many different things that I couldn’t do any of them really well. In that environment, it was an unspoken badge of honor to be super busy in many, many projects. In retrospect I realize that thinking was dysfunctional and very harmful to the organization. It’s a shame that many others bought into it (consciously or unconsciously). I finally realized how damaging it was by getting a different position at a different company. In this new position, I was able to bring value to the organization and stay sane at the same time…what a concept.
So this is a cautionary tale to keep tabs on your workload. If you start seeing the signs of be over-tasked (e.g., waking up at odd hours with a sudden urge to send that important e-mail before you forget…yes, true story!). Other symptoms may be similar to this article about successful people who get pulled into others’ projects.
The overall moral to this story is that no one other than YOU is looking out for your interests…it is your company’s duty to
exploit leverage your skills to their advantage. It’s up to you to define what is right for you and more importantly…to know your limits.