Status Report

Why is it that I’m more conscientious when doing work for someone else than I seem to be in working for myself, on my own personal project? In an interview I had on Monday, I was asked how I keep track of my progress on a project. The easy answer was that I document the hours I spend on specific tasks in a spreadsheet and provide a weekly status report to the manager. Whether management requires this kind of status reporting is not as important to me as is the fact that I will know what I did when.

So for this book project … I decided that I had to start doing the same thing. I need to keep track of hours spent actually writing on the book and how many words/pages I accomplish each day. Jotting down thoughts/ideas in real time for possible use later is another project task worth tracking. Time spent writing and managing the blog also counts indirectly toward the book project. And if nothing else, recording the time I spend on that will make it obvious if I spend more time writing for the blog than for the book.

If so, adjustments will be in order, not unlike the way a project manager updates the project plan with “actuals” to see how the number of hours logged compare to the tasks accomplished. If developers—or writers—are spending too much time on a particular task, then something is wrong, with either the plan or the execution.

Obviously my problem is with the execution. With no set project schedule, that elusive deadline never comes. With no project manager to report my status to, who cares whether I accomplish anything with my time? Where are the consequences if I don’t?

Right now my rental income and my unemployment benefits are paying my salary, my validation for occupying space on the planet. I think the State of Texas believes I owe them eight hours of work looking for work everyday. And I do understand that they control that payroll. But the rental income is there all because of my own efforts to maintain another income stream. However, the rent amount is offset by the many expenses to maintain the property.

As to the unemployment payments, didn’t I already earn those? Wasn’t that part of the fully burdened expense that my last employer thought was worth it to retain my skills? Like the rental income, I think I’m on Texas’ payroll because of my own efforts as well.

I know that it doesn’t literally work that way, and I’m sure the State of Texas would love to dispute my reasoning. What I’m getting at is that it all comes down to me. I’m paying myself, however indirectly. Which puts me back at my original question:

Why is it that I’m more conscientious when doing work for someone else than I seem to be in working for myself, on my own personal project?

I haven’t been thinking of the income I do have as payment received in return for hours worked, services rendered. I’ve been a lousy employee! I need to start earning what I’m paying myself. Someone needs to start cracking the whip. Time to turn in that status report and face the music.

    • Techquestioner
    • April 23rd, 2011

    I agree that it is much easier to stay focused on what you are (or should be) doing if you are doing it for someone besides yourself. So crack your whip, give yourself an objective in pages or chapters (or whatever you can measure) per week or per month, and let’s see some progress!

      • Paula Robertson
      • April 24th, 2011

      Thanks, Margaret. Here’s crackin’!
      Despite my blog bemoaning, I’m now writing on 2008, coming up on the home stretch of a first draft. Then I get to start over …
      In terms of time span in years, I’m about 90% done, though not in terms of volume of material. For obvious reasons, content on the earlier years is more sparse as is my memory. The closer I get to writing about present day, the more vivid the memories, the more intensely felt the emotions, and the greater the tendency to expand and expound.

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