Just yesterday I finally completed a marathon few of months in downsizing a live environment in one of our datacenter. This was a huge project with a very ambitious deadline that still required time spent in the office each day doing BAU. To put my workload into perspective, BAU contains customer support tickets that usually role into the next day and so on. In itself, just to keep on top of that is full time, now adding in a large datacenter consolidation with multiple parties involved more than doubles that workload.
Like any project, there are lessons that are learnt and usually incorporated into the next project. Some of the mistakes that we make are ones that are obvious and just plain common sense, but due to our own determination (or should we say, stubbiness!) we tend to make them without realising.
One of the biggest mistakes I made during this project was looking after my health. I pride myself for the fact that I don’t get sick (aside from the minor runny nose or cough) but the reality is, is that we are not invincible. A weeks back, we had a nasty virus go around the office, I was just coming off a large stint of after hours work and being physically drained and surprise surprise, I got sick. I was so sick that I ended up taking days off which is a big deal for me. I then had a week where I took it steady and paced myself, then came the last couple of weeks and I went in guns blazing feeling on top of the world to meet the deadline. Unfortunately, I pushed myself hard, I did 60+ hours in 4 days, I started Sunday and finished Thursday morning. I would go to the datacenter, get a large amount of work done, then go home for an hours sleep, get up, get my daughter ready for the day and go to work. I would then go home and have dinner, put my daughter to bed and go back out to the datacenter, I started to make simple mistakes, but pushed on. Come Friday, I got sick again and over the next 4 days, I lost 4kgs and I only weighed 70kg to start with.
This week I spent several days in the Datacenter to complete the project, this time I put my BAU on hold so I could pace my days and get a good night sleep to limit the mistakes to almost none.
The project is now completed and the biggest lesson I have taken away from this is to look after yourself and know your limits. We all strive to be the best we can, we want to show our peers that we can do almost anything to get the job done, but the risk we take is dangerous. The percentage of mistakes we will make are greater the more tired we become, ranging from possible customer outages through to causing physical injury to yourself or others.
So, from my recent experience, I have compiled a list of things that I think are vital to try and keep yourself happy, healthy and on top of your game.
- Take regular breaks and keep water intake up:
When working in a datacenter, you are in a dry environment where you are constantly moving between cold and hot aisles. Ensure you keep your fluids up, you don’t want to suddenly collapse from lack of hydration in the middle of the datacenter.
- Ensure you get plenty of sleep and pace yourself:
No project or job is ever worth your life. When you are tired you will make mistakes that can either impact the company or may cause an accident where yourself or someone may get injured.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help:
If you find yourself running out of time, or being unable to complete all the tasks or just need a moment to take a breathe, Ask for help. There is no shame in needing assistance. We are all human.
- Plan to spend time with the family:
I cannot stress enough that spending time with family was a necessity to stay happy and to stop the mind focusing on the work that was ahead. Clearing the mind is essential for when you are back at the task and needing to focus.
If you can stick to these guidelines, you will not only succeed at your project, but you will be happier and healthier at the end of it. If you have a peer you are working with, take the time to remind them every few hours to take a quick 5 minutes break, it could be the difference between working on another project with them again or not.