I took a few weeks off recently for a vacation with my family. We traveled from Denver to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and then on to Glacier National Park in Montana. We drove a horse trailer, camping along the way in the vast outdoors of America. It was a wonderful time and a beautiful part of the country. If you get the chance to visit, I’d highly recommend the trip.
One of the interesting things on this trip was that I was very unwired. In fact, I didn’t even take a laptop, which is a rarity for me. Often I’ll take one to jot notes, sketch an editorial, or just have around to check on things. This time, I didn’t bother, and neither did my wife. One kid did, but only because he was enrolled in a couple classes (CS and Math) this summer and had assignments to do.
The only device I had was my phone, which didn’t have service for much of the trip. Both during long drives (I was glad Google Maps downloads directions), at many of our campsites, and in the national parks, there was little service. In fact, when I did have service, I was surprised. The camping locations did have wi-fi, but I only used it to upload pictures of the trip and didn’t even bother checking social media as I posted. I mostly uploaded pictures to ensure I had a backup.
I did check email once early on to be sure that I hadn’t forgotten anything from work early, and forwarded on a couple items to people, but when I arrived home last week, I had hundreds of messages from Redgate and probably close to a thousand from SQLServerCentral. It was quite a chore handling and deleting a number of items, and took half of my Monday back in the office.
What was interesting to me is that I didn’t really miss the social media much, certainly didn’t miss the news, and nothing that important came up. I didn’t worry about work, knowing that something would go wrong (such as a few buggy questions) and that someone would handle the situation (thanks to Grant for fixing things) or delay the item until I returned. I found numerous meetings canceled or rescheduled without me and quite a few hastily dashed emails or queries that were later retracted or amended. In fact, going through emails from newest to oldest allowed me to delete older, out of date messages without reading them.
I rarely take more than a few days off at a time, usually just a long weekend here and there, but this proved (again) something I’ve suspected for a long time. Much of the pressure we feel with deadlines at work is arbitrarily imposed. Whether we do it to ourselves or someone else picks a datetime, there isn’t any rationale for the choice. Usually the goal is to complete work as fast as possible, but if there are delays, if something comes up, with life, other tasks, unforeseen failures (hardware/software) get in the way, the business will survive.
I learned a long time ago that despite my best efforts, things will go wrong and there will be delays. I’ve learned to expect them, accept them and try to not add any extra stress on myself when things are delayed. Go home at a reasonable hour most of the time, live the rest of your life, while doing the best professional job you can. There will always be more work, and the business will survive if most of your work ends up being delayed slightly.