Life Organization

For years, those of us in technology have often worked outside of the core working hours for the rest of our organization. Whether this is being on-call, staying late, or coming in when asked. It’s not uncommon for many developers and Ops staff to work 60, 70, or more hours to get things built/deployed/supported for our customers. Often we do this while juggling lots of tasks on a to-do list. While many things might be in a ticketing system, often I find there are tasks on a project plan, requests from team members, and other items which don’t fit neatly into a ticket. I’m juggling more than one to-do list.

The line between work and personal life has often been blurred for me. I’ve taken work calls on the golf course, in an airport, late at night in my bathroom, while shopping with my wife, even at kid’s sporting events. I regret not pushing back more to a few managers early in my career, but I also recognize that I (and many of you) are sometimes in poor cultural situations and we don’t have a choice if we want to keep employed.

A quick example of why I feel this way, and perhaps why some of you do. I had a boss paging me on a Friday night while I was at a comedy club with my wife. I walked outside to take the call during a break and was told that I wasn’t responding quickly enough to the page. The emergency? A test of how quickly I’d respond on a Friday night. Note that we were not a 24×7 business. After pushing back Friday night that I wasn’t answering any more pages that weekend, I was asked to resign on Monday. I was happy to do so.

With the pandemic and many of us data professionals working from home, the line between work and personal life has blurred further. In many cases, our work isn’t bound by a clock, and we might easily move some work to personal time to take personal time during working hours. Trading an hour after a kid’s bedtime to work so that you can lunch with them during the day seems like a good thing all around.

However, what I’m wondering today is how we start to manage and juggle all our tasks when we might not easily be able to separate all our time into work time and personal time? We might have work deliverables, which are already on multiple to-do lists. Our partner might ask us to handle some items around the house, we have scheduled events for kids or friends, or even ourselves. Perhaps we volunteer at the user group, a church, or another place and we have various deliverable items we’ve agreed to handle. On top of the myriad of tasks, some of these repeat regularly and might not have due dates.

How do you handle keeping track of all the things in your life?

I’ll admit I don’t do this well. I put most things with specific deadlines on a calendar as meetings. These include speaking engagements, travel, meetings, doctor’s appointments, and coaching events. If I need prep time, I’ll often schedule a few earlier meetings to either prep or remind myself I have something coming.

For other To-do items, I sometimes put them on a list, but I find the lists growing out of control, and I don’t have a good handle on how to think about tracking UTV oil changes, vacation planning, getting a package to my daughter, fixing a fence post at the ranch, reaching out to a UG to speak, and more. I don’t have a good way to track, visualize, prioritize (or re-prioritize) these items in a busy life. I usually struggle to juggle two calendars, work and personal, as it is. In some sense, life is somehow out of control and chaotic, and I tackle things when I have time and think about an item. Or I respond to a crisis.

Someone asked me how I keep organized, and I realized I’m not very organized. I do a good job with many things, but there are plenty of tasks that aren’t well organized. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of need to have these items tightly scheduled, and like technical debt, I can let some of them go for days or weeks (or months).

If you have ideas, suggestions, or you suffer from the same issues, I’d love to know what works for you, or just that you feel things are out of control in your life.

Steve Jones

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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