Every 6-9 months I find myself taking inventory of life in general. To be honest, this is usually a result of work getting busy for a sustained period of time. I find that it is important to take the time to go through this mental exercise as it is usually an indicator something needs to change about the way I am currently approaching life.
It is amazing how much this thought process actually reveals. Even the frequency in which I find myself walking through it gives hints about changes in life. Over the last few years, I have learned that if I am mentally taking inventory every month, it is probably time to change jobs.
This morning, as I started to take inventory on my morning walk, I realized two things about the process:
- I want to be open about where things stand as an attempt to put myself at ease.
- This is probably useful for others to see and at least think about.
So here are a few of the things that I ponder when taking inventory.
Family is at the core of everything. As a husband and father of two, it is important to make sure I am taking the time for them and fulfilling their needs. The following are some of the things I think about.
Are my wife and I connected?
My wife has always talked about this idea of being connected. When we are connected, we anticipate each others needs, we are helping to carry the emotional load for each other and well, connected.
Am I spending enough time with my girls?
I don’t know that I will ever be able to answer yes to this question. I always find myself thinking I should be doing more. That is especially true during the summer. For my almost 4 year old, being outside and dance class are our thing. Mommy goes along sometimes, but, by and large, those are Daddy things. So when the normal high is 90+ degrees outside, the park becomes less of an option. To add to it, dance closes during the summer because many of the families go on vacation, etc.
This means the Fall is always one of my favorite times of year. Lots of trips to the park, dance is back in full swing and it is time for high school football. Because my wife is a high school teacher, we make a point to get out to most home football games and a few away games each year. It has always been fun to take my oldest out and I can’t wait to introduce my youngest.
Am I making time for my parents (and in-laws)?
My in-laws have always been super active in my married life with my mother-in-law watching my daughters during the day. We do spend a ton of time with them so things are usually pretty good. My parents on the other hand are always super busy. And not only are they super busy, their schedule is offset of mine by about 2-3 hours. They live in the same area but I am usually heading to bed as they are finishing with dinner. I feel like we are seeing them fairly often and with the normal Fall stuff coming, I think we will be good.
So work and career stuff is the other big area I think about. These questions are generally a bit more pointed and tend to help change my thoughts about long term things. In general, this area of my life seems to impact family and my happiness the most. It is also important to point out that there will be days when the answer to these questions is not positive, the key is to look at the general case over the last few weeks.
Am I having fun or do I enjoy going into work?
So simple, yet so powerful. When I get up in the morning do I look forward to the day ahead of me? Interestingly enough, this is almost a meta-question for me as it is really dictated by the other things I think about.
Is my relationship with my boss good?
I have been in a place where this was not true for a sustained period of time. It is no fun. It was during that time that I learned that if my regular answer to this is no, it should be a resume generating event.
That said, I love my boss. It has been amazing over the last eight months to have someone that asks hard questions and actively works to help me get over my own insecurities. It is awesome to work for someone who is honest and sees the bigger picture.
Is my relationship with my teammates good?
The team is what makes us stronger. It is the people you can lean on in times of distress and people to lift you up during times of good. Just like the relationship with your boss, your team makes a huge impact on overall happiness.
So, I’m going to be a broken record here, but I love my team. Such a great group. As the one remote guy, they make sure I don’t feel left out and they make the 3-6 hr round trip drive to Santa Monica each week worth it.
Is my work interesting?
I hate being bored. If my work is boring it means a few things:
- I am probably not having fun
- I am probably not learning much
- I am probably not developing as an engineer the way I need to be
So decidedly, yes, my work is interesting. Right now it seems to be more a study of process and history but there are some neat technical challenges on my plate too. It is always nice to have a good balance.
Is my workload going to kill me?
It is no secret to my friends and family that I am a workaholic. While a great trait in some regards, it is something that takes its toll on occasion. The idea of only working 8-5 and not thinking about work outside of that time is crazy talk as far as I am concerned. I love the problem sets and the challenges so working a bit more is no big deal.
It is when I try to keep up with an impossible workload that I start to step back from work and stop enjoying it. Even worse, I do it to myself, taking on extra work that I don’t need to. My boss and one of my teammates have been amazing at helping me to back off and not let work consume my life. I am not sure that a lot of these questions would be answered positively if it were not for them helping me to keep things in check.
Am I doing enough career development?
As far as I am concerned, the technical aspects of career development, by and large come from work. It is important to make sure I am doing things at work that are in-demand and make sense for my career but as long as I am working in the right position that is generally not an issue.
The real place I think career development happens is at conferences, on this blog and, in many mays, on twitter. Am I submitting enough talks? Am I going to enough conferences? Am I blogging enough? These things matter because people matter. The social interactions and the friends in industry are really where it is at.
Now that I have had a chance to decompress and am feeling a bit better about the state of things, it is time to get back to work.