Lesson #17: The sun will rise again tomorrow
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First off, some news!
I’m launching a course on Engineering Management! You can sign up for the waitlist here. I’m preparing the curriculum for this course now. If you looked at this before, look again! I updated the landing page with some more information on what I cover. I hope to launch my first cohort this summer!
The sun will rise again tomorrow
This week is the last working week of our quarter, so tight deadlines are top of mind for me. I think we’re all too familiar with having to deal with tight deadlines or unexpected requests in the face of everything else we still have to do. Being able to deliver top quality solutions in record time is often the norm in many organizations, but it’s not sustainable to do this continuously week after week, quarter after quarter. Striking a healthy work/life balance for your team as you manage your schedule of projects is not just about managing your time effectively, but also about having the courage to push back on unrealistic timelines and confidently say no when necessary.
Engineering projects are often accompanied by ambitious timelines, and we as leaders naturally strive to meet these deadlines and exceed expectations. However, constantly working under immense pressure can take a toll on not just our mental and physical well-being, but also our team. It's crucial to understand that not every deadline is achievable, and saying yes to everything may lead to subpar results due to rushing through to hit a deadline or burnout. (Been there, done that, have the backlog of freelance projects to prove it. Still a work in progress for me!)
When I’m faced with challenging or unrealistic timelines, it turns out that grumbling about it and pushing forward anyway isn’t the right move. Instead of begrudgingly accepting untenable deadlines, the healthier route is to consider alternatives and have a discussion about it with my PM or other necessary parties. I explain the potential risks and challenges that might arise due to the tight schedule and, most importantly, explain what will not get done if we take this on. (Our teams only have so much actual working time, after all.) More often than not, people at your company appreciate transparency and are willing to adjust the timelines accordingly or at least buy you a bit of extra time if possible.
Learning to say no in a positive manner is a valuable skill in both personal and professional life. I was recently having a conversation with someone who struggled to say no to stakeholders, which is all too common. Saying no doesn't mean being negative or unwilling to cooperate; it's about being assertive and understanding your team’s limits. If this is something you struggle with, I highly, highly recommend the book The Power of a Positive No by William Ury - in the book, Ury provides insightful guidance on how to say no confidently without damaging relationships. This is something that takes practice - don’t expect to be perfect at it every time! I still to this day say yes to thinks I ultimately regret later on.
Remember: the sun will rise again tomorrow, and unless the deadline is absolutely necessary to hit due to contractual obligations or it’s a pivotal point in a relationship, your team will thank you for learning to say no and negotiate projects based on realistic capacity.
What I’m reading
I’m still on a fiction kick lately, reading The Maid for my neighborhood book club and The Kiss Quotient which I picked up on a whim at the library. (Yes, a physical book from a library! Support your local library!)
I’ve actually been spending less time lately on reading business books and more time picking back up on my Spanish. (I’m also watching through Vanderpump Rules for the first time, about done with Season 4.)
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
It’s the final countdown (doodoodoodoo) - this week’s focus is on wrapping up end-of-quarter projects and prepping for our engineering and company offsite next week!
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