Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Aftermath Of A Stressful Project And Lessons Learned

Listening to: Rachel Platten's Fight Song (on a loop)

Source: Pinterest
I'm knackered  - totally, completely wiped by exhaustion. But I'm happy. Or rather, riding the euphoria that comes from relief of knowing a project was successfully executed and I was able to survive until the end, because there were too many moments along the way when I was tempted to quit and couldn't remember my motivations for getting involved in the first place. But I couldn't quit because the reason for the high pressure was because someone just gave up.
And I knew my stress levels and exhaustion were nowhere near my client's and the situation was not of her doing.She hired a writer to develop the technical section of a conference report. The writer attended the sessions, recorded the sessions and on Friday on the day of the copy deadline, he wrote her a two-paragraph email saying "sorry, I couldn't do it. It was too hard - the language too technical and the accents difficult to understand. Please make alternative arrangements." My client was supposed to deliver the report this Monday.
Turned out I would become the "alternative arrangements," - having to find people to transcribe the audios of the two-day workshop and to use the transcriptions to write the technical report.
The task of finding transcriptionists willing to take the job on short notice was rough - I did a lot of begging. I didn't even pretend that I was offering them fair work for fair pay. I said to one friend, "Forgive me please, because I need to ruin your day."Then I proceeded to explain what I needed. My client helped in farming the work out and eventually, I could start the writing process. Which was tough in its own right because the language was very technical, with lots of physics terms and geometry and mechanics.
Let's just say I learnt more than I ever thought I wanted to know about how railways tracks and trains and heavy haul transports transporting coal and ore worldwide work: the challenges, the solutions in use, the research being done, and the technologies and how all these things are maintained. LOL! I could actually empathise with the former writer - it was all very technical, but the difference is that I was enthralled.
So in the end, I developed 18 articles based on the  lectures, with the sessions lasting around 45 minutes each ( around 4000 words of technical text x 18). My poor client had to do quality control in addition to her own job, ensuring that the pieces were edited and proof-read and then inserting them into the main conference report. THAT was supposed to the job she was hiring me for!
Yesterday were did the final push, and it lasted until today around 4am for me, when I decided to take a nap before I finished polishing the last two pieces and sending them to the client before 8am. I went to bed at 8.30 and slept most of the morning away, blissful that I could finally rest.
So what did I learn from this experience:
1. Despite the hassle, I can still empathise with the writer who quit. I used to be like him - a marathon runner, I sarcastically called myself - running when the going got tough, never considering the consequences on other people. Which brings me to the second point-
2. Just because I don't immediately suffer the consequences does not mean there aren't any. Quitting like that leaves someone holding a bag leaking slimy stuff, and someone has to clean up the mess.
3. I am more resilient than I knew, and can survive stressful projects better than I thought I could.
The day I fell & hit the door, injuring my forehead

4. I need my loved ones to help me survive stressful conditions.
Our Star Wars heroes
 It seemed counterproductive to go visit my sister and her family on Sunday, but I took the laptop along and she really helped me. Plus the conversation, the background noise of my young nephews playing and watching an animated movie (How to tame a dragon 2), the arrival of Baby from her job at the resort camp and the fabulous dinner my sister cooked all served as a counterpoint to the stresses of the project. Then there were lots of  phone calls with my friend Neo, who was doing the transcription and who absolutely swore up and down that "The English don't speak English!" (excuse the generalisations, but the regional accents could do your head in.) Neo is fabulous at understanding the Chinglish and heavy Russian accents of some of the professors and was easy-going about my piling work on her.

5. Opportunity does not come in the form that you expect. I do my normal marketing and have made several phone calls to my network of colleagues and clients asking for work in preparation for the December/January holidays. I would never have predicted that a situation that looked so disastrous would actually be an opportunity for me to land well-paying work.

6. Always keep a stocked larder, fridge and freezer to be able to make quick meals.

Good, nourishing food for stressful days
I've just moved into my house, so I was so very unprepared for long working sessions without an opportunity to prepare good nutritious meals. Thankfully, my friend Christelle took me well in hand and repeatedly invited me to her place for meals and to work at her house . But, I am going to take the time to prepare, so next time, I don't have to rely on the kindness of my loved ones
7. Leaving my house and working in the company of others mitigated the stress levels. There is no doubt in my mind that I love working for myself, in my home office. But under stressful conditions, you could go nuts being alone in the house. Having company helped me to put one foot in front of another.

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