Lead Image © Chatree Jaiyangyuen, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Chatree Jaiyangyuen, 123RF.com

Dealing with IT Burnout


Article from ADMIN 50/2019
I'm not the first writer or the first system administrator to discuss IT job burnout, but I think I have a few ideas to help when it happens to you.

I'm not the first writer or the first system administrator to discuss IT job burnout, but I think I have a few ideas to help when it happens to you. Burnout is when you proclaim, perhaps too loudly or with added expletives, that you've had enough of this job. IT is one of those fields that seems to have a very high percentage of burnout. The obvious reasons are long hours, difficult problems, users, aging hardware, slacking coworkers, offshore outsourcing, and uncaring management and leadership. We all deal with burnout. You might be dealing with it right now. Long hours seem to be one of the biggest complaints – you work all day long, have changes at night, and then the process continues.

Most of us got into IT either because we were good at it and we transitioned to it by accident or we wanted to get into a growing field on the edge of new technology. In both cases, we were duped. Now, don't get me wrong, I love what I do – most of the time. I've always heard that if you "Do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." This is untrue. If you do what you love without the pressures of an income, users, management, failures, slackers, and security issues, you'll never work a day in your life. Without these pressures, it's a hobby, not a job. Hobbies are enjoyable. Jobs are not. You get paid to do a job because it is not easy and it is a pain. If it were fun and easy, someone could probably automate it or find someone a lot less expensive to do it.

Said no one, ever: "I'm ready to go back to work because skiing is just too stressful," or, "Man, I can't wait to stop painting so many of these canvases and get back to the old grindstone." Moreover, you're not likely to ever hear anyone say, "I never want to retire. I want to reboot computers until I'm in my 80s."

If you never see the sun, you're going to burn out quickly. If you never hear, "Thank you," you'll never last. If you don't take time for yourself, you'll always be unhappy. Trust me. I spent many years working long hours, answering pages and phone calls, dealing with every sort of hardware, software, and people problem under the never-seen sun, and working too many holidays. That's the recipe for burnout or worse.

Look at job descriptions posted by good companies, and you'll observe that they always include the words work/life balance. The ones that don't should be ignored. I once heard someone at my job say, "I work to live. I don't live to work." That statement changed my life. You only get one life, and you should spend it as you want. Working 24/7/365 isn't a life. You need to learn to enjoy your non-work time.

Today, I want you to write down five things that you've always wanted to do. Seriously, do it right now. None of these five things have anything to do with rebooting computers, comforting users, or applying the latest security patch to anything.

The next thing I want you to do is declare that you are going to do all five of those things this year. Five isn't too many. Some of them are expensive, you say? Tough. You work. You should enjoy the fruits of your labors. Don't go into suffocating debt, but spend some of your hard-earned money to enjoy your life and to avoid burnout. It isn't your job or even your IT job that's burning you out; it's you. Get away from your desk, turn off your phone, and do something for yourself today. Remember, you have one life and being a system administrator is only one small part of that. Don't be your job. Work to live.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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