For a decade, I have been the typical Project Manager: hard working, focused, customer-oriented and incredibly devoted to my job.
I loved my job -and still do- so I could spend hours answering emails, finding solutions, making phone calls, or fixing bugs… coming up for air only occasionally, like a diver.
If a translator was late, if a reviewer overlooked a mistake or if the DTP was messed up, I felt responsible! If poor file prep or a miscommunication threw a spanner in the works, it was my fault.
Yep, the Voynich translation project failure still is my shameful secret.
As I wanted to bring value to my company and to serve my clients the way they deserved, I worked harder and started triple checking everything. I would not leave the office until every T was crossed with a perfectly straight strike and every I dotted with a perfect circle.
However, my ultimate goal was to start with a clean fresh day (and mailbox) the following morning. I left my desk later and later every night.
I became the 21st Century Sisyphus; every morning I rolled my workload to the top of the mountain hoping that late at night, once absolutely everything was done, I could bask in my client’s satisfaction.
I lost myself inside the project pipeline until a colleague told me: “You are not a brain surgeon, you know?!”
What was that supposed to mean? Should I be offended? Did my work have no value? Was any Doctor Mc Dreamy better than a Project Manager?
Should've sprung for a proofreader, McDreamy.
Of course not! But my colleague was right: there are no lives at (immediate) stake in translation. After a certain hour, every email, project and report can wait. And they are dealt with much more efficiency after a nice evening with my friends or a good night’s sleep.
How could I get a well-balanced life back? I looked for inspiration around me and decided to ask my successful peers (you know, these ever-glowing people who are so good at their work and still able to do ballet, breed fluffy winged ponies and teach multilingual scrabble class) and here is their wisdom, abridged:
Steer like a F1 champion
Think fast, find solutions in real time and adapt yourself to the bumps of the road. The translator’s dog ate his translation? No problem, there are emetics!
Think like a yogi
Open your mind, be aware that anything can happen and stay calm. Project Managing is like a box of chocolates, you never know if you are going to get the marzipan translation, so don’t try to control everything!
Talk like Obama
Follow the lead of the world’s best communicator: listen, be honest and keep yourself in check with a pinch of self-derision... ''If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome.'' (Obama)
Try like a child
Have fun and start things all over again as many times as you need to find the right approach. These files are not usable in your favorite CAT tool? Maybe you need to try another CAT tool this time?
Work like a soccer player
You are part of a team, which means that you can share the workload, pass the ball and help your teammates. You’re sure to score and feel fulfilled by the group synergy.
Don’t aim to be Shiva…
Fact: you only have one brain and two arms but still want to be Shiva… indeed, you have always heard that a good PM is a multi-tasker. Nevertheless, you will be more efficient if you finish the task at hand and if you avoid interruptions.
…but be your own angel
Last but, not least, be gentle with yourself. Do your best, work hard and allow yourself to live! Sounds difficult sometimes but it really is a matter of choice. Get out, play sports, meet people and enjoy being alive! All these nice experiences will allow you to disconnect and stretch hidden PM muscles.