Spinning plates

By October 3, 2013 Uncategorized 2 Comments
spinning-plates

It all seemed like such a simple idea – work full time on site at one company and work part time for a few remote clients during the nights and weekends. What’s that phrase about rubber and road?

I had worked part time for a local company prior to leaving McKinney and had done a reasonably good job keeping up with business while ensuring that both companies received appropriate attention. As I planned to start this venture, I assumed I could scale up the same procedure with little trouble. As it is with children, adding more does not scale the amount of work linearly.

The biggest challenge I’ve experienced so far is juggling the timing of needs as they come in. I had previously worked out the time of day that I would be available with each client so everyone had proper expectations. I broke everyone into two categories – day work and night work then assigned my entire days to one full time contract and all other clients would need to be handled in the evenings (post 8pm). The surprising challenge came with determining the gray areas of what was a “hot” item and when I should be flexible.

When I get a request from a night client during business hours, it’s surprising how much anxiety it can trigger as I quickly assess impact, priority, and source of the request while I’m supposed to be “off the clock” for that client. I want to be reasonable and acknowledge that there are times where I should take a 30 minute break from my day and respond to my night clients but I never want to double book my time. If I respond to a night client during business hours, that’s technically lost revenue I could be pulling in while I’m on site. How do I prioritize on the fly?

I can’t say I have it all figured out but I have found a bit of a rhythm that helps provide mental firewalls between my immediate tasks and the unpredictable stream of off-hour requests. By using my own crude triage, I can allow my brain enough room to quickly process an email when it comes in from a night client and mark it as “emergency”, “urgent”, and “regular.” If an emergency task comes through I make all attempts to disengage from my day job and answer the request. If it’s “urgent”, I mentally slot that email/task to be handled during my lunch break. Anything else I can release my brain from worrying about and know that it will be handled after the kids go to bed.

It seems simple but by giving myself the space to regulate and assign priorities, I’m able to provide more continuous attention to the task at hand and still have confidence that everything will be taken care of . It can feel like every email needs to be responded to immediately, but I have to trust my judgement otherwise it becomes impossible to give anyone the attention they deserve.

While I’m not able to devote a lot of time to it yet, the same principles hold true to Prologue Games projects as well. Whether it’s bank/credit statements, tax filings, legal documents, or just the weekly blog post, assigning triage priorities allows me to maintain the confidence that nothing will slip through the cracks and not worry about those tasks while I’m handling client work. My brain is a fragile thing, I need to protect it or I would worry myself to death.

How about you? How do you handle competing priorities?

2 Comments

  • Alfred says:

    I run into this issue all the time. It is a delicate balancing act for me. I run my own business ( in a construction-related industry ) so things get crazy when all of your clients convene on you like vultures waiting for the cowboy in the desert to die. In addition, I work part time with a buddy at his sign shop, and I’m actively seeking to change career paths. This is all in addition to having a wife and 2 kids. So I know that having that simple time to let your brain rest is very much needed.

    I tend to look at it this way. I like to order things from least important to most important, with “importance” being placed mostly on surviving. So, which jobs and clients do I need to selectively take on so that I can keep my family and myself alive? This is the question I have to ask when prioritizing. Pretty much everything falls into place after that.

    It’s tough trying to be everything to everyone, all of the time, and most of the time impossible, but most of my customers understand that I’m flexible with their schedule and tend to want to return that flexibility to me when scheduling jobs to be done. You can only subdivide yourself so far before you become ineffective at almost everything you try to do.

    I’m not really worried that much about myself, or my specific wants. I know that pursuing a calling involves sometimes putting that calling on hold in order to do the things that will get you to the point of being able to do that calling effectively.

    • Colin says:

      Ha, I like the vultures analogy!

      Yea, it’s tough that it has to come down to prioritizing clients but I can see how that’s a wise route. I mentioned it in a previous post but I’ve already bumped up against the challenge of having to turn down specific projects, I just need to have confidence that it’s a healthy move and not shooting myself in the foot.

      I’m excited to hear how your progress towards career change goes. Keep us posted!

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