How much is too much?

Now that I’m in management, I’ve been thinking about how many hours I can get people to work…

No, not really. I have, however, been thinking a bit about the idea of working extra hours though, and not just because I was doing a little bit of that getting things ready for trials. It started when I read Jenn Steele’s post On Human Sustainability:

There is a perception that human sustainability is too expensive, that we’re needed to be “on” at all times for the good of our company or family. This is completely false. Why? Well, I call it “working stupid”. If I’m not giving my body and mind its basic needs, it will take me much longer to do any given task, and I’m much more likely to make a mistake and have to re-do the task later.

Then, I heard a similar take during a Fios webcast about Project Managemet and Litigation, as covered by Paul Easton:

One bit of wisdom shared at the very end is that for a legal project manager, time management includes the ability to manage yourself as a resource and knowing what your personal constraints are.

I found this one to be really interesting, because I know how very easy it is to just keep going, wanting to just be done with a project. I also know there are limitations to that but we don’t really think about them in regards to ourselves, usually it’s about how much to ask of others. Tired people work slower, and are much more likely to make a mistake. Even in Construction cases that I’ve been involved in you hear about how you can’t simply have everyone work 12 hour days to get a project done in 50% less time, because they don’t work as effectively at hour 10-11 as they do at hour 3-4. Knowledge workers maybe don’t have the physical demands, but there is definitely that same point of diminshing returns for an hour of labor.

How many of us can tell story after story of the all-nighter we pulled in order to install a new server in an emergency, and the mistakes we’ve made in those situations. I know I can. Configuring something at 2AM on the weekend, after being in the office for 14 hours does not lead to the most careful testing of the configuration. I’ve overlooked simple problems when I’ve worked too long, I’ve created problems that slowed me down when I’ve been rushing to finish something and go home, and I’ve made boneheaded choices that required me to redo a lot of work later on. I’m sure you all have similar stories. Mostly we sit around drinking a beer and laugh about them. Heck, us IT folks wear those stories of grueling hours working on a project like a badge of honor! It’s all part of the job, and you know, some times I absolutely agree. Stuff happens, and every once in awhile you have to do what needs to be done, but I do wonder sometimes if it would go a lot smoother, and with less glitches, if we could get some rest too!

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