Project Daisy: Part V.
Good and bad project management (at once).
Project Daisy is over: I have received the final payment and feedback, and the client says that she is happy with the final result. This is a brief self-evaluation of what went well and not so well with the project.
What I think I did best was the quality of the outcome, and the professional communication.
The original website content was verbose, looked messy, was heavy loading (lots of photos loading on each page), poorly written, and had no e-commerce function.
The new website content is concise, visually neat*, consistent and orderly. There is much less text and fewer photos, and the size and resolution of the new photos is browser -friendly. There is no duplicate text, no grammar mistakes or clumsy English (I hope;-), and the spelling is all-Australian. The website now has a shopping cart implemented and tested.
The meetings went well (albeit stressing for me – but I think not for the client). They were well organised and had clear, actionable outputs. The quality of the email correspondence was good: well organised and concise with some extras, e.g. print screens and well organised how-to instructions following-up on some questions. The communication also included SMS and phone calls, which went OK, except I was a bit slow to reply to some SMS.
The work organisation was good too. I converted the (quite detailed) quote into the contract, and the contract into my to-do list for the project to structure the work and make sure to meet all the requirements.
The weak point was my time management. Daisy did not give me a deadline so I didn’t technically deliver too late, but the project took much longer than I expected.
The slow progress had two negative implications:
1. The client did not get the final result as fast as she could reasonable expect. Although she didn’t complain, longer work-in-progress time creates unnecessary uncertainty about the result and possible inconvenience.
2. I had the work hanging in front of me for a long time; a stress factor and delayer of potential new work. I also received the final project fee later than budgeted because I finished later than planned.
Factors that slowed the progress include psychological barriers (/lame excuses), technical inefficiencies, and that the price/time estimate was unrealistic.
1. Slow Internet speed
We have been on Sydney’s Mobile Broadband Network all the time we lived in Australia, and the speed was never optimal in Internet peak-hours. However, after we moved to our new house, the peak-hour speed has fallen to below what’s usable, and specifically loading and uploading images takes ages and is sometimes impossible (and forget about watching YouTube videos or streaming music online).
We are now waiting to get ADSL2+ cable Internet and will ditch Mobile Broadband once for and all, but it will take several weeks before it gets up running.
What often happened with the project work was that I was working in the website platform’s Editor, but when I saved the page or uploaded an image there was at least several minutes of loading-in-progress time (and the uploads eventually failed more than half of the times). I spent the waiting time reading interesting, unrelated websites, which I happened to have open in tabs behind it (he…), and forgot about the work. This happened over and over.
xkcd: The Problem with Wikipedia… (and the Internet in general)
When we happened to drive to Sydney in business hours, I could work in cafes with free, fast WIFI. That worked fine, but Sydney is far from home now.
There are also cafes with free WIFI in towns around here, but they are all located in or around malls, or are McDonald’s. There are libraries with free WIFI, too. None of those places are good work places – They are all too restless, noisy, smelly, cold (out of control air conditioning) and/or too distracting in other ways.
2. Lame website platform
The client had decided to stay with her current web host, Vistaprint. A quick google of Vistaprint and some negative words (I always try that) came up with heaps of issues… Deceptive business practices, unprofessional website editing tools and lame customer service, to mention some. However, Daisy’s requirements were modest so the work shouldn’t be too difficult, even on a lame platform.
Vistaprint’s Sitebuilder platform has no HTML editor, only a WYSIWYG editor. It works like this: the customer selects a theme with a certain layout and colour theme. Fonts, text colours, text size and alignment e.t.c can then be customised, and images can be inserted. Fancy features like shopping cart, Google Map, slide shows, contact form and social media can also easily be added into the web pages from a menu. That is fine.
However, editing and uploading images (which all took place inside a slow window) was very much like doing visual design in a Word document: there were all sorts of hidden-formatting issues that kept resetting changes at random after I saved them. Blocks of text or images were un-aligned, paragraphs changed back to theme colours, uninvited text size changes happened all the time; so I had to reformat the web pages again and again… and again… and… again…
With no access to an HTML editor, there was no way to clean up buggy, overcomplicated code which (probably) caused the ‘ghost activity’. The formatting only became stable after we published the entire revamped website. It did cause some of the text to un-format again, but after redoing it a last time, it remained stable.
My growing aversion to working in the Vistaprint Sitebuilder editor (= having to redo simple changes) worsened my inherent tendency to procrastinate when I ought to work on an annoying task.
3. Tasks grew
Although I did not include photo editing in my quote, quite a lot of photo editing proved necessary to meet the requirements. For example:
Because the shopping cart editor was a form with fields to fill out (no access to code), and because the form only allowed one image per product entry, photos had to be combined to meet the requirement of representing each product in its two different phases. That lead to many time consuming nitty-gritty adjustments.
4. Low motivation
What? Why would I have low motivation? Don’t I want to be self-employed? Don’t I want more projects?
Yes….. Uhm, well. While Daisy’s products are innovative and useful, sales and marketing is fundamentally uninteresting. That include website sales copy. Selling stuff, especially on someone else’s behalf, isn’t meaningful. Paying bills does of course make sense (as long as the alternative is to go broke).
However: my difficulty connecting those two distant dimensions – the world of interest, and the world of bills and material needs – undermines my motivation to do work that I have to do. One dimension is a world of insights, the other a cage of necessity. The catch is that the first dimension depends on the second dimension for its survival … an unpleasant fact that keeps evading my mind.
Procrastination is the heavy weight barrier for getting work done in a timely manner. Wikipedia defines procrastination as follows:
In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.
Work generates income required to pay bills and buy necessities (and cool stuff). Work is therefore a high priority task.
To read about Dingoes and camp dogs, write a blog, communicate online or even train our dogs does not generate money and is therefore a lower priority that should be pushed aside when there is high priority work that needs to be done.
So simple and real, yet so unbelievable.
Image from Australian Geographic’s article: ‘Dingos are Skilled at Reading Human Gestures’ (an ability they share with domestic dogs, but not wolves).
Time management VS time flow
In the world of necessity (the world where work is paid), time consists of small chopped-up portions which are countable and directly convertible to money.
In my world, time is endless. Time is a flow. In the world of necessity, time is managed with interruptions to make it useful; and uncounted time is irrelevant. In my world, interruptions are leaks that violently cut the flow of time and spill it on the ground.
My world is both good and bad. Most of my strengths and things I have done exceptionally well are brought out from there. My world is the place where I can focus and create, but also the place where I forget about other people and get lost in time. A vital resource and a miserable trap of selfishness.
The bottom line is that my world doesn’t pay bills. I try to remind myself of the severity of not making a proper income; for myself and those I care about. I try to find ways I can focus on work and money; ways to make it meaningful. However, at the end of the day what matters isn’t if work feels meaningful. What matters is to provide what’s required, when it is required.
Read more: Journaling Project Daisy.
*Within given limitations – see ‘Lame website platform’