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Links and other thoughts about management, from Melanie Nelson.
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You might have noticed that this newsletter is a week late. I normally send the newsletter out on the Monday after the last Friday of the month, which would have been last Monday. Of course, that was Memorial Day here in the US, and it goes against the spirit of what I write to expect anyone to want to read management advice on a holiday.

But that's not the full story. I was also swamped, working flat out on something else, and had no time to write the newsletter. One of the things I do is run an indie publishing company. (I know! That's a bit random. Here is a guest post I wrote for The Reading Life about how that came about. Another way to explain it is that I realized that the only "rule" for my career was that I have to make enough money to pay the bills, and that had been incredibly liberating. Why do I run a publishing company? Why not!)

Anyway, through a combination of overly optimistic planning, some bad luck with an editing delay, and some further bad luck with a stomach bug, I found myself in a crunch time. I contract out most of the editing work on the books I publish, but I do the production work myself, and I had two books to get through production in May, while also working my usual contract jobs. I am happy to say I did it: Don't Call It Bollywood, an introduction to Hindi film by Margaret E. Redlich, came out on Wednesday. Academaze, a collection of essays and cartoons by Sydney Phlox about life as a science professor at a research university, is in the final proofreading stage, and is available for pre-order. It will be out on June 20. I'm still busier than usual, but things are returning to normal.

I'm confessing this here because I think it is important to acknowledge that no one always gets it right. Despite our best efforts, sometimes, there will be crunch times. The key is to try to learn from the mistakes that created the crunch time, and do better next time. I've learned from these mistakes (I should have slipped a schedule when the first bit of bad luck hit, I should have planned some more slack in when I decided to take on three book projects at roughly the same time- yes, I have a third book coming out at the end of July, a fantasy novelette by Vanessa Fogg called The Lilies of Dawn). I won't make these same mistakes again, but I'll make different mistakes, and another crunch time will happen. 

I refuse to let crunch time become a habit, though, for the reasons I discuss in the Beyond Managing post on long hours linked below. One of my past lessons learned is that it is surprisingly easy to fall into the habit of overworking. I have learned that as I come out of a crunch time, I have to consciously relearn good work boundaries and the habit of relaxing. And so, I've decided that I'm going to skip the next newsletter altogether. It falls around the time of our family vacation. I'm a big believer in taking a proper vacation, meaning I don't take work with me on vacation. I might log in to post some previously written things and check for any truly urgent emails, but I won't do much more. Usually, I plan ahead and write everything that needs to go out during vacation ahead of time. This year, I'm not going to do that. I need to come down from my crunch time. 

So, there won't be a newsletter at the end of June. I'll be back at the end of July, though, rejuvenated and with lots of energy to tackle new things. I'll be creating a new online seminar, for one thing. See you then!

 

This Month on Beyond Managing

Ironically, given that I was in the midst of a personal time crunch in which all of the slack in my projects was gone, I wrote about aiming for some slack in your plans.

Also ironically, given that I was working longer hours than usual due to the time crunch, I wrote about the risks of working long hours.

If you're curious, my crunch time has consisted of one week of 45 hours of work, and one week of 48 hours of work. Normal for me is about 38 hours of true work time in a week. One of the preceding weeks only had about 20 hours of work, due to a stomach bug that felled both me and my six year old. I think I'll clock in at 40 hours this week, but remember that this week included the Memorial Day holiday here in the US, so it "should" have been a 32 hour week. I hope to be back to close to normal next week, but I may hit 45 hours again. That should be the end of it, though.

Things I Wrote Elsewhere

I don't have a Chronicle Vitae post this month. I'm told my submission for May will go up in the next week or so.

Things Other People Wrote

I'm a huge fan of time-tracking, for the reasons Laura Vanderkam outlines in this op-ed. Without data, it is too easy to tell ourselves lies. If I hadn't been tracking my work hours over the last month, I would have sworn I'd worked 60 hour weeks over the last two weeks. I felt that stretched, but that was just the extra stress. The time log doesn't lie.

What if you're in a "high intensity work place" where 60 hour weeks are expected? It turns out, different people have different ways of managing that... and only a subset are actually working the expected 60 hour weeks.

Management isn't just about getting things done. It is also about making sure the right things get done, and I think "right" encompasses "ethical." How do make sure your work is ethical? We think it should be easy, but the number of ethics scandals implies that it is not. I suspect very few people aim to be unethical. Mark Chussil suggests writing a "never do" list. I like this idea, but think you also need to plan for the financial implications of running up against one of your "never do" items. That's yet another reason to save, I guess.

Here is a different take on the same question, about a team realizing that they don't like some of the use cases of the cool tool they've started building, and deciding to shelve it.

I was looking for a summary of Trello vs. Asana for a coaching client, and I found one. Perhaps you will find it useful, too.

Finally, I'll end with some really solid advice.

Thanks for reading! See you at the beginning of August!

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