Thursday, May 22, 2008

On Fatigue

I guess the answer to the question I pose at the bottom of this blog is: My body's endurance sucks.

Here's a little preface on how my job works. I work for a consulting firm, meaning that -- in all simplicity -- I'm one of The Bobs from Office Space. No, I don't go in and find out what people do and get them fired literally, but my overall job -- as part of a team -- is to be involved somewhere in the process of going in, finding out what a business needs, how it can improve itself and its processes, develop a plan for that, implement that plan, and support it. However, not everyone stays in a project from beginning to end. A lot of us have experience in concentrated areas -- such as the planning and analysis stage, where we have to gather requirements for a proposed application, et cetera -- or the testing stage, or even the support stage which happens when the application or new system goes live. Now, some people do stay on a project for its entirety, from very beginning to very end -- but I’m not one of them.

So it's not like I stay at one client for three years. For me, it's been between 8 and 15 months at a time. These projects happen everywhere. Depending on your assigned specialty, certain types of clients reside in certain areas. Financial institutions are mainly centered around Wall Street and elsewhere in New York City, or in the tri-state area at least (as well as other metropolitan areas). I don't get assigned to Financial clients, though; instead, I'm in the Products group, which specializes in consumer goods and services (retailers, liquor distributors, market research firms), and health and life sciences (pharmaceuticals, health care). Thus, the projects I've been assigned to have been in South Norwalk, Connecticut; Schaumburg, Illinois; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That means I do indeed have to travel a lot, and for the most part, Mondays through Thursdays have been spent on-site with Fridays being the magical and relieving day working from the comfort of my native New York. (One exception: For Connecticut, I was close enough to travel there by rail. It was a 2-hour commute each way, but it was worth it to sleep in my own bed every night.)

Now, when you "roll off" of a project -- meaning your job and role on that project is finished -- you go "on the bench," waiting for new roles to pop up. It's like job hunting within a job. You're still employed by the company, but you're not working on anything in particular for a client. So when you're on the bench, your responsibilities are to actively look for other priojects to sign onto, and better yourself through training courses offered by the firm. Most of these can be downloaded right to your laptop. Some of them are in-classroom. Whatever the case may be, you're not just supposed to sit on the beach or on your rooftop garden with a Corona. You're supposed to be putting in a good, honest 40 hours per week, training, adding to your internal resume, and shopping yourself around to projects that might be able to use your skills.

Preface over.

From December of 2006 to the end of March 2008, I'd been going to Schaumburg, IL. This was actually my second stint on this specific project; I had been going there from September of 2004 to December of 2005 prior to that. Then I went to Connecticut before I ended up back in Illinois. The important takeaway here is that before the end of March, I'd spent 28 out of the last 38 months doing the weekly grind to and from O'Hare International Airport -- get my ass up on Monday at 5AM for a 7AM flight, and then catch a Thursday evening flight back to New York that would get delayed almost half the time (resulting in me landing in NYC at 1AM on a few occasions). Finally, on March 24th, they honorably discharged me after extending my role week after week. At that point, I was on the bench.

Now, I'd basically been inactive work-wise since March 24th until May 5th, which is when I was staffed to a new project. I didn't travel to the client site until the next week, May 12th, as the week of May 5th was spent reading up on the project's background and other documentation. Technically, then, I spent seven weeks on the bench. Yeah I was working, but doing training on your laptop out of your bedroom and having the luxury of taking a break for a walk in the park -- as long as you put in eight honest hours -- is a far cry from flying out at ungodly hours and working 10 - 12 hour days in a bustling, chaotic and frankly critical situation.

So what happened during those seven weeks? I started going to the gym regularly again. I learned me some skills. I received less-than-positive news about my Business School application (there's always next year). I reviewed a few games (though I really should have been kept more busy than I was, ahem). I poked a little at my website's design. I hung out with friends more regularly. I threw Rock Band parties. I discovered a weekly Guitar Hero tournament -- the prizes are free shots every time you advance a round -- and met some really fun people. I woke up at nine in the morning, put in my hours, and was out in the sunlight of the late afternoon every day of the week.

After seven weeks of this, I went to Pittsburgh for my first week. I got up at 6AM to catch an 8:30AM flight at Kennedy, which is much better than waking up at 5AM as in months past (that hour makes a difference). After my first day, I had some energy to run a full court basketball game, though I was woefully out of basketball shape at that point. On Tuesday, though, I came into my room not wanting to do anything. ANYTHING. I didn't want to check email. I didn't want to study more for my GMATs. I didn't want to play Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations on my DS (that's the last game in its trilogy and I've been trying to finish it for quite some time). I didn't want to read more about my project. I was too goddamn tired and just wanted to watch the basketball game. Wednesday night after work, I just plum fell asleep before midnight with my DS open and the TV on. I woke up not knowing who won the game (it was the Lakers) and found my DS with its battery entirely drained.

Ok, so that's weird, because I just had seven glorious weeks of not-work and rejuvenation.

This past Tuesday night, my second Tuesday on the job, it happened again. Only this time, it wasn't before midnight -- it was before 10PM. This was during the Celtics-Pistons game. I was lying on the couch and had my laptop open to do work. I only remember drifting in and out, opening my eyes and just barely seeing Kevin Garnett hitting a jumper from 19 feet out, then fading out again. Then in, another KG jumper, then out. Rinse, repeat. I woke up with a drained laptop battery and the post-game press conferences on ESPN.

Why in shit's name am I this tired after almost two months of the most relaxed job in the world? Is seven straight weeks of that really not enough to combat three years flying back and forth / making a 2-hour rail commute? And mind you, I *did* take real family vacations during those years, so it's not like I went straight through without rest.


The AnTiPoDe said...

I duno, but I sure do think that this is going to happen in the NBA this year.

Matthew said...

Well my friend. It is simple, yes you rested for 7 weeks and did some gym time, but you have switched routines entirely. I would recommend more cardioto build up your endurance during the day. Eat more fruit, nuts, salad, protein stuff at work. Save the heavey stuff for dinner. have like 4 small meals/ snacks (not junk) during the day. For about 2 weeks of a new cardio routine you will still be tired but by the end of week 3 you should feel the difference.
I have researched coffee too. Yes I said it Coffee!. Get a nice iced coffee with raw sugar not white. Or a nice Tea. helps prevent dozing off.