Get a life: 10 tips for achieving a better work/life balance

We all know 60-hour workweeks are common in the IT world. But it doesn't have to be that way.

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7. Share your knowledge.

It's often fulfilling to be an expert on a specialized program, but Keefe warns against being the only one in the know.

"In the cases when you're a de facto expert, you want to pull teammates in and train them," even if you have to take the initiative to make that training happen, he explains. "You want to share that knowledge, because if you have an on-call structure, then you won't have to always be the only one on call."

8. Use your gadgets.

There's no doubt that Keefe is a fan of gadgets because he, like many others, can use mobile devices to get work done whenever, wherever.

Moreover, he says, mobile devices can be tied into the office network, allowing employees to not only receive automated messages about potential problems but also to troubleshoot from wherever they are.

"IT professionals have invented everything that lets people work from wherever, [so] no one in IT should be enslaved to a particular place," Lingle adds.

9. Use your gadgets wisely.

Consider this statement: "Devices like BlackBerry chain you to work more than they liberate you." In the Digital Life America survey released in February 2007 by Solutions Research Group, one-third of respondents agreed with that statement -- and they were themselves all users of BlackBerries, Palm Treos and other smart phones.

It doesn't have to be that way -- if you're willing to put your foot down about how much of your attention such devices can demand.

When Steve Davidek, a systems administrator for the city of Sparks, Nev., got a BlackBerry about a year ago, he quickly found himself dealing with e-mails at all sorts of times and places. He reassessed his situation and decided to stop checking e-mails during off-hours. Instead, colleagues know to reach him via phone to relay news of problems that truly needed his immediate attention. "I need a cell phone; I don't need a leash," he explains.

10. Maintain perspective.

It's easy to feel your life is out of whack when a looming deadline or major systems failure has everyone in overdrive. Before you panic or throw in the towel and quit, take a deep breath, the experts advise.

"You're going to have blips; that's just life," Briefcase Moms' Martin says.

Martin suggests that instead of focusing on how tough you have it at any particular moment -- or, worse yet, making decisions based on short-term problems -- you should take a long-term perspective and consider how you're working to achieve your work and life goals.

She remembers coaching one working mother who had worked hard to develop highly specialized skills that were in high demand and yet "felt like she was chasing her tail all the time and felt her only solution was to find a different job."

When Martin asked her client to consider what she liked about her career and what she wanted from her job and personal life, the woman realized she liked her work; she just didn't like the hours. In the end, rather than walking away from a job she liked, the woman negotiated a four-day workweek that allowed her the extra time at home that she wanted.

"Sometimes this is difficult," Martin says, "but work/life balance is about being clear about what your boundaries are and then communicating them."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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