Today is my last day at work for a couple weeks. Actually, I’m not done yet. I travel to Louisville today forthe SQL Saturday tomorrow and then I return home Sunday. I’ll be traveling away on Monday, so this is really my last day in the office. I hope. It’s possible I’ll realize over the weekend I’ve forgotten something and need to tackle it remotely, but I’m hoping that won’t be the case.
While I won’t be completely unable to do anything, I am hoping that I’ll remain unwired for the two weeks. We are traveling to remote locations for some of the time, and there might not be cell service, and certainly not wi-fi. There will be some access on some days, as my son is taking an online class this summer and he has work to do, but I’m going to try and stay off email and Twitter, using my phone to just read and take/post pictures.
Getting away from work is a challenge for many of us in technology. Earlier in my career, and for many years running this site, I struggled to take time off. I’d regularly check on the site, even writing editorials at times while on holiday. I can still remember using a public terminal at a hotel years ago to connect with work. In the last few years, I’ve gotten better, and taking time off for a 6 week sabbatical really helped. I even take all my vacation most years.
That’s something that plenty of us still need to learn. I saw a post from someone recently that was on vacation and checking email. There were issues, though a backup person was supposed to handle them. I get the compulsion to check on anything for which you have responsibility. I get the habit of looking at email. I get the desire to just fix things. Those are feelings that I think many of us experience.
What I’ve learned over time is that most of the work we do isn’t that critical. Certainly our employer’s systems can affect operations, profitability, and more, but they’re not our systems. They’re the responsibility of the organization to run, which includes ensuring there are backup resources, human and otherwise, that can manage systems. For those of us that are on top of our jobs, that are the go-to person, that don’t just maintain, but actively improve systems, we need to let others make decisions, even poor ones, and bear that same burden. Ultimately that’s how others learn and get better.
I experience this as a parent, and I’m sure many of you do as well. We want our children to do better, to avoid the mistakes we’ve made in the past. We often try to actively manage how our kids live, or prevent them from making a poor decision. Across three kids and many years, I’ve learned to step back more and allow my kids to fail. It’s hard, one of the harder things in my life to not act or say something, but allow them to make a mistake. Even at work I’ve started to step back at times and hold my tongue if I’m not positive I need to say something. Instead, I try to listen more and accept that things will be less than perfect.
That’s OK. We strive to become better, to improve our systems, to increase efficiency, but it’s possible to do too much. To overspend resources on tuning, or indeed, not make things better but worse. We can overcomplicate things to the point where others can’t understand them, or perhaps worse, we encourage mistakes from the complexity we’ve introduced.
Life requires some balance, as do our careers. Work hard, improve things where you can, meet your obligations and take responsibility for your mistakes. Accept that others will make mistakes, and that you are not irreplacible while you enjoy your time away. I’m hoping I will during the next two weeks.