Sunday, 20 February 2011

10 minutes is never enough - Late working - Don't do it!

Ten minutes is never enough. I had some unfinished work to get through on Friday evening, but because I was depending on an architect to finish updating his document, I couldn't send out my email to the development teams on the Friday as planned. Instead, I told the guy don't worry I'll send it out on Sunday...that's because Sunday is a work day in Israel, and my company being geographically dispersed throughout the world, it's not unusual for people to do so...but for a number of years now I've made a lot of effort NOT to take home work as it eats into my family and leisure time, time that is lost and cannot be regained again. Besides being a software project manager doesn't help, because the culture assumes that one works late hours any way, without being rewarded - in contrast to a development or integration engineer, where generally it does get noticed when that individual puts in the extra hours...anyway, 10 minutes is never 10 minutes.

What I thought would take 10 minutes, has now been two hours for a Sunday afternoon...The kids were asleep and the wife and I were looking forward to catching a nice movie together. Kids are now up from their afternoon nap, I've got one waiting in the loo for me to clean up and the other two munchkins are downstairs waiting to watch their own Sunday movie Marmaduke. Marmaduke [DVD] [2010]

The way my 10 minutes turned into an hour:

  • 10 minutes to switch on my laptop, waiting for network connection
  • 5 minutes spent wondering why my wireless isn't connected
  • 7 minutes to enable my router to filter my laptop's mac address. I forgot I did some security checks a few days back where I removed some unknown MAC address from my access control list, it turns out that MAC address was in fact my work laptop!
  • 5 minutes to get my VPN connection to corporate network up and running and then another 5 minutes to download and checkout a document from our document repository system (everybody hates it, but lives with it. Surprising that 5000 employees can tolerate a slow, clunky application but our products and customers give us so much grief for performance issues)
  • Remainder of the time spent reviewing the document I was hoping would be in good shape, but had to make some changes, and then writing an email to send out to 200+ people - has to be read, re-read a few times to make sure the story is good, etc...and after a few more minutes of scrutiny, I hit the send button and gone!
  • Of course, 15 minutes to write this blog post
Personal Efficiency and time-keeping at the workplace
I try to maintain a high degree of personal efficiency. For those of you not familiar with the basic time management tools and tricks, or you're looking for motivation and new ideas, then I urge you to get a copy of The Personal Efficiency Program: How to Get Organized to Do More Work in Less Time Admittedly, most of it should be common sense, but the secret is consistency in planning. I pride myself being a good time keeper and efficient in my planning activities, but I found it actually led to my being further overloaded and burdened by more work.

Recently I've switched to working just the hours required of me: 9-5, 7-4 etc, i.e. just do the 8-to-9 hours, without slacking. However in a time of recession and the company mantra of "Do more with less, be efficient", it's not stopping.

Coming from a recent project from 2008-2010, I worked very long hours. Days on end I'd be working from 7AM-10PM, getting up at 3AM to publish reports in time for the morning meetings. I'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the work or issues I needed to resolve. I had ideas at odd hours in the morning, switch on my PC and mind map my thoughts to present to the VP the next day. Most of the project managers were working really mad hours, compared to the rest of the development managers. I wonder who is more valuable to a company: A Development Group/Line Manager or Project Manager (a topic for another blog post perhaps)....Anyway, it was my knack at keeping all these multiple tasks at bay simultaneously that my manager did praise me, saying he didn't know how I did it...well it's all down to personal efficiency, but also stupidity and misdirected loyalty to company and project...for in the end, all my hours and effort went largely unnoticed, and taken for granted as just being part of the remit of being a Senior Project Manager.

Once the project was over, I decided to look elsewhere for more fulfilling and meaningful work....and I'm still searching.

I believe lack of planning and lack of listening from senior managers results in unnecessary pressure down the ranks. Did I really need to send that email out today? Are people going to respond to me in time by the deadline enforced? I wonder....but because I'll be OOTO Monday and Tuesday, it made sense for me to do that....

Unless I'm really passionate about my project's value, and know that my work is meaningful, I try not to spend extra time and effort, and the expense of my personal and family time, doing company work. Over the years I've seen many people make similar mistakes, causing unnecessary stress. 

Whenever you run out of time, or being asked to work the weekend or stay late to send out a report, always ask:
  • Why is this so important that it can't wait till tomorrow?
  • Who is going to read the email or memo if I send it out now, at 11PM or 3 AM in the morning?
  • Even if I send it out now, will people have read it and reviewed it in time for the 9AM meeting the next morning?
  • What value will this be adding to the company?
  • Will my effort be rewarded or go unnoticed?
Work-life balance is important. Company time is also important... striking the right balance is key....

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