Burnout factors

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 8:11 PM | comments: 0

I've got a brain dump to make, actually two, and I'm trying to figure out how to tackle them. As is often the case, blogging about something forces me to look at it honestly and at least somewhat more objectively, since people are likely to call bullshit on anything I'm not being honest about.

I'm feeling burned out right now, and there are two things I have to do. The first is to identify the causes, and the second is to act on mitigating those circumstances. As if often the case in life, many things can lead to a single result.

The first cause is obvious: I need to take some time off. Outside of some long weekends, I haven't really taken any time off since I went back to work after my Simon leave. That's five months. I can't remember any time in my professional life that I've gone this long. That in itself triggers all kinds of thoughts, about how it must mean I generally don't find my job to be an irritation as I have previous gigs, that time is moving really fast and I'm not happy about that, or I'm not prioritizing my time right. I have wanted to bank some vacation time heading into next year, so that's part of it. If I'm at Microsoft for the long haul, it sure would be nice to have a good two weeks at any given point.

Somewhat related, I feel like my Simon time is a lot more limited than I'd like. During the week, I get an hour, maybe two at best, in the evening with him. It's not like I'm staying late at work either, because most days I'm out by 4:30. He does new and cool things every other day, and I don't want to miss those moments. I don't have any good solutions around this, but thinking about it causes anxiety.

I'm also dealing with another form of anxiety, and you don't have to know me well to understand that's coming from the non-sale of my house. Nine months, two Realtors, zero offers. Fuck. The news this week about existing home sales taking a dump in July only reinforces the anxiety. It's like I'm imprisoned by a house I don't live in, 2,000 miles away. Here I am starting a family, finally working in a place where I see a future, and the strong desire to do some nesting is on hold indefinitely. Even when it does sell, I'm still starting over from that point. It's a constant distraction.

Partly in response to the housing thing, I often find myself trying to figure out how to make more cash. I've never had better cash flow in my life, and yet I wish there was more, in part to get around the house problems. Non-mortgage debt is almost gone, aside from our very tiny car payments ($183 for hers, $103 for mine). The cash we've had to hold on to for the taxable "income" on Diana's short sale is spoken for, but we still aren't headed in the future-down-payment direction. Heck, I have to account for likely negative equity on my house.

The business is doing extraordinarily well right now, though travel expenses for the events causes some angst. I've done a great deal to get it there, but I still accept that the sites as they stand today are not likely to ever rise into six-figure income. I'd really have to do something totally new to grow it in a meaningful way. That's a different blog post, I think.

At work, it's hard not to get drawn into the potential for corporate ascension. I mean, my Prius is surrounded daily by exotic cars. Heck, Porches cease to be exotic when everybody has one. While I have no interest in ever buying a non-practical car (partly because I think it's pretentious, partly because I think it's a waste of money), I do see the corporate ladder as a means to a comfortable house, college for Simon and a means for Diana to not worry about money for as long as she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom.

But the ladder is weird. I think in the general sense, my current reporting line works as it should, that if you're qualified to be a certain level, you will be. I think we've got the managers in that line that work that way. But in parallel lines, I find it to be less than ideal because of Microsoft's obsession with levels and ranking. If you want to cross the lines into another discipline, your'e somewhat bound to your current status. For example, if I wanted to cross over into a test or PM role, it would likely have to be the same level. (Unless I quit and came back, which apparently happens from time to time.) It makes zero sense. If I went to a test role, I'd be less qualified, and as such would probably put myself one or two levels lower. If I went into a PM role, frankly I think I'd be more qualified and suitable for a level or two higher, based on my experience. In fact, the first gig I interviewed for a few years ago was a level higher than mine. But even then, while I know from my history I could execute in such a role, I haven't done it "the Microsoft way," which in some groups is slow, ridiculous and inefficient, but would still work against me. That drives me nuts because I think it might be where I want to go, if dev management isn't my future.

So the ability to move quickly, and exploring those options, has me a little burned out too. I think there is an obvious opportunity where I am now to execute on something, and I'm trying to focus on that. The truth is that switching jobs or even leveling up in record time isn't going to fix my house problem, no matter how much I think it will. I've gotta stop chasing things that don't matter as much.

I feel like I've got a pretty good grip on what's making me tired, and getting away for a little while would help me sort it all out. I have to decide when that will be.


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