I’m not a complainer and I don’t like to whine, so before you read this post, recognize that I’m penning this because there are valuable lessons to pass on. I’m not writing this post for sympathy or for attention, like so many others do.
I’m writing it because you might be able to relate to my experience, and you might start thinking a little about how you handle the pressure when your workload becomes a mountain.
Where it All Began
James and the rest of
We were doing one of our many daily check-ins (phone calls have now become as frequent as IMs or emails – thank you, Vonage). I found myself becoming irritated.
“What do we want to call this?” James asked the question thoughtfully. “We can’t use that name; it doesn’t have enough impact.”
Slumping over my desk, I pinched the bridge of my nose and squeezed my eyes shut. “I don’t care,” I answered. The words came unbidden, spilling out. I had worked ten straight hours that day, I had a wicked headache building up, and I’d had one too many cigarettes and too much coffee.
I hadn’t noticed the silence on the other end of the phone until James’ voice broke it. “Harry,” he said quietly, sounded just as tired as I felt, “Go to bed. It’s late. I should have told you to put that project down six hours ago.”
I looked at the clock. Where had the day gone? Had I accomplished anything? My to-do list barely had a dent in it, and the work just kept flooding in every time I turned around. “But…”
“No ‘buts’. When you say you don’t care about a project, it’s time to call it a day. I haven’t seen you work like this in months. You’re doing it again.”
That was my wake-up call. I blinked, snuffed out my cigarette and pushed the ashtray aside in disgust. “Yeah, you’re right.”
Get a Grip
What James referred to was an old habit of driving myself into the ground when there was too much work to do. Where had my ten-minute project method gone? Why was I obsessing like this?
I couldn’t leave the computer because my workload haunted me. There were blog posts to write, sites to fix, designs to create, our own projects clamoring for attention… and I felt like I hadn’t gotten anywhere.
Sometimes the Powers That Be make you pay attention to your own life. The Powers that gave me a shove the next day were those of my oh-so-reliable Internet provider. Once again, with incredible timing, the cable went out.
Of all mornings for the outage to happen, it couldn’t have been worse. My scheduled day involved projects that were 90% online.
I made the usual calls to James on the backup phone and then took a quick look at what I could work on offline. Well, I couldn’t do much. That left the option of writing.
Unfortunately, I was too distracted to put words together coherently. So, I settled for a cup of coffee, the couch, and an episode of Deadwood.
During this quiet blackout period of no communication, I realized I had to get back on track. I had been so busy lately that I hadn’t taken the time to organize my schedule and plan my days.
It’s easy to let scheduling properly slip. Like an alcoholic who thinks he can handle just a sip of booze after a long, hard stint of sobriety, I too thought I could fly through my days without a plan.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I grabbed my pen and clipboard off the coffee table. I wrote a list of what I needed to do. At first, the list was long and seemed overwhelming. The more I organized my thoughts on paper, the more I felt a weight lifting.
I started believing I could handle it all again. And I can, now that I have a clear plan.
Take the Time to Make Time
It’s not easy being in business. When times are slow, you pray for work. When you do have work, you pray for the flood to trickle down. It’s always feast or famine; there’s very rarely a middle ground.
When the deluge comes, you have to be as prepared as you are for the dry spells. Go ahead and accept the work coming in, but don’t run yourself into the ground.
When you take time to create a schedule, you’re taking some pressure off yourself. Do you realize how stressful and how much extra energy you burn while trying to remember everything you’re supposed to remember?
Write it down, put it aside and empty your mind for more important things.
I’m still buried under snow, in a manner of speaking, but I’ve remembered my survival lessons. While I wait for the rescue dogs to find me, with their casks of Canadian liquor around their necks, I won’t be frozen with panic stressing over everything that needs to be done.