It seems that too many of us are stressed and over worked nowadays.
Greedy employers demand more and more while offering less, and
even those who would like to offer reasonable working conditions
are themselves stressed by rising costs and increased competition,
often from overseas where labor costs are far less. I could
easily go into a rant on all of the governmental stupidity that
encourages and increases these problems, but we'll leave that for
some other time and place. This post is about dealing with stress
and particularly so for those of us in the technical fields.
We all get stressed, but some professions are affected more
by it and some have more ways to deal with it. For example,
when I'm over tired or ill, I don't even try to do harder
programming jobs or tricky support work. There's really no
point: if I force myself into it, I'll just screw something up
and create more work for myself later.
Unfortunately, sometimes things have to be done. I can
often rearrange my schedule to do less demanding jobs on
days where I'm impaired, but that's not always possible. In
my case, it's always my choice: I might lose a customer by refusing
to do the work on their schedule, but it is my choice. For
people not self employed, the choice is still there, but
it's not as easy: you might lose your job. Losing a job is
not like losing one customer, as the financial loss is much
greater. That's just one of the many reasons I prefer to
work for myself, of course.
As all of us do, I violate my own rules now and then. While
I know it would be smarter to just take a day off and relax,
sometimes I make the call to do the work anyway.
It's almost always true that I regret my actions. Pushing
myself when I'm really not 100% just adds to my problems, and
is apt to just cause more stress and create a spiral: trying
to satisfy one client's needs causes more impairment which then
affects other clients. It's really better to just bite
the bullet, take the time off, and rest.
But when I do choose to "tough it out", I always approach the
task with lowered expectations and a bail-out plan. For
example, if I simply have to be involved with code while
over tired, I proceed much more slowly and carefully than
I ordinarily would. I expect to get less done, and expect
that I may make more mistakes. I document religiously, and
make backups more often. I also am on the look out
for "good enough" points: fixing something enough for
now, with the plan to return to it when I'm more alert
or less stressed by outside factors. But generally: I'm
just going to take the time off, because I've learned it
just doesn't pay to do otherwise.
How bad can it get? Well, I've been really tired for several
weeks now. It came from the stress of moving, plus a few difficult clients,
nothing really horrible individually, but it all added up. I'm
just not running on all cylinders right now. But this Thursday night I played
poker - dime ante, twenty cent maximum raise game. Not exactly high
stakes - you'd have to play very badly to lose $20.00 in
a night at that table. I managed to lose a bit more.. I
folded a straight flush in a 7 card stud game where there were two
Ace high flushes and a full house that filled up a big pot. I looked
right at 8-9-10 of clubs in my down cards, and the Jack Queen in
my up cards, looked over the threats, analyzed them dead on,
and folded. In another round, I had three Aces in my first three
cards. I bet, someone raised, and I folded. Don't ask why, the
only answer is that I was too tired and stupid. Should a person
capable of folding a straight flush and three Aces on the deal
be doing programming? I don't think so..
We tend to easily make allowances for physical problems,
but are less forgiving for mental impediments. If you have
strained a shoulder muscle and your job is digging ditches,
you expect to have to make allowances for the muscle strain.
You expect to get less done, and most of us will try to
avoid making the problem worse. We know that it makes
more sense to rest the injury; that "pushing it" may
just lead to a longer recovery period. This is just
as true for those of us with more cerebral jobs, but
few of us recognize the wisdom of going easy on ourselves
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