The longest year of 2019 (#5 of 52)

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Is it just me, or was January unreasonably long?

Technically speaking I’m writing this post on a Saturday, in that I woke up late and haven’t gone to bed yet. The calendar will tell you this was written on Sunday though – it lies.

The last week was particularly hard on me, as evidenced by my habit tracker.

Every morning, I need to take a fasting blood sugar reading in order to adjust my treatment. I’ve been really good with that since starting the tracking, managing a fasting reading every morning for a straight month – but in the last few days, that became difficult.

Whenever I have a bad week, it seems to throw everything else out of balance. The first thing to go is perspective – I get stuck on a particular problem and don’t really notice things like the passage of time, or that adhering to my habits have become a problem.

In this last week, I can clearly attribute that to something: A poorly managed project – with at least half of the blame falling on me.

In September, I picked up a project that was meant to take two months at the most, but as of end-January we’ve still not managed to go live. The application is a line-of-business app for a major enterprise, and like most major enterprises, timelines can sometimes stretch out a lot further than you might think.

In this case, there’s no one single reason why it’s taking this long. The scope has kept changing, but that’s par for the course when developing an all-new process in a shifting landscape. Feedback has been slow, but it’s impossible to align calendars. Getting it deployed has been a challenge, but there are so many parties involved in simple IT change requests that no single one of them has unduly held up the process.

As it turned out, by mid-January they had managed to finally get our first version out for testing with some of their internal customers. The feedback ended up requiring a whole new set of changes, which was scoped and priced and scheduled for delivery over the last week.

And this is where I hit a brick wall. I’ve worked on this project long enough now to have developed some really negative feelings towards it. The launch has been delayed time and again, the stakeholders and priorities have shifted back and forth, and my main concern remains launching a decent product – which seems further and further away.

But the blame for this one falls squarely on me, for once again trying to handle more than my fair share of work. The time to outsource it was actually mid-January, but after the week I just had I can’t afford to not pull the trigger on this.

Which I’m now doing. It’s a new milestone: I’m outsourcing the first bit of work I feel comfortable with, mostly because it’s starting to drive me insane and just getting a fresh set of eyes on it will already be a big relief.

Looking back on the week, though, I could have caught this one a lot sooner. I got stuck in a negative feedback looped that completely drained my energy:

  • I have this very important thing to do
  • I really don’t want to do this, it’s gotten too difficult
  • But I also can’t do anything until I do this
  • It’s already 1pm, I need to start
  • It’s already 5pm, I’ll have to work this evening
  • It’s 2am, I need to push through to the morning
  • It’s 4am, I can’t do this anymore
  • I woke up late this morning and I have a very important thing to do

Remarkably unproductive, but not the first time I’ve dealt with this feedback loop. Despite my own self-sabotage I’ve managed to get a lot of it done, including a monster VueJS refactor:

But I could have done more, had I been sufficiently motivated to tackle this yet again. I’ve just run out of motivation at this point, and it’s finally forcing me to evolve.

One upside to this: It’s forcing me to think outside the box. My problem has always been that I’m good at figuring out solutions, but bad at letting things take place beyond my control. If I ever want to grow an actual business (and not just grind out code for the rest of my life), I’ll have to learn how to delegate, and this is forcing me into that position now.

This one problem has really shaped most of my week, and it’s drained me far more than is reasonable. I’ve already decided that next week will be better: I’m travelling for work, and spending time out of the house is just what I need right now.

In other news:

My self-imposed Twitter limitation continues to work. I still open up the app several times a day, but most of what I’m getting are SABC News tweets (of which there are few), and I haven’t been tempted to dive back into the burning garbage vortex.

CIT is turning me into a libertarian. I’m a few months away from clocking my first year as a freelancer, but my financial year-end comes up on 28 February, at which point SARS gets to take 28% of my profits for the year. Let’s just say it’s shaped a few of my pointier opinions about taxes.

Ghost in the Shell: ARISE is actually pretty good. After trying to watch it in 2013 and being roundly put off by the Microsoft Surface product placement, I’ve kept away until this week. A more detailed post is in the works, but for now, I have to admit it’s got a whole bunch of merit all on its own.

I’m starting a new business venture! What started out as a semi-serious joke is now materializing into a new business, with a few potential projects lined up. With any luck I’ll be able to share more details by the next weekly update.

… and saying goodbye to my first client. The first customer I ever signed was for a retainer that they ended up not using as much as they thought they would, so cancelling this was really more of a formality at this point. But that’s another milestone I crossed this week: Ending a contract before its due date.

Next week, I’ll be doing my first ever full-time on-site consulting gig focused on the things I actually enjoy doing: Assessing business operations and guiding teams towards improving all of them. I’m already mentally drafting the case study 🙂

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Wogan May

By day, I run a software development agency focused on business tools, process optimization, data integration and automation. By night, I build tools and platforms that serve online creators.

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