Thursday, October 29, 2015

Three rules for sustainable and enjoyable work.

Over the last twenty years or so, I've consistently been a productive member of whatever team I've been in. As a subordinate, peer or superior, I've consistently rated highly on the "productive", "great to work with" and "all round nice guy" scales - sometimes to the detriment of my physical and mental health. Eventually, I figured it would be better to try and work "sustainably", rather than "AWESOMELY!!!". At the end of the day, I reckon your boss, or the client, or whomever it is you're working for, more than anything else, wants to be able to depend on you to be able to make THEIR problems smaller, not bigger. Counter-intuitively, working sustainably, not ridiculously hard and fast is the way to do this.

There are a thousand things you need to pay attention to, but they can be lumped into three categories of action - I call them three "rules". Really just a set of overall principles to guide your actions. Here they are:

Rule #1: DELIVER!!!
People like managers and clients love this one, and for good reason. It's comforting to hear that there's a set of rules, and that number one is "DELIVER!!!". It's really simple: someone (let's call them the CLIENT from here on) has the rank to look at your work and declare it "delivered". Your job is to make it so they can. This does not mean "exceed all poorly articulated expectations" or "work 20 hour days because someone is expecting you to do so". "Delivered" will mean different things at different times - between projects and even whilst projects are running, but you will only ever be able to "DELIVER!!!" when you know what "DELIVERED!!!" means, and who the CLIENT is. How...

Rule #2: Track all the things
ALWAYS keep track of what is happening during delivery. ALWAYS get what constitutes "delivered" on record, and make sure the CLIENT gets copies. ALWAYS track all the FACTS. This is not about proving your version vs. the CLIENT's version - it's about what really happened - because you can use that data to figure out how you can better DELIVER!!! in future. How...

Rule #3: Commit to NOTHING!!!
Yes - you just read that. This doesn't actually mean "never commit to anything" - rather, it means "ensure that you can deliver whatever you commit to". Anything you (even vaguely) commit to will turn into an expectation on the CLIENT's end. Your CLIENT's job is to squeeze you as hard as possible for as much delivery as possible, as soon as possible. YOUR job is to achieve your goals (whatever they are) by delivering as efficiently as possible. If you commit to doing the things you are sure you can deliver, delivery is assured. How...

In Summary:
These three aspects combine in a harmonious little feedback loop. When you're getting all three right, you will be approached for difficult and important, time critical work that is highly rewarding, because CLIENTs will know that you can make their problems smaller without adding drama to their lives. Or yours.

[edit] - title tweaked
[edit] - added links to "how" items
[edit] - added image

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