Thursday, March 08, 2007

No More Death Marches

It's been several days since my last blog post because I've been chasing a particularly tough deadline.

In my previous job over a decade ago, I could literally just sit at the keyboard for 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a few months straight, and still produce consistently good output. I could never understand my project managers when they'd say they can't focus anymore and needed to take a break, or how they'd disappear for an hour for dinner before coming back to work. To me, it made more sense to just sit there and deal with the problem.

Maybe as we get older, we lose not just our physical stamina but our mental stamina as well. I don't really know.

What I do know now, after the experience of chasing this deadline over a period of three weeks, is that working nonstop on a task seven days a week is not only unhealthy, it's also unproductive. My boss calls that style of working a 'Death March' and I can't think of a better or more picturesque term for it.

Personal experience has now convinced me that it's much better to take a break and do something totally different for a while to clear your head before returning to the seemingly insurmountable task. Get a good meal. Meet up with friends. Take a walk. Visit a bookstore. Or if you're like me, go to rehearsals.

Whatever form your little respite might take, go ahead and enjoy it. Relish the experience. Grab the chance to forget about the problem for a while. When you come back, you'll find yourself feeling happier and less deprived of life's little pleasures. More importantly, you'll realize that your mind is once again ready to focus on the challenge.