This is NOT a New Year’s Resolution

I always see so many peers, bloggers and speakers talking about planning their year ahead around December and managing a good work/life balance but it’s never really sunk in with me until the latter part of this year. It has been a crazy year for me, in so many respects: starting a new job, speaking at a conference for the first time, getting an MVP award and all of that with a son under 2 and another on the way. The single, finite resource in all these achievements and responsibilities is time.

Does anyone know where I can find more time?

I’m writing it all down, so I know what I’ve got ahead of me in 2019 (but this isn’t a New Year’s resolution!). I have a terrible habit of saying Yes to everyone and that resulted in a lot of late nights and busy weekends throughout 2018. I also wanted to say it all publicly, forcing me to stay on-track and if anyone else is in a similar position, maybe they can benefit from my ranting, or share their secret recipe to getting that work/life balance too. Seriously, I’ll pay handsomely for a time machine!

So, thinking about everything I want to do and achieve in 2019, I can fit most things into these categories, or buckets, might be a better analogy that relate to things spilling over;

  • Family time;
  • Work;
  • Blogging;
  • Speaking;
  • Learning;
  • Volunteering;
  • Event organising;
  • User group;
  • Running;
  • Down time.

Family Time

This is the most important to me. With a new baby on the way, it’s going to be the most challenging and the most fluid. I’m committing right now that from the moment I get home at night to the moment the kids are in bed, is family time. Work email, twitter banter and event emails etc all go on-hold. An hour or two of offline time every night isn’t going to kill anyone (in theory). Weekends will be more fluid but that’s manageable.

Work

“Work” is probably the biggest portion of everyone’s life, it pays the bills after all. Not only that (and I hope I’m not alone in saying), it challenges me, I learn new things, I enjoy what I do. Work feeds into the things I want to blog and speak about. It fulfils and expands my desire to learn. It’s not always 9-5 but I’m also not getting unreasonable requests to bring work home, which is a rare balance to find. It’s important to be flexible but within reason or you’ll be on the fast track to burnout.

Blogging

I want to continue this, I really do! I find it’s a great way to solidify a concept in my mind or fully understand a problem I’ve solved. Let’s be realistic though. This must be something I want to do rather than a chore I must do. I think a post every two months is a reasonable number to commit to, with everything else that’s going on, so that’s what I’ll aim for. If I get inspired to write more, then great.

Speaking

I’ve already been accepted to speak at SQLBits in February and DataGrillen in June which I am over the moon about!

I’m hoping to fit at least two more conferences in throughout 2019 and hopefully get to at least 4 user groups. It’s not a significant commitment but I need to focus on Family. I’ve not long started speaking but I really enjoy sharing and seeing that spark of inspiration in people, that I get when I attend technical sessions and come out with a million ideas and things I want to play with. The prep time is the real killer here though, with research and practice, so I need to manage my time better and commit to this on a regular basis. One or two nights a week should be a good standing arrangement. This usually ramps up before I present anywhere but I think it’s good to keep it in regular rotation.

Learning

As I’ve mentioned already, this is happening while I work but I also want to be more consistent in the way I formalise that learning. I go through bursts of inspiration with sitting technical exams and certifications then quickly burn out, waiting months or even years before diving back in. There’s a few paths I have in mind but committing to sitting an exam eats up a lot of personal and work time. I think 2 to 3 exams in 2019 is probably a good goal but I won’t kick myself too hard if this is only 1.

Volunteering

Volunteering rarely attracts much more than giving up your time to help someone or some cause. It may be news to most but the event organising for DATAScotland is all volunteer work. I don’t get paid and neither do any of the other organisers. We fit the tasks we need to do around all our other life commitments. I’ve also been asked to run the Community Corner at SQLBits again in 2019 so I need to make some time to fit these things in. Both take up a lot of time in bursts, but I can spread that out to make it easier. 2-3 hours a week is probably a good balance with the occasional extra time for calls.

Event Organising

I’ve already made efforts to make this easier in 2019 by involving my co-organisers more and bringing in another organiser. DATAScotland will be bigger than ever but if we plan all our tasks out, it should be simpler than ever to prepare for. This comes under the last heading and should be fine with a few hours commitment per week.

User Group

This is one thing I am most concerned about as it has fallen lower and lower on my priority list the past 6 months, with work and speaking taking a front seat. I co-organise the Glasgow SQL user group with two other people so it should be easier but it isn’t. We’ve all been busier with other things and the event dates often creep up on us. I think if we can secure speakers for each month, early in 2019, we’ll have a fighting chance to keep the user group going without demanding too much from our finite resource – time!

Running

This was the first to fall off the table. Initially from lack of motivation but more so from my son generously bringing home every cold, sniffle, bug and virus from nursery. I think I had 3 weeks out of the year that I was fit to run but even then, couldn’t bring myself to get motivated. I’m trying to remedy that and it’s an easy one to fix as I have a nice little pocket of time over lunch and lots of routes from my office. There’s also talk of starting a running club in the office. I missed the Glasgow half-marathon this year and I don’t want to miss it in 2019. Challenge set!

Down time

Something I haven’t been doing enough of this year and is probably vital to preventing burnout is getting enough down time. Taking inspiration from a friend, Sarah Lean, she hits the OFF switch on social media now and again, enjoys days out and holidays without distractions. For me, I used to game with friends a lot, as a way to keep in touch now that a few of us span the country from Aberdeen to London but also to wind down. That time has gotten less and less over the past year to the point of not happening at all for over 6 months. Whether this is some TV with family or gaming with friends or another hobby, it’s important to get outside of work, career, chores and responsibilities.

New Year’s Resolution Plan

I’ve mentioned all the key areas I want to “juggle” in 2019 and getting a balance with them all is going to be my main focus next year but I couldn’t ever say I’ll spend exactly X hours on Blogging every Thursday and Saturday. You have to be flexible, some days I just won’t be interested in doing certain tasks, or I might want to run further and longer leading up to a race (wishful thinking 😂). I can’t say it applies to everyone but I find if I can get into a habit of doing something, it tends to stick. I use a to-do list just now that is never updated because I always forget to check it regularly. That needs to change.

It’s said you shouldn’t try to change too much at the same time because that’s how it all falls apart so I’m thinking of this as performance tuning and shuffling some things around a bit.

Let me know in the comments how you do it or if you have any tips of your own!

Featured Image by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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6 Responses

  1. Kevin Chant says:

    I cut back on volunteering as one event as was spending more time on it then I could whilst adapting to live in Netherlands.

    Family and health come above everything else including work; a bit of advice from a guy who was a 24/7 DBA whilst looking after somebody who had pre leukemia…

  2. I handed off the physical user group to someone else and resigned from the virtual. That’s a ton of work!

    • Craig says:

      I’d considered that but I enjoy it loads and my employer hosts our meetups so I’d still be involved anyway. We have 3 organisers so if we can get coordinated and into a troutine it might become easier. Thanks, It’s comforting to hear that some things can and maybe should fall off the list. 🙂

      • They certainly should. Beard is doing the same this year (finally ;)). There’s always next year if you want to ramp up again. I put in for 5 confs this year, and will likely do no more than 7. If we maintain our own health, the community benefits even more ❤

  3. reitsees says:

    I’ve hit a similar wall, though my time is taken away differently. I’m not organizing things in the sql/data world, but in the sports world. All the other things i can relate to and two weeks ago i made up my mind. Choose your battles, don’t be afraid to say no if only to prevent yourself from burning out. Because all the people you want to help will understand if your 110% goes to 90% if that prevents you going from 110% to 0%. Those that don’t understand that aren’t worth any of your time.
    As a perfectionist and someone who always raises the bar it’s hard. Really hard. But the alternative isn’t an option…

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for the insight. Luckily a lot of the things on my list are mainly voluntary but I’m the same, I’d never want to half-bake something. I end up putting way too much time into things, trying to get it perfect. It REALLY paid off with SQLGLA this year. It ran smoother than I could ever have hoped but other things don’t need the 5-star treatment you’d expect from a paid endevour.

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