I keep busy. My wife and I tend to be type-A people, tackling lots of things and keeping very busy. We work hard, and often, a lot. Our spare time in the winter is spent with second jobs, coaching youth volleyball. My kids think that we can be a little unbalanced at times, not taking enough time off or getting away from work. I agree. They are better balanced in life than my wife and I.
The thing I tell me self is that keeping busy and being driven has helped me have a great life and a great career. It’s also created lots of stress, perhaps more than I should have. I thought about this balance as I was watching I Can’t Keep Up!, Catherine Wilhelmsen’s keynote from Data Saturday Oslo. It’s a great talk and worth your time to watch. She tells you that while you can do anything, or almost anything, that you want, it’s not necessarily easy. You have to work, but you have to find some balance.
The world of technology has grown at a crazy pace during my life. As I’ve watched the growth of cloud capabilities from vendors, I’ve felt the same things Catherine has. I can’t keep up, I don’t have time to keep up, and everyone likely knows more than me about many things.
All of those things are mostly true.
I can’t keep up, I don’t really have time to try, and certainly, there are plenty of people who know more than me about any particular thing. However, I should learn to accept those things, not worry about them.
It’s easy to get stressed or feel discouraged at your lack of being an expert in your field. There is good advice in the talk, but the thing that I try to remind myself of often is that I know more than last year. I am good at some things, and I continue to improve my skills in some areas. Most importantly, I can prioritize, pick a few things, and then work on those across time, which is enough to help me succeed.
I have learned to set a few reminders each month and focus at those times on something that I want or need to learn. I also allow myself some free time to improve myself in a general way, without an agenda. I struggle with distractions, but I do try to remind myself to focus when I have time. The key in technology is learn how to learn. Don’t worry about picking the perfect technology or being as efficient as you can. Just learn something and get comfortable with regularly learning about new skills. Even if you choose something you never use later, you are building the skill and habit of learning.
It’s good to challenge yourself, but be realistic, and more importantly, find balance. If you are starting out in your career, without many external obligations, you may have more time to work on your career, but you also have more to learn. Be patient with yourself and learn to enjoy life outside of your career field, even if you spend lots of hours trying to grow your career skills.
If you are older, perhaps you pick something related to your work, or perhaps you pick something that interests you. Either way, exercising your brain and gaining new skills, however slight, is helpful.
Always remember, we work to live, not the other way around.