"Well, the Devil made me do it the first time/ Second time I done it on my own."
Billy Joe Shaver, "Black Rose"
Never got around to the last couple of weekly updates. There wasn't much of interest, technology-wise, and they burned the hell out of me. It's twice as fun to be burnt-out busy when they paychecks are weeks or months away. Every 4-6 months I go through a transition period where one or two big projects is winding up and new work is starting to trickle in (including a Django project for Frontline). The trick is dealing with the maintenance work and one-off edits for clients during this period. I'm really struggling with the continuous stream of interruptions. When I started on my own I was mad to reply to everything as fast as humanly possible and get the work done in much the same time. Not a great idea. While I've gotten better about resource planning, I still can't shake the feeling I need to reply rightawayohquicknow or lose a client. I know none of my clients stick with me because I can turn around an email quickly. Anyone could do that. I know it's for the quality of my work and I know I have credit in the bank with (most of) them, but I still drive myself nuts.
Email's the problem right now. It's always the first tab in my browser and then I have a Gmail plugin/ setting that updates the tab with an inbox count, in the interests of further self-abuse. When I worked for someone else and email became a problem, I'd just shut it off. Someone wanted me, they could call. And if that got to be a problem, I set the phone to make-busy. Not the thing that sends 'em straight to voicemail (I probably checked my voicemail less than 20 times in 8 years-- never occurred to me), the thing that dumped the call. Walk over if things are that bad. But now that I'm my own boss, I can't do it. I need to find some way to shut off email without obsessing over it. Still working on that. It's not an original observation (I think it's the theme song of the freelancer), but I want to make more days lie Saturday. Michelle works on Saturday morning, so my work week is from late morning Monday (theoretically— it's been more like early morning Monday recently) through 1pm on Saturday. And it feels like 50% of the work I do gets done in the quiet of Saturday when no one expects a response out of me (and don't start emailing me now). All I need is two of me: one to do the communicating and one of me to do the work and keep them away from each other before they go out drinking and get in a fight.
On a different subject, it's always interesting to be on the other side of the fence like I am right now on a project for Big Financial Institution. We've done a lot of work to paper over some of the cracks in their data team's process, but we're running into Newton's Fourth Law: "For every effort you make to hide the incompetence of someone you depend on, they will redouble their effort." This is a Big Company. I'm not mentioning it to impress anyone. I'm mentioning it because I can't imagine working for their data team and sleeping more than an hour a night. We've been (theoretically, mind you) getting the same thing delivered quarterly for almost a year now. Counting all the test runs, we've probably had a dozen data drops from them. And it's painfully clear this stuff is not delivered by script. It's 12 XML files with the same data fields every time for the same funds. Is it scripted? Hell no. Best I can tell, there's a guy with a button somewhere. And best I can tell, he was dropped on his head as a child. Maybe that's what makes me decent at my job, because I always hear Jim Clancy in my head: "There's a difference between a job done and a job done right." At some point, stay late. Whether they pay you for it or try to kick you out for being there late, stay and figure out all the questions in the process, find the correct answers one time and then make a damn computer do it. Because then you'll never have to look up the answers again, which means you won't have a chance to mess it up. And if you tell me there are too many moving parts to script the process, that just means you don't understand the process. Break it down into a bunch of steps, write some God-awful-looking code that works and be done with it. No one's ever going to see it, they're just going to be happy with you. And if they fire you because you made yourself redundant, good. I guess some people can work at a job where everyone agrees not to work too hard, but that's a Devil's Bargain: you grow fat and lazy and dull and then the only jobs you can work are ones just like it. And they don't hire much. Because people don't leave and because the company isn't growing.
It pains me some people are (theoretically) in the same industry as me but have no curiosity about it. True anywhere, I just happen to see it here. Which is why when people ask what I do, I tell them I'm a valet at the drive-in.