Specifically, I am talking Software and IT Engineers, since I spent over 20 years in those industries. I was one of the casualties of the long hours spent hunched over a computer screen, sitting in conference rooms and then driving long commutes. All that, combined with the stress of crazy deadlines, Monday morning quarter-backing by out-of-control executives who second-guessed the architecture of our solutions, and, trying to keep my teams motivated and healthy, turned me into a fat, jobless, depressed and divorced former Release Engineering Vice President. At 51, I gave up and tried a whole new career — health coaching for the high-powered professionals who were stuck in my old time-warp.
In the interest of saving a few souls, I am sharing some ideas of what to do to protect your health, livelihood and sanity while delivering to those crazy deadlines and defending your need to have a life outside of the company.
First, establish a REALISTIC TIMELINE for projects, that allows you to go home, rest and do some healthy activity. Your manager needs to support you. If not, go to to the next-level. (This assumes you are a good producer and have a good rep.) Your long-term health and sanity is critical. Requiring constant 70-hour weeks or around-the-clock efforts is not acceptable and the sign of a bad manager or management team.
Second, LEAVE THE CRAP FOOD ALONE! We used to have M&Ms in a bowl at my secretary’s desk at one company, and I would grab a handful on the way to meetings. Bring your own healthy snacks and eat them, while congratulating yourself on avoiding the sugar headache and spare tire.
Third, DRINK WATER, not soda, caffeine, or fruit juice. Drink one-half of your weight in ounces of water a day, every day! Flush those toxins out of your body and hydrate your mind! 2% dehydration = 15% less brain-function. You need every brain cell you have, working at 100%, to hit those deadlines.
Fourth, MOVE!!! park a long way from the front door. Walk at lunch. It can be inside, but get moving for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Exercising at the gym is good, but don’t make your body stay still all day until then. An IT engineer client of mine brought on a horribly-debilitating painful condition by working straight through for 12 hours, no water, no breaks, for days on end. She spent the next few months trying to get her body to calm down. Don’t let that be you.
Fifth, RESTORE. Get away from the job, even if for just one hour a day. Don’t bring it home. Don’t read code or write instructions while eating. Turn off the phone, television. Read a book. Get a massage. Play sports. Hike, bike, swim, dance. (Drinking alcohol does not count, although a glass of wine at dinner is OK.). Meditation is great, if you can do it. I am still working on that….
Sixth, EAT REAL FOOD. If you don’t like to cook, then follow my method of: Acquire, Assemble, Consume. I prefer the ready-to-go meals from places like Trader Joe’s. I like to get a basic salad with lots of veggies, nuts and some chicken or salmon, add more protein and chow-down. A good salad takes about 20 minutes to eat, because you have to chew enough to get the digestion going. You will feel full, satisfied and your cells will be nourished. Or, a fish meal with sides, from the freezer. Yes, you can get real food in a freezer section, you just have to watch the sodium content.
Seventh, SET ASIDE FAMILY AND FRIENDS TIME. Time when work-talk is off-limits. Time when you can enjoy just shooting the bull, sharing stories that have nothing to do with the software and what it is supposed to do.
In short, you are the most marvelous super-computer, but, “Garbage In, Garbage Stays”. Help your amazing platform, applications and network to run at top speed, and get the life you want!