A lot happens before ideas become solutions.
At ElixWare we want to bring you more than just great, affordable software. We want to let you know how and why we do what we do.
Our Ruminations blog will bring you insights into how we got here and some of the things we consider when trying to help you run your business. We hope it gives you a better understanding of how we strive to better serve your needs.
It's not uncommon for me to reply "busy is good" when someone tells me they're busy. Whether it's a family member, friend or a business owner, being busy is much better than the alternative. But when "busy" becomes "burdened" it's time to send up a flare and find a solution. When it becomes "buried", well, we end up here.
For Halloween I'll be my normal "James the monster", which isn't much different "everyday James" except for the makeup to hide the bags under my eyes. But I considered going as a bee. Bees never seem to stop. Either they are collecting pollen, dancing directions for the hive, tending to the larvae or doing some kind of maintenance chores. At least that's how it appears. But the fact is that bees do sleep. Studies show that they sleep five to eight hours a day (which is more sleep than I normally get). And much like here at ElixWare, bees divide up the labor and responsibilities. Since ElixWare doesn't have a hive full of worker bees we need to work smarter, and be more efficient, then bees are. And that's a pretty high bar.
Here at ElixWare we practice a 'division of labor', which happens to be very bee-like. At any point in time it's never equally divided, but in the end it all works itself out. But as our opportunities grow, not only do our workloads increase, but our division of labor becomes less efficient and can end up out of sync.
Due to project dependencies, Aimée may be waiting on me for something that I can't get to until I finish what I'm currently working on. And Chloe may be waiting on me to send her some requirements so she can get me what I need, but I haven't sent them yet because I'm busy working on something else that someone else is waiting for. These dependency conflicts produce what is known as thrashing in computer science parlance, and quickly end up in a locking situation.
This will sound familiar to anyone who manages a business, whether it's on your own or as partners (like at ElixWare). As more work comes in, your business grows. And as you identify more market opportunities, you need to dedicate resources and effort to developing additional products and services. If done properly, this also grows your business. But you're not just growing your business, you're increasing your workload, responsibilities and deliverables. And for some of these items we happen to be our own client, which should bring to mind the tale of the "cobbler's children".
This is the point where some of you will think, "Just hire more help." That is an option, isn't it? Bees don't try to run their colony with just a handful of bees. Problem solved, right? Well, not so fast. Even if hiring one additional person, we'll need to have answers to these very important questions:
Hiring someone is a commitment to that person and requires us to provide training and resources to ensure they are productive and successful. But that's hard to do if we're only addressing a short term increase in work. What about a temp? Hiring a temp worker isn't cost effective if all the training they'll receive will go out the window once they move on to their next assignment. This is a many small businesses find themselves in.
But there's another type of "distance" than that of being an observer: temporal distance. This is the time that has elapsed since you last worked on something. Think of this in terms of "out of sight means out of mind". Temporal distance not only pushes the details of something out of your mind, it means you need to spend time familiarizing yourself with it again. This can take several hours depending on the complexity of the project, how long it's been since you worked on it, and even the complexity of what you've worked on in the mean time. This is why project notes and descriptive comments in code are critical.
As your workload increases, not only do you forget details but sometimes a project or two completely slips your mind. This means you're not even aware of everything else that's on your plate, which reduces the predictability of the pending gridlock. So what can we do to prevent this? Our friend the To Do list.
Pro tip: avoid having “maintain your To Do list” as a To Do list item.
Keeping your To Do list from getting longer is not being productive, it's being defensive. And it's not a sustainable strategy. It's tantamount to switching to paper plates because your sink is full of dishes.
If you're wondering how I got so busy, it's been a combination of good fortune, good intentions and bad timing. I was working on a tool to help better manage active projects. Not just for us, but for our clients. They would be able to access the project information, see the status of deliverables, add comments, update lists of requirements we need from them and even a digital punch list. This is still a priority project, but the recent temporal distance has added to the delays
We also have several projects on the front burner, a few on the back burner, and two or three that are scheduled to start within the next three months. On top of that we have a lot of blog posts including the first five of a new monthly series, other related posts, two more in our A Brief Glimpse series, and several others. And of course, no wrap-up of this Summer is complete without the tale of the unbending knee.
Ironically, one of our goals at ElixWare is to help small business owners save time. Ideally, so they can finally get around to the pile of stuff on their credenza that they never have time for. Well, my digital credenza runneth over.
So why am I writing a new blog post while I have over a dozen in the pipeline, and too many projects that are inching along towards completion rather than racing to the finish line? Because I need a benchmark. A "New Years Day going to the gym" revival. I need to pretend I just took a long vacation, that I feel rejuvenated and that I'm a new man. I need a renaissance.