GEEKNOTE: Downtime

A little downtime is healthy. Take time to relax and get more done when you go to work.

GEEKNOTE:  A few weeks ago, I prefaced my remarks about the economy by noting that I was doing as little work as possible all day. (http://newportrichey.patch.com/blog_posts/geeknote-the-local-economic-picture)  I'm at it again today (Sunday).   I got some more items checked off my "honey do" list in the form of some much delayed yard work.   My new Windows 7 machine at the office will have to wait for another day.

I popped by the office for a few minutes this morning to try a suggestion from one of our "uber geeks" in California regarding a new server I'm trying to spin up. It didn't work, so I turned the thing off and went to breakfast.

I enjoyed a great pancake breakfast put on by Boy Scout Troop 8 at First Methodist and, after a nap, I rediscovered one of the old Moody Blues albums in my record collection. 

Work Hard / Play Hard: This is a lesson I learned in graduate school in Gainesville many years ago. In a way, it's funny that it took me so long to learn it. I'd worked hard to get my undergraduate degree, but it was always that... hard work. I spent untold hours in the chemistry lab trying to successfully complete those titration tests where the color changes when you get enough of the reagent into the flask.  The labs invariably pulled down the scores I got in class. I worked even harder, 16 -18 or more hours a day, seven days a week in medical school and busted out in a fairly spectacular fashion. 

It was years later that I finally figured out why all those labs in chemistry, histology, and gross anatomy were so impossible: I busted the color vision portion of an FAA flight physical and the problem became crystal clear.  To me at least, those chemistry flasks and all those nerves, arteries and veins really do look alike!

After my disasterous experience in medical school, I was crushed, with all my plans for the future in the dust.  My wife kept me from hitting rock bottom, encouraging me to move forward and explore alternatives to a career in medicine.

I interviewed for admission to a graduate program at UAB and was unable to answer one simple question poised by the interviewer: "With so many qualified candidates, why should we accept you?" 

I somehow managed to get accepted into a graduate program at UF.  The UF program I applied for regularly accepted 20 students each year, but accepted 21 that year.  I was the 21st student and the professor doing the admissions interview apparently saw something in me that even I didn't see at the time and talked the department chair into taking a chance on me even though they already had a full class lined up.

That fall, my wife decided to help out with a Girl Scout troop and suggested I might want to help the little Boy Scout troop that met at the same church. As mid term exams neared, the troop scheduled a campout for the weekend before exams.  Not wanting to miss the campout, I studied hard the week before and then went camping that weekend. It didn't hurt that those months in medical school had honed my study skills to a razor's edge.

I didn't just do well on the exams the next week. I pretty much set the curve across the board, acing the mid term exam in every class. My classmates knew that I'd gone camping and that freaked more than a couple of them out. They had crammed all weekend while I relaxed outdoors in the fresh fall air. The difference between us was that they walked into the exams exhausted from studying and I walked in fresh and relaxed.

I repeated this process each quarter from there on out.  I'd study like crazy during the weeks before exams and then kick back on the weekends. The only B I got the whole time was in a health law class where the professor didn't like my assertion in the big term paper that the right to die with dignity was going to be a major issue in the future. The professor even went so far as to tell me that he gave me the B because the law was quite settled and there was no issue at all worth even discussing...

Karen Ann Quinlan came along a few years later.

The answer I didn't have while interviewing in Birmingham should have been:  "Because I'm going to graduate at the top of my class."

Today, the question is phrased as "Why should we hire you and your company?" and I can confidently answer: "Because we are VERY good at what we do."

The downtime I had on those weekend camping trips was key to my performance during the week The same need to have some downtime applies today.  Especially as a business owner, it is important to reserve a little "me" time just to decompress.

Finding that time can be difficult, but it can be found.  I find a little time early each morning to collect my thoughts for the day ahead, reading the facebook posts my friends have posted during the previous day, checking the national and local news online, and savoring a cup of coffee.

Carolyn and I have adopted a tradition my folks had when my brothers and I were growing up:  Friday night out. We'll lock the store doors and walk over to Mezzaluna for dinner.  Garfield has it right:  It's easy to push the stress of the work week back while chowing down on lasagna.

Weekends, especially Sundays, are generally more of the same. Perhaps a bike ride, a little yard work, kicking back and listening to those old albums, and composing my weekly GEEKNOTE  I write this blog, not because I HAVE to, but because I WANT to and it gives me a chance to collect my thoughts as I relax.  The key is that I need to step back and relax. Monday will arrive soon enough.

The Moody Blues are back on the shelf. Darth Vader's theme is the first cut on side 2 of "The Empire Strikes Back".  Amazing what you can rediscover going through the old record collection on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

My partner Tim is off to Georgia this weekend to bicycle the "6 Gap" bike ride through the north Georgia mountains. It is amazing how many answers to complicated problems become clear while you are pedalling your bicycle. Maybe I'll be able to get into shape and do the ride next year.

What do you do to relax? Leave a comment here and let the rest of us know.

Feel free to drop me a note or leave a comment here if you have any questions about your computer or your office network.

Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.


(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marilynn deChant October 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Really great column Rob, and you shared some tough personal history too. But it goes to show ya...seems like everything we do in life, if we do it with determination ... know matter what we do later on those skills will kick in. I don't relax very well myself, but I do believe I'll be taking some pointers from you. Thanks...your columns are worth the investment of time! Marilynn
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