What one week of little sleep and less sanity has taught me
This past week at work was absolutely terrible for me. The odd holiday hours threw off a lot of my weekly reports, and suddenly I found myself with in the middle of what I call the perfect social media monitoring storm.
Because of the holidays, a couple weekly reports were delayed until this week, and of course there were monthly reports to contend with. As luck might have it, one of the most time-intensive reports was for a new client, and lets just say I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet. Needless to say I did not sleep very much this week, and I have felt a constant pressure which has made me very tense and crabby at home.
Thankfully, it’s all over now. Future weeks and months look like smooth sailing with regularly-time reports and few holiday delays. Oh, and I know what the client wants now, so that makes everything easier. While a big part of me wants to just be thankful and forget this week ever happened, I knew I should share a few things I’ve learned:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! I heard myself saying many times, “OK, this makes perfect sense to me,” at least three times each day, but sometimes I struggled to understand why others weren’t necessarily on the same page. It was always a small detail I had thought was too unimportant to communicate to the whole group that had inevitably caused confusion. Even the best cannot work without all the information. So what I learned is this: communicate everything and anything.
- Do it right the first time. Always. I found myself rushing to make editing deadlines and would sometimes forgo correct formatting to ensure on-time delivery so my boss. Well, of course that just meant that when I got the reports back and reformatted, content also had to be adjusted. I realized something mighty important that I’m not sure I ever completely understood, but it is best to do it right the first time, even if it means being late. I found that warning my boss about delays went over better than an on-time report riddled with errors.
- Check in early and often. With new projects, there is bound to be confusion about how a task should be completed or how much depth to go into. It’s tricky to learn the ins and outs of a new client, and it takes time. Unfortunately, sometimes it also takes trial and error on everyone’s part (mostly my own). The key is to check in as a team early and often to ensure that the whole team is working toward the same goal with the same methods.
- Have a clear plan and share it. Part of my problem this week ended up being that I had a very specific plan for the week worked out in my head, but I didn’t clearly express this to the rest of the team (what? shouldn’t they guess?). I found myself unfairly frustrated that we weren’t always working on the same page, and in hindsight it would have made the team more efficient to agree on a timeline at the beginning of the week. It’s important to know where everyone is in the process beforehand so that the team can work towards a goal together.
- Never assume your project or time is most important. While this week was hectic for me, I know that almost every one in the office was running on empty, too. It was the first week of the month and the first week back from holidays. I found myself frustrated when other projects needed work, too, but I came to realize that everything was getting done on time. It’s important to understand what other projects are ongoing and which take priority. Obviously higher priority projects should be completed first without falling too far behind on others.
- Celebrate milestones but never forget the end goal. I found myself congratulating myself too much for completing important milestones when I really needed to buckle down. It’s always a good idea to reward yourself a little when a milestone is reached, but it’s easy to get too carried away and forget about the deadline. Never forget that the milestones won’t matter much if the final product is never completed. Give yourself a little break, and grab a soda or a snack, but then get right back to it!
- Always remember those who helped you. I remember when I was intern being thanked by project leaders when a big deadline had passed. Sometimes I thought it was unnecessary (why thank me for doing my job?), but there were plenty of times when it made me feel that all my sacrifice and hard work was being recognized. With this is mind, I made sure to send out a virtual pat on the back to all who helped me get through my terrible week because even if they don’t think so, they helped me immensely.
What have you learned during your worst weeks? Please add to my list as I know I’m still pretty new to this.
UPDATE (January 12): I have edited some of the above bullets because upon re-reading, I realize I came off a little harsh on the interns. This was never my intention. To be perfectly honest: I would not have slept at all had it not been for the interns. Last week was ridiculous with timing of reports, and I found that I had many shortcomings as a the lead on the monitoring reports (a role I’ve never had before). I do not mean to imply in any way that others working on the account did not rock the house despite my frequently vague and misleading directions. I sincerely apologize because I know that at least one of the interns felt they did a poor job, and I want to be sure to shout for all to hear that I thought the complete opposite. I meant to express my frustration with my own mistakes, but I realize that my tone and wording did suggest frustration more with others than myself. I apologize and will be sure to never make this mistake again.