Too busy to take a break? Do yourself a favor and make time.

An IT Pro's Job is Never Done

Too busy to take a break? Do yourself a favor and make time.

Auntie’s working through the summer (that darned Win2K rollout planned for later this year has us testing all summer long), and she isn’t sure when she’ll be able to take time off. Like the majority of you in the IT business, Auntie has no life at all.

Sound familiar? Do you pile up vacation days and comp time faster than the executive branch piles up special prosecutors? Maybe you used to snicker at taking the traditional two weeks off, but be honest—wouldn’t you love to?

Our general inability, reluctance, or aversion to taking time off is a function of our success and the demand for our services. But like Fabio’s inability to turn away a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream, it’s not a healthy behavior in the long run. Physical and mental fatigue eventually catch up with you, and you can’t perform the way you once could.

Time off is a tougher call when you consult for a living. Take this equation:

Time off = I don’t make any money

This equation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to be paired with other formulas that put it into context:

No time off = Brain overload
Brain overload = Can’t do job
Can’t do job = I don’t make any money

Don’t think that I’m preaching from some high and mighty perspective, either—Auntie works for a living to pay the mortgage, sure, but also to keep Fabio in suntan lotion and butter substitutes. It’s unnerving to tell a client I can’t start on the 23rd when they want me on the 16th.

If you’re a full-time employee, you’re worse off: Accrue all the vacation time you want, but the corporate culture may have an unwritten rule discouraging you from actually taking it. If you’re a staffer for a consulting company, you’re hit with a double whammy: Your customer doesn’t want you to take time off and your company will despise you for losing revenue while you’re on vacation. (“Can’t you take time after the Fludgobber job’s over?” “When will that be?” “Uh, 2006.”)

I’m hoping that Auntie can help. Understand that there is no good time to take vacation, just like there is no good time to attend a training class or conference. Fight those unspoken workplace taboos and take the time you have coming to you. If it gets you in trouble, retool your resume; you’ll find plenty of IT concerns who understand that a staff more thoroughly fried than a bucket from the Colonel isn’t going to generate the revenue or results of a staff that has had time to rest its brains.

If you’re a manager who doesn’t get this, I’d suggest looking for another line of work. In the end, your staff will go elsewhere, and you’ll be scratching your pointy little head looking for the cause.

Staffer, manager, or consultant, it’s so easy to get caught up in what we do for a living that we sometimes lose perspective about what really matters. Profits and deadlines come and go. Our health and sanity are more important.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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