Friday, November 16, 2012


Sometimes I wonder about the choices that I make. Last night, I stayed at work until 11:45 pm working on a writing a proposal that has an immediate deadline. I was exhausted, as I had started work at 8:30 am and worked hard all day, including through breakfast and lunch. I attended a work dinner event, then went back to my office and kept working. The proposal was not MY priority. My work priority was a different huge project (let's call it "the budget") that also has an imminent deadline, and which is of great consequence to my work unit. Moreover, I am solely responsible for "the budget" submission, whereas the proposal is a group effort.

Today I have had a pounding headache all day. I was in all-day meetings, so I couldn't work on the the budget, but even if I'd had the time, I am too tired and sick. Yesterday was the time that I had set aside for the budget. Now the deadline is one day closer. The time I had blocked off on this upcoming Monday to work on it also is going to be eroded by: 1) an important time sensitive meeting scheduled by my boss, and 2) an emergency situation that suddenly has arisen and has to be dealt with because it potentially involves someone's personal safety and health (and I chair that committee). I am considering going in to work on the budget this weekend because I don't know when I'm going to get it done, otherwise.

Probably, dear reader, a couple of questions popped into your mind as you read my account. For example, why did I agree to devote most of a 15 hour day to working on the proposal when I have other higher priorities?

Well, the proposal was for one of those unexpected opportunities with a very tight timeline that suddenly drops into your lap. You either drop everything and go for it, or possibly kick yourself forever after. If our proposal is successful, the payoff could be large. It could even solve some of my budget problems.

Well then, you're thinking - why me? If it is a group effort and you're so busy, why didn't someone else step up to write the proposal?

In fact, someone else did write a preliminary first draft. She took it as far as she could, and then wasn't sure where to go from there. Another person is very busy and stressed, and not able (or willing) to adjust her schedule for anything right now. Although I might question her priorities, her reasons are very real and important to her. The third person on the team, who took the leadership to follow up on and gain the initial opportunity, admits that the topic is quite far outside of his disciplinary expertise.

The topic is within my area of expertise, I have written proposals successfully before, and, in fact, I enjoy writing proposals. The initiative is really important. It's just that the timing is not good for me. So I dropped everything and wrote it, and now I have passed it to the others to edit and provide final touches.

Maybe you are thinking, there's a pattern here. I've way too much on my plate and don't seem to want to relinquish any of it. Aha! Bingo!

That's kind of what I am thinking myself. Maybe I did need to spend some time writing the proposal, but probably I didn't need to spend as long as I did crafting every word and paragraph to perfection. (In any case, how perfect was it going to be when I was too exhausted and cross-eyed to even see the screen as midnight approached?). My colleague had said to get the content in and then he'd work on cleaning up the language.... I didn't have to do it all myself.

"But I don't write that way!" the writer in my head protests.

Likewise, the budget. Do I really have to do it all myself? Does it have to be perfect? Is there any flexibility around the deadline? No, no, and maybe.

As for the events coming up on Monday, maybe I could get out of the meeting called by my boss, although I know he wants me there. Okay scratch that possibility.

I can't postpone the meeting about the safety issue. But maybe there are other meetings that I could decline to buy some more time to work on the budget.

I do know for sure that I cannot sustain these really long hours at work. It is affecting my health (headaches, eating habits, amount of exercise). It gives me too little time to spend with Rob, friends, and family. It makes my life very uni-dimensional.

I DO have too much work to do. But ultimately, the person responsible for that is me

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