If you work a technical job with a salary, you’re already facing two great dilemmas. 1.) you work for a salary, and 2.) you work with technology, where the work is almost never done. I find myself caught in a trap often enough - I don’t do well if I don’t get adequate sleep nor if I don’t have adequate time to spend with my wife and kids. Yet I don’t do well at work unless I’m perfectly willing to burn the proverbial candle at both ends. Dealing with this struggle effectively requires a number of crucial habits and procedures which you do not violate no matter what.

Be Good to Yourself

Get plenty of sleep. Get three decent meals every day and don’t carb up and don’t eat because you’re bored and don’t eat crap. On a typical commercial street in a typical city there are about 10 restaurants. Get used to the fact that you can never eat in 80% of them - ever. McDonald’s has nothing for sale for you if you care at all about your health. A few cliche’s come to mind: don’t dig your grave with a spoon and eat to live, don’t live to eat. Above all, don’t let your all-consuming, never-ending cluster-fuck of a job cause you to compromise on your health. It’s not worth it.

Be Honest About Your Abilities

You may think telling your supervisor that you can do some technical task that you’ve never done before is a great career move. While she’s not looking, you can hit the web and learn how to do it in a flash and produce something that works in a short amount of time. But in reality, she’ll catch you despirately searching the web and accuse you of wasting time on the interwebs. And more often than not, you’ll create total crap - it will be your first try after all. It’s better to be honest. Instead of saying, ‘Sure I can do that!’, say ‘I’ve never done that, but I’m interested in learning!’ Who know’s, the company might pay to train you if you show a talent for the task. Paid training is usually a waste of time, but it can afford you contacts in the industry - folks who can help you climb your own ladder of success. So, be honest first.

Be Careful with Deadlines

If you think you can’t finish the project on time, say so. Don’t nag on and on about Management’s inability to understand the technical process, but make one clear concise statement about the deadline and move on. Like so: ‘We’re putting this project first and devoting every resource to it’s success, but I do not believe we will be able to deliver on time and under budget. Here’s why.’

Get it in Writing

If you’re surrounded by people who refuse to send memo’s or emails when they ask for things or demand a change in procedure, you’re in for trouble. People invariably forget what they asked for, particularly when things go south. People who refuse to ‘put it in writing’ also seem to be excellent at explaining a past event in a way that makes their involvement in the failure blameless and innocent. So insist on an email. If your supervisor stops you at the water cooler and asks you to change course in a project, go back to your desk and write a recap email. Like so: ‘Today we met briefly at the water cooler, and I understood you to say you would like us to change this or that about the project. Can you confirm this and address a few of my concerns below.’ You’ll be glad you did.