Wednesday, December 07, 2011

When you have a deadline and you're not well

For the past couple of days I haven't been well. First, it was summer flu. Then I had a very bad toothache which resulted with me having an extraction yesterday morning. If you've ever had a wisdom tooth removed, then you know the kind of pain I was in yesterday. I took heavy painkillers, but while they numbed some of the pain, they also made me loopy. I slept a lot and when I was awake, my brain was not functioning well. Today was not much of an improvement.

The problem is that I had deadlines to meet and requests to do assignments. And while clients are also human beings who understand that illness rarely gives one a warning, I also don't want to be a liability.

So how did I juggle deadlines with my sick?

1. See a healthcare professional - Over the years, I have learnt that my health is one of my greatest assets. Without it, I can't function well. So it's better to address health issues as soon as they arise, instead of trying to be brave.

2. Inform your client - The client needs to know as soon as possible that you're not well and what impact this will have on the project. I'm still on a learning curve on that one, because I hate to be HER. You know her, she never delivers anything without drama. When the deadline looms, she's either sick/has a death in the family/had car trouble/her computer crashed. Usually, there is no way you can dispute her excuses, because they sound so reasonable. But clients usually wish she'd just give them what they asked for on time, without issues. So balancing the issue of disclosure with having as little drama as possible is still difficult for me.

3. Do what you can - If there is anything you can push through to your client as a matter of urgency, do it. The client will appreciate it.

4. Ask for help - This is not always as easy as it sounds, because once you get involved with a project, you gain insight that allows you to move quickly through the work, while someone coming in late in the project will take longer. Balance those issues and decide whether it will benefit you to wait until you're better ( if it's a temporary health issue) or whether you should shout ask for help. Help can come from your freelancer friends, or it can come from the client, depending on your arrangements.

5. Learn to say no - I felt bad for a regular client who contacted me yesterday, asking for quick help on a project. But I was in no shape to finish what was on my plate, never mind taking on additional responsibilities. So I had to say a firm NO.

Anyhoo, these are the coping strategies I learnt the past couple of days. I hope they benefit you too.


Gaynor said...

Im actually totally non functional at the moment with nerve entrapment which is making my hand numb. It’s a real problem.

Damaria Senne said...

@Gaynor - Ouch! Sounds painful!

Alison Fourie said...

Ive simply learnt to put up with sickness and just get on with it. I don’t have anyone to assist me, so I simply get on with it, I dose up, bandage, do what it takes to keep myself going and just hope that I get a gap whereby I can get a bit of rest. I find while I keep going it sort of holds the sickness off during the day, especially when ive got flu or a cold and then I dose up at night. Ive done many one handed typing jobs the past few years, and its dam hard, ive missed deadlines because of this and told my clients that I cant use my right arm/hand etc but there is still the deadline and it still must get done, so what do you do, you just keep going. I do think I am wrong and that when sick we should do what everyone else does when they work in the corporate world and that is take off sick days, but I cant.

Trish said...

Thanks Damaria. I tend to dose up when not feeling well. Unfortunately as a lot of my work is medical the turnaround is fairly short usually 24-48 hours. While I do notify clients if there is a problem I usually keep going. I do see health professionals if I feel I need to though.

I have a chipped bone in one wrist which tends to play up in winter and causes no end of pain. Having been told that an op might not make it pain free I haven't had the op, not to mention the fact that I can't afford 6-8 weeks minimum to recover. Add to that de Quervain's in both wrists and I feel I need to be traded in. Fortunately the de Quervain's does not affect my typing.

po said...

Urgh that is really difficult. I am in the fortunate position of being allowed to stay home and rest when I feel ill. In many countries people are not allowed this privelege or feel obliged not to take it. Which is ridiculous. If you feel really bad, you belong in bed, looking after yourself.

Damaria Senne said...

@po- That's one of the benefits of working for a company that has more than one employee. I think a lot of the time we tout the benefits of being self-employed, but we don't mention the fact that when your company is made up of you and your laptop, when you get sick, the work doesn't get done. And as freelancers, we need to plan for that problem well in advance so the plan kicks in as soon as you know you're not well.

I didn't plan so well this time. I had writer friends who could help with some of the work, but I hadn't thought through the plan well enough to implement it without creating a new mess.

Pamela said...

As usual you have given great tips, D. I'm fortunate with the day job but I'm starting to think ahead to when I can afford to freelance for a living. Not having paid sick leave is one of the challenges to work around.

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