Working on a budget against the clock of time and money…
Its true. The harder you work, the more they pile on, the more that is expect, the harder it is to meet a deadline. But could all of this have been avoided?
Deadlines in today’s society are very real, and very tight. Companies have become rapidly more demanding, and developers have taken on more and more. Still, the end goal is the same for all of. Finish the project on time, and properly.
Just two weeks ago I found myself on my porch. Its enclosed, carpeted, and I have a nice couch. It was cooler that night, and I was out there late working on the new CatsPride.com, and QuakerState.com updates. It was peaceful, my dog was sleeping next to me, but there was only one problem. I had over taxed myself, and fell asleep at the keyboard.
I had given estimates to my boss on how long updates would take. We were installing a complete new section onto QuakerState.com, and aside from basic landing pages, and some occasional media posts on the company web site, I didn’t have a whole lot coming down the pipe. That’s when I was approached and asked if I could put in a few extra hours to help ou with CatsPride.com‘s rebuild.
I must admit. New projects and challenges are my motivation. If you come to me with a couple of hours left before the wrath of management comes down, I’ll find the motivation and means to finish the project. I may grunt at my monitor a few times. I may smack myself in the forehead once or twice. But in the end, I’ll have my plan in place and executed.
So many projects go unfinished. It isn’t because companies lose their focus. It’s because project managers and developers fail to break down and execute the plans they put down on paper. Even when they do, developers also have a habit of overloading themselves.
So back to my falling asleep on the porch. It was 2 AM, fortunately late on a Friday night. I had started work at 8 AM, and only taken a couple of hours off to play softball in the evening. After that, it was back to work. I was guilty of not planning an attack. Instead, I was attacking the projects with tiring hours, and massive fatigue. Fatigue that is still with me two weeks after I finished the projects.
It was that moment when I realized I needed a real plan. Working until my body failed was not the answer. Killing myself daily was not the answer. Working and working, that wasn’t going to get anything done. It was just making my code sloppy, more bugs come up, and utter frustration on my part.
It was day 23 in a row. One of my friends called me and asked if I wanted to go out to lunch with him and another friend. Thinking the break could do me some good, I agreed, and off I went. Because I had no plan of attack, and was just attacking my plan with hours, I didn’t enjoy lunch. They wanted to go to Best Buy afterwards, and all I could do was have an anxiety attack the entire time.
“I’ll never get it done!”
“I’m going to be fired!”
“I’m going to miss two deadlines!”
Yes, I was, on all three accounts. Enough was enough. I had to make a plan.
1. I wrote down an estimate of how many hours I had left on each project. Assess where you are in the project, what is done, what is not done, and then put fixes at the end.
2. With the hours in hand, I was able to schedule so many per day, giving myself a day off here and there. I think more than once, I ended up working 2-3 hours on those planned days off. This will happen if you put yourself in my scenario. Still, I was better off than working 15 hours days until I fell over.
3. My time limit was 10 hours for a full day. A couple of times I went over that, but mostly I stuck with it. There were days when I had to add on 2-4 more to prep for reviews or QA, but they were grueling hours.
4. I washed my mind of all thoughts of what people would think if my progress wasn’t so far on a given day. I had a plan, and my deadline wasn’t here yet. If the reviewers started to show concern, I just reminded them that I had a plan, and a deadline, and I had never missed one.
Often times we as developers think we can solve problems with 2 liters, pizzas, and long nights. We attack our plan, instead of having a plan of attack. Time becomes a distance place where we no longer exist. Burnout can inevitable. Take my advice, and make a plan of attack. Budget yourself, and let your plan work for you, instead of working against your plan.
Dan Joseph is the CEO and head of Software Engineering of Familiaris Games, a start-up game studio developing online and mobile games. Aside from my personal game projects, I am collaborating with Ben Davis on multiple future projects, and writing the story and script for an upcoming AAA level RPG, modelled after the same type of game play you see in Lost Odyssey, Final Fantasy, and other Japanese-based RPGs. When I'm not developing games, I'm working as a Web Developer on various major brand web sites. You can follow me on twitter @iamdanjoseph. If you wish to contact me, please click the contact page, and fill out the form. I will get back to you as soon as I can.