My wife, one year old daughter and I play a game that most other parents have played at some point; my wife will hold her and ask her "Where’s daddy?” and the response is invariably a wide-eyed scan of the room by my daughter, culminating in a big snotty slobbery smile when she locates me. This is a game and is fun for her but it is an important exercise for linking a name and role with a face for her and for enforcing the idea that when she looks for me, she will find me.
So what about when we cannot be there? What about when my six year old daughter asks this question and the answer is “We will see him Friday”? I read the blogs of techies that travel the country speaking at conferences and user groups. Other road warriors spend their time attending or leading developer boot camps and still others are meeting with clients and doing marketing and sales work. Many of these techies have families and my assumption is that they place a high level of importance on their family life.
So how do you do it? How do you manage a passion for technology, and near chemical addiction to learning and sharing information with others, alongside the responsibilities you have within your family?
Techniques for Balance
1. Schedule Time for Life – How much work would you get done if you had absolutely no plan and no schedule? This is not just a reference to scheduling time for your spouse and/or children if you have them, but it is also important to schedule some time alone for reflection or some time with the girls/guys. LifeHacker made reference to this. We have smart phones, free calendar services and a habit of scheduling time at work just take advantage of these facts and treat your non-work time like it is just as important as your work time.
2. Learn to say “no” at work. Your bosses love your dedication and would love you to continue to push yourself and outperform all expectations, but they will not be pleased when you burn yourself out. TalentCulture.com has a good set of suggestions for saying no.
Technologies to help Balance
First, a definition. I am generically defining technology as the application of tools rather than processes to solve a problem. It may not be the right definition but it is my definition. Technology should help you manage your time in such a way that you get things done at work and can feel good about having time away for yourself.
1. Organize your work-life. Once upon a time I tried to use the 43 Folders system but at that time I really did not have much responsibility. I think now I may benefit from taking another look at it.
2. Calendaring. I mentioned this in point one of the techniques section, but set up a calendar account, or use your work one, and schedule time for yourself and your family; as an extension, do not dismiss those appointments when they come up. You need time for you and ignoring that fact will diminish what you can do when you are at work. If you are married, show your spouse how to schedule things on your calendar so that they know they can get your attention. I use my Google/gmail calendar and find it works well.
3. The off button. Use it. I am not going to say you need to unplug for a week at a time or commit infosuicide but just unplug long enough to enjoy something else. Take your wife on a date. Take your son or daughter out to show them they are special… and turn off the phone.
And then… (AND NO AND THEN!)
Technology and our careers are important; some of us are really using our love of technology to make a difference in the world but in the end you are not your job. If you live to work, you will get to the end of the work and have nothing else to do. If you work to live, you will get to the end of the work and be excited to more live more fully. Not only will it be better for your home life, it will be better for your employer; the research supporting this statement is not exactly new.
Work less hours, work harder and more productively during those hours and live a fulfilling life both inside and outside the office.