5 on Friday: Getting Through the Long Days

It’s been a rough few weeks at work, and I’m not sure it’s going to get better anytime soon. I’m missing derby practice, which makes me feel awful; both physically and emotionally. I’m in QA, and being at the end of the chain means all the backups leading up to a release really start to add up by the time it is our turn with a product. Anyone who works in software knows the crunch time feeling. I feel a little guilty even complaining, because some of my coworkers have it way worse with their project. Regardless, here are my suggestions on how to stay sane through it.

1) Don’t Cause Yourself Unnecessary Pain– Ergonomics are no joke. I’ve told you about my desk setup before. I’m fairly certain if I didn’t have my wavy keyboard and vertical mouse, my wrists would have been killing me. I wasn’t paying attention to my posture so I spent the entire weekend with a tense upper back from hunching over my keyboard for 14-16 hours. Apparently, I think the reason I can’t see the issue in my code is that I’m just not physically close enough to it. I also found that I don’t get the horrible “my eyes won’t focus any my head is pounding” feeling after a long day since I’ve been wearing my Gunnars.

2) Run on Premium – We techie types have the reputation for eating lots of awful for you food. Sing it with me now: “Code monkey like Frito’s/Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew.”  It’s not a completely unfair stereotype. Combining only stopping to get food when you’re starving, stress, and the need to get something quickly and get back to work does not always lead to healthy choices. We run to the closest fast food joint. Or order in for pizza or Chinese. Often, we wash this down with loads of soda and coffee. This is not how to fuel your body for a marathon testing/coding session. I know that at least for me, it’s hard to focus when I have ball of grease in my stomach. I’m not saying eat a salad or anything like that. But get something half-way decent from one of the semi-fast food places like Panera or Chipotle. And drink some water, I’ve had days when by the time I drank something non caffeinated my body craved it so bad I could almost feel myself absorb it.

3) Rock Out in Your Cube – I love one person cubicle dance parties. I get a little (and by a little I mean a lot) fidgety the more stressed out I get. Taking a few moments and getting all that extra energy helps me refocus. Make sure you’re listening to something that gets your mood up. For some people it’s the pounding bass of dubstep. For others, it’s the up-tempo techno of Daft Punk. For me, it’s nerdcore. I’ve written about my love of nerdcore hip hop before. I really didn’t go into the “why” though. It’s because when I’m pulling a 15 hour day, it helps to know that someone out there gets it. And when hear lyrics like “I’ve got to do well/Stand out achieve/First person in, last one to leave” from Unplug by Dual Core, I know they most certainly get it.

4) Surround Yourself with Awesome – If you’re lucky like I am, you have some awesome people on your team. There have been days I’ve been working late and I’ll get an email asking how I’m doing and if I could use any help. That’s not really something you can control though. So make sure the people you choose to have in your life are awesome. Last Thursday (that’s right, Valentine’s Day) I had a long, rough day. Combined with finishing the Harry Potter series and the Mass Effect Trilogy earlier that week, I was a wreck. I started texting Claire because I needed someone to talk to and my husband was on night shift. So at 9:30PM on Valentine’s Day she took the time to hear me out. Awesome. My husband is also supportive and awesome. Whenever I have these awful weeks he picks up my slack around the house without complaining. Tells me to go take it easy and play some games while he takes care of some things. Awesome.

5) Liking What You Do – None of this will really work if you don’t like what you do. I was fortunate enough to be able to choose a career that involved something I am passionate about, am good at, and pays well. I may dread going into work, and dread the long days, but overall I like what I do. I like where my career is heading. I also had incredibly honest professors in college that set the expectation that this would happen from time to time. That it was part of being a technology worker.

And if all else fails, get some Jameson.

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