What's the most important maintenance schedule to uphold in your IT or cybersecurity career? It's not your hardware, applications, or OS updates. It's even more important than good cyber hygiene. It's the necessity to maintain your health.
As an IT or cybersecurity professional, you need to maintain your health by:
- Getting enough sleep
- Staying positive
- Caring for your eyes
- Keeping good posture
Get Enough Sleep
This can be summarized as don't go too hard. Maintain your health by getting enough rest without the necessity to overuse stimulants to be effective.
Sleep is important. Those who lack sleep are often forgetful, disheveled, and seemingly unprepared all the time. They also snack more often on higher calorie foods and drinks because they are exhausted. How do I know this? because I was grinding away at 3 jobs this year to become a top performer, and it took a toll on me.
Funnily enough, the part that made me evaluate my sacrifices was coming across as incompetent. I finally had enough when I was signing and dating a travel from in the wrong spot, for the third time. Even after after taking it slow and saying out loud “don't mess it up” and laughing about it with the office assistant. It was at that point that I considered a more targeted approach.
Up in to this point in 2019, I was taking a lot of risks, and my health is something that should have never been one of them. I urge you to get your 7 to 9 hours a night and make sure you have the resiliency to endure.
I recall at one of my first IT jobs out of college, I made a point to be friendly to everyone I came across, even just passing by in the hallway. This was difficult because the people at this place were generally rude. This wasn't just a sensitivity, someone actually pulled me aside to tell me not to “take things personally here,” and that “it's just the way we are here.”
Unfortunately a few rude encounters at this place of work were the least of my worries. This place ended up being the worst place I ever worked. It was truly awful. I was mentally abused and treated like absolute dog shit. But I didn't let this get me down.
I still kept up friendly conversations and I always smiled. As dumb as it sounds, I even earned the nickname “smiley” because usually when people saw me, I was smiling. At the time, I wondered how I was able to keep going, despite hating to go to work everyday.
It turns out that smiling makes you happy. I'm not sure if it's close to eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving $25,000 as mentioned in the article, but it definitely makes you feel better. Not only does smiling help during times of difficulty, it also adds to euphoria, like when I finally left this place of work.
As a side note, I thought of this place when I recently read this article of people leaving companies because office technology is so outdated and decision makers don't know and don't care.
Care For Your Eyes
If you're anything like me, you spend 16 to 20 hours a day staring at screens. Not only do I work with computers, my hobby involves computers, and my side hustles and businesses involve computers. This isn't as relegated to IT people anymore though. Everyone is expected to know how to use technology now.
This certainly doesn't excuse excessive screen time though. Staring at screens make you tired. Eye strain just stresses out the rest of the body.
I like this video from Elegant Themes below on a few ways to prevent eye strain.
I also like to take small breaks every once in a while, looking at things at random distances. If I have an office with a window, I will occasionally stare outside for a couple minutes and then get back to work.
One last thing, if you haven't seen an eye doctor yet, use your vision benefits and get checked out. Unless you have health problems, getting your eyes checked is one of the least time consuming and least expensive things you can do for your overall health. I used to have perfect vision. I no longer do. I was getting migraines every day and had trouble focusing on presentations and people in meetings, especially as the day went on. I put off getting checked for too long.
No surprise, it turns out my vision was declining, with one eye worse of than the other. I have glasses now and things are much better. If you need glasses, go get them. This reminds me of Brian Regan's bit about going to the eye doctor:
“How can instantly improve vision not be at the top of your to do list? Nah, I'll see tomorrow. I don't have time to see clearly.”
Watch Your Posture
One of the more obvious ways to maintain your health is to mind your posture. The easiest way to remind yourself to do so? Using a standing desk.
In my last 2 jobs, I've been fortunate to work in an office that optionally provided standup desks to employees. I've taken the option at each location. The first one was a crank operated stand up desk. It took too long to raise and lower, so sometimes I would just stand up with the desk lowered.
The second place ordered a spring assisted standup desk through Varidesk. This worked pretty well so I could sit down or stand up quickly, which actually encouraged me to stand up more often.
I would start the first hour of my day and the last 2 hours of my day standing. Anytime I would be uncomfortable, sleepy, or just unable to focus, I would raise the desk. After a little fatigue, I would lower the desk. The key is to get a desk that you can use both ways. That way you don't have to make a permanent decision you will regret later.
This seems to work out pretty well. After all, there was a 2018 study on sedentary sitting that found increased risks for sitting for long periods of time. Try type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early death.
Of course, sitting doesn't solve all problems by itself. You still have to mind your posture to make sure you aren't leaning or putting unnecessary twists or strain on your feet, knees, or back. It also helps to use a standing mat.
Bonus: Taking Small Breaks
I've already alluded to taking small breaks in the eye health section above. This is more than just letting your eyes rest. This also works in clearing your mind as well. If your job doesn't allow you to do this, you should consider leaving to find a new job. If you work in a NOC, SOC, or government facility this may be harder to do, which is why I usually don't apply to these types of jobs.
Even if you aren't looking to be in a blue team, defense, incident response, or some type of on-call role, these type of restrictions frequently show up in job listings. You'll mostly see them in a call center or some type of support or sales role.
Sitting for marathon lengths of time is unhealthy. Jobs that state you must remain seated for 8 to 10 hours at a time get a hard pass from me. You should not be spending an entire shift seated. Even one break each half isn't sufficient.
There's a large financial institution nearby where I know quite a few people that work there. One person I know works in a call center and gets shit from their supervisor every time they get up to use the bathroom. Really? Only one bathroom break in 8 hours?
My response – no amount of money is worth that level of control over me. Don't tell me when to sit, stand, and go to the bathroom. You can fuck right off.
Maintain Your Health Conclusion
I got a little fired up in this article and for good reason. My hope is that you read this and consider your choices moving forward. If you're like me, you're no stranger to working hard but people often overlook you so you have to do a lot of unrequired work to be in the same playing field.
I understand. Just don't let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. Your health is extremely important. If you don't have someone to look at you and share their concerns with your health (like me), then let me be that for you right now. Maintain your health so you don't have to spend the rest of your life trying to buy it back.
Success requires sacrifice. Just don't sacrifice more than you're able.