This was my side discussion in the Whales are Here post yesterday. I rewrote the end several times yesterday and felt I was just going in circles without hitting the point. Peter and I were talking last night and he gave me the right end. Here is the whole post-rewritten.
I listen to podcasts as I run. Today I heard one about “extreme jobs”. That’s what I used to have and don’t want again! They were talking that companies are concerned because of burn out rates. They actually also referred to “brown out” where someone doesn’t quit but becomes less effective. A few of the characteristics of an extreme job include:
- Working 60+ hours a week
- Traveling often including global travel
- Having P&L responsibility
- Working with people globally (i.e. meetings with India at 9pm)
- Spend more time with co-workers than spouse and kids
I don’t remember the others but there were 7 or 8 of them. Most people I know in Silicon Valley fit several of these groups. People who haven’t experienced several of these things really don’t understand an extreme job.
I know I’ve slowed down here. My health shows it. I’ve now gotten to the point that I can finally actually analyze issues to resolve them. The last few nights I’ve had a hard time sleeping through the night. I couldn’t figure out why and it was starting to drive Peter crazy. He immediately thought it was that I was stressed because of my new career. I told him that there is a little anxiety but not stress. I would just wake up at 2:30 and be thinking about a million things.
You won’t believe what it turned out to be. Almost every night I play a game of Sudoku before going to sleep. It helps me relax; I often don’t finish before I drift off. I had finished all the easy, moderate and tough puzzles in my book and was into the diabolical! They strained my brain; actually I found I finished them faster if I would just guess than figure out the diabolic pattern. But somehow it was not having the effect I needed. I bought a new book and am back to doing easy/moderate puzzles… and I’m sleeping through the night again.
If something as simple as the toughness of Sudoku can change your sleep patterns, what does an extreme job do to you? Yes, many people thrive off them but they also don’t always recognize when/why they are having issues. I know I didn’t. I knew I would survive. Much like the frog in a pot of cool water. You stay and think you are surviving but slowly the water boils. In real life it brings frustration, inability to focus, depression, cancer and other physical issues. I used to tell my friends and employees “Don’t expect your boss to take care of you . You are the only one that knows what you need to do. Companies will drain you dry and ask for more. “
I’m very glad I took the opportunity and jumped. I also am glad that along the way I took opportunities to cool off the boiling water. Here are a few of my suggestions… send in your own!
- Always have a vacation planned. If I didn’t have one planned before I left this was my first priority on return. Having something to look forward to really keeps you grounded.
- Plan vacations such that you are 100% out of contact. No email, no phones. Think about leaving your computer at home. I learned this lesson early in career when I agreed to interview for a position while on vacation in Hawaii. It was another position in the same company and I knew most the interviewers so I wasn’t too worried. However, it totally ruined my whole week – just thinking about it and worrying about the outcome. I swore I’d never do that again. You earned a REAL VACATION.
- If you absolutely must have contact, allocate a specific time to it. Tell people “I will be checking my email/voicemail once a day at 8am. I will only be responding to things flagged urgent.”
- Establish mentoring relationships with people both inside/outside your company. It is great how a friend outside your “work group” who can understand “extreme jobs” can add a great perspective to your “crisis du jour”.
- Another fun vacation trick I did. This took a tiny bit of time but was SO telling of how we use our time. On returning from vacation, I would face 1000’s of email messages. I took only the messages addressed to me and I organized them into 2 groups 1) Response or input still required and 2) Issue resolved. According to my stats, less than 5% of my email didn’t resolve itself within 3 days.
- Take classes or attend seminars at least 1/quarter. It may not seem that you pick much up from the class or seminar itself but just adding a different perspective will cool the water.
Send your ideas and suggestions and I’ll add them to the post.