I’ve thought a lot recently about balance in life. We’ve all heard about the importance of balance in our work and personal life. That’s a great idea, but with work from home I think that idea has been pretty well exploded. At least for me, I’m not really able to cleanly separate the two. Work is intense and needs focus to do well. I work from home. I also have three kids who have been going to school at home for the past school year.
A window. This is both for fresh air and to look at. If you can swing it, arrange your work area so that the window isn’t directly behind you or directly in front of you. To the side will give you good light without washing out your screen or making you feel uncomfortable with an open window behind you. A door. Bonus points if it closes and can lock. We’ve all seen enough mid-meeting interruptions during WFH.
During college I played music professionally. It was a wonderful experience and I loved getting to know and work with some pretty crazy people. Jazz musicians in particular can be neurotic at times. (That’s why I fit in so well, haha!) Take sax players. Some sax players never take their horn off. Wherever they go they have their horn in their hand and they are always noodling on a riff or a solo idea.
One of the joys of the pandemic has been the return of baseball. (Congrats to the Dodgers on their World Series win. We’ll get ‘em next year KC!) I’ve started to think a lot about my local team and some of the fun quirks of the game. All sports have superstitions and illogical practices, but baseball is bathed in them. Rally caps anyone? One of my favorite young pitchers would always jump over the chalk lines on his way back to the dugout when an inning ended.
My work at SpiderOak revolves around customers. My team handles customer support, account management, onboarding, and some technical aspects of our websites. Working with customers means a constant influx of work. There will always be questions, some big and some small, and they will always come at times when you don’t expect them. This makes doing foundational work hard to schedule. If a server goes down or there’s a technical issue that affects customers, it means that we’ll be working full time to communicate and assist while the problem is solved.
I had an interesting conversation with my younger brother the other day. He is a college student who has the beginnings of a nice career playing jazz music. Unfortunately the pandemic has a huge negative influence on musicians who play live music, including my brother. He’s been looking for another job to help fill the gap until his live gigs restart. He had an interview scheduled for the afternoon, then in the morning an opportunity related to his music came up.
One of the most difficult things for me is starting something new. I love learning new things. Researching, comparing, reading about others who have done the same thing, I enjoy all of it. What’s hard is when it’s time to stop reading and start doing. Here are a few methods I’ve found that can help. Reframing the situation can make something difficult look less daunting. This takes a good sense of humor many times, but can help more than you’d think.
Sometimes we forget how powerful small actions can be. Each time the seasons change and it’s time to switch from heat to cool (or cool to heat) I’m reminded of a simple lesson in applied physics. We moved into our house in December. The heat in our house worked fine. When summer came and we were ready to switch on the air conditioner, I couldn’t figure out why the upper floor of our house was so hot.
Worthwhile pursuits are hard. Work worth doing involves struggle. This is one of the lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life. This afternoon I saw a perfect example of this. We had a small, Friday afternoon emergency at work. A customer needed a very specific data set that I knew was in our database but that I didn’t know how to retrieve. A coworker stepped up and saved the day.
As I write this my son is playing scales on his double bass. (Tomorrow morning he has an audition for the high school orchestra, which is a big deal for an 8th grader.) Scales are one of the most important and most boring things to practice on an instrument because they give the player a chance to work on small chunks of difficult notes over and over. It’s a great analogy for how all work should be done.