Have you ever had a Hell Week where everything just was a disaster? You are under pressure with deadlines looming and little time to regroup and attack the next project or issue. How did you handle it? Last week was my own version of Hell Week. I can summarize last week with one simple word:
Last week, a lot happened at work and in the basement that took me away from Small Scale Life. I simply did not have the time or energy to post podcasts, videos or blog posts. Now that I have put some distance between today and Hell Week, I can develop some thoughts about how I will deal with future projects, obligations and events. In retrospect, it was a good reminder that I need to continue to focus on develop methods and systems to help me live a simple life.
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What is Hell Week?
As I mentioned at the start of the show, I named last week Hell Week. For those of you up on your military training terms, you know the following:
“Hell Week is the defining event of [SEAL] BUD/S training. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25% of SEAL candidates make it through Hell Week, the toughest training in the U.S. Military.”
Of course, I am being dramatic about my week! My Hell Week is VASTLY different than our young warriors swimming in the ice cold Pacific, carrying boats on their heads, doing log PT, sit-ups, push-ups, rolling in the sand, slogging through mud, paddling boats and doing surf passage. I did not do any of that…which is worthy of another blog post about the Dom 100 Project, but more on that later.
My Hell Week was more of a battle against time and work deadlines coupled with traveling and finishing the basement project. For me, it was grueling and tough. I put a lot of pressure on myself to hit deadlines and get this basement project done. For me, it was my own Hell Week, and I am glad that it is over. Looking back, I can say that I learned some things along the way.
Let’s talk about what made last week Hell Week…..
Basement and Travel – Weekend of September 15th
My Hell Week really started the Weekend of September 15th with the basement project. As those of you who are part of the Small Scale Life Facebook Group know, I listed the following Three Weekend Things that weekend:
- Finished the Drywall
- Mud the Walls
- Get on the Road
On Saturday and Sunday, I focused on finishing cutting and placing the drywall. I got all of the walls done, some detail work done and some corrective work done (i.e., openings for outlets too wide). I also tried to put some drywall up in the laundry room, but I punted when I realized I didn’t have enough material. Once the walls were complete, I put mud over the screws and cleaned up the area.
Weber Grill Repairs
While all this was happening, I took some parts that I had purchased (check out kit.com/smallscalelife for the actual parts) and fixed up my second-hand Weber grill. I replaced the handle and the ash try below the main kettle. I do need to upgrade the grates and a second, rotted handle onthe grill, but I’ll do that at a later date (like next spring).
I feel really good about upgrading the old Weber, and it does give me a sense of pride. It is pretty cool to make a couple simple upgrades and keep something working for a long time. Why buy new when you can fix up something you already own? Using our resources wisely is one of Small Scale Life’s core principles.
On the Road
On Sunday, I packed up my gear and headed to Wisconsin for three days. I traveled to the Stevens Point area in Central Wisconsin for work purposes. I took my time as I drove over there. I saw a lot of opportunities for some cool photos and had to capture them as I drove.
Hell Week Begins – Week of September 17th
On Monday, I was tired from the working over the weekend and catching up with my brother and sister-in-law in the night, and I hit the day running. I did some driving (a lot of driving), and finally connected with my colleague and got some work in the field done.
Monday came and went, and Tuesday started uneventfully. I got an e-mail from work that sent my world spinning. I had a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time, and I was in the field until Wednesday and then traveling home. I figured I could get all of the work done, but I knew I had a ton to do.
I had deadlines on Friday on more than one task, so the end of my week was going to be a whirlwind of activity. I braced myself mentally, even though I had that old familiar sick feeling from my consulting days. I always got that feeling when I had a lot on my plate and not a lot of time to complete everything. Based on that e-mail, I knew I could not miss these deadlines, so I prepared myself for what was going to happen next.
I completed my work on a rainy Wednesday and hustled home. After a three and a half hour drive, I actually started working on the assignments on Wednesday night. I hit the ground running on Thursday, and by late Thursday morning, I knew I wouldn’t have any time to podcast or post anything on Small Scale Life. I told the Small Scale Life Facebook Group that I wouldn’t have time to post anything. There was just no way given my priorities and deadlines.
After a solid 14 hours of work on Thursday, I had completed the first project and e-mailed it away. There really wasn’t any time to relax since I had two more projects that were due on Friday. I reloaded mentally and geared up for the second two projects.
I got up early on Friday and started hammering on the two projects. I finally got those complete by the end of the work day, and I e-mailed them off to where they were supposed to go before the close of business. By sending those off, I could take a deep breath, but I couldn’t relax yet!
Back to the Basement – Weekend of September 22
After getting the work projects done, I couldn’t rest too long, however. We had friends coming over on Friday night, so I got to work on cleaning the bathroom and cutting the lawn. We enjoyed having our friends over, had a few cocktails and really had some great laughs.
Friday ended, and I got a 1/2 mile swim done on Saturday morning. When I got home, it was time to hit the project again. We listened to the Gophers on my ancient boom box radio, and The Old Trapper and I worked on sanding the drywall mud on the wall and touching up some spots.
On Sunday, we cleaned everything up, got some trim and did finishing work. The Old Trapper and I placed the door and nailed it into place. I built a cupboard for the electrical box and got everything ready for paint. Danny and Julie took the lead and starting priming the walls of the new room.
After that burst of intense activity for work and on the basement project, I was exhausted. I rescheduled a podcast with Michael Bell, and then I collapsed in bed on late Sunday afternoon and took a two hour nap. On Sunday night, I collapsed again and slept for almost nine more hours.
Putting It All Together
Life happens. Hell Weeks happen. We all get extremely busy and over-stretched. Deadlines, obligations and events happen.
As my Hell Week is in the mirror now, I can look back on it with some introspection and figure out what I can do differently in the future to avoid these Hell Weeks from occurring.
- Plan with Your Calendar – Look at my workload and future planned events and put dates on the calendar (i.e., paper calendar, Google or Outlook). Ask myself: can I get this work done by that deadline with that event or those events? If the answer is no, then schedule more time to complete those tasks before getting into a critical crunch time.
- Attack Projects Over Time – It has been my experience that racing and rushing to get projects done is a recipe for disaster. Details are missed, and the end product can get sloppy. By attacking projects consistently over time, you can get a much better product in the end.
- Learn to Say No – It has also been my experience that those who take on more and more and more work often are overwhelmed and drown in a sea of deadlines and disaster. I know because I was that person. I would constantly take on more and more responsibilities and sometimes have to stay up all night to hit a deadline. This is not sustainable and leads to missed details and sloppy work product.
Learn to say “no” to projects and project managers; it is going to be okay. I am telling myself this more than you (memo to self). All of us have a breaking point, and managers like to push workers to the breaking point. There is only so much we can take on and accomplish successfully. As Clint Eastwood said in the movie Magnum Force:
“A Man has GOT to know his limitations.”
To quote President Trump, “So true.”
- Manage Expectations – Sometimes managers assign projects with unrealistic deadlines. They are testing you or forget how long it actually takes to get those projects done. You might have to actually tell them that you need more time or that the deliverable will be late given that deadline. It is something that is very hard to do, especially for people pleaser personalities. Sometimes you are going to have to push back and offer a realistic deadline or reduce the scope of the project. As the Rolling Stones sang,
“You can’t always get what you want!”
How About You?
Obviously I have some things to tune up in my own project delivery system. That’s the beauty of life: you will probably have another opportunity to course correct and attack a similar problem again in the near future. The difference is: how are you going to react and do things differently?
My questions for you are:
- Have you had a Hell Week experience that changed the way you approach projects?
- What did you do that works?
- Do you have any advice for other Small Scale Life listeners about meeting deadlines and obligations?
I would love to hear your feedback. If you have any comments, advice or stories, feel free to leave a comment, send feedback to me at realsmallscalelife [at] gmail [dot] com or hit the Contact Us page on smallscalelife.com. I would love to hear your experience and learn from you!
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