Trouble at Work… Again.

My biggest problem in the workplace is that I’m incapable of estimating how long projects will take — especially when they involve delegating work to others and/or finding outside vendors for that project. My new job requires lots of this, and it’s becoming more and more apparent but the day that this has the potential to  put a significant wrench in my plan to stay in this role for at least four years.

I have the opportunity to be successful in this role. I have a supportive boss who believes in my general ability. But he has big goals and my role in achieving those goals is not a small one – which is great – I have an important position that can really move the needle. I have a chance to make a difference for the whole team, and to maybe, finally, contribute consistent quality work.

But then, at the end of the day, every day, I look at my list of things to do, and I panic. I have no idea how to get these things done. I start to doubt by abilities. I’m not a great project manager, or writer, or delegator, etc. I have no idea how to manage and after a few management courses I’m convinced it just isn’t in my DNA.

I’m trying to figure out how to do B+/A- work (if that’s all I’m capable of / if I’m genuinely doing my best work) and still feel ok with that, even if everyone isn’t 100% happy with it. I can’t do A+ work with the amount on my plate anyway – and most people don’t even notice the difference between B+ and A+ work. Even if they do, the next day they’re on to something else — I just need to get shit done. And a lot of it.

In the back of mind, I’m also thinking about how in the middle of the year I will be taking 3-4 months of maternity leave, and no one I work with knows this yet. I feel guilty about this, and it makes me want to accomplish more than possible in the first 7 months of this year — so they value my contributions and my job doesn’t disappear while I’m gone (I’m too new to the company to be covered by any job protection while on leave, unfortunately — so I need to really make it clear that I am adding a ridiculous amount of value now. I’m terrified about telling my boss I’m pregnant as well. I know he’ll be happy for me but also, logistically, this isn’t good for the team. Maybe if I can get a summer’s worth of work done before I take leave, I’ll be forgiven for missing out on a quarter of my first year on the job.

I keep thinking maybe I’ll be able to do work remotely with the kid — even if I’m on maternity leave, maybe I’ll still work… call into meetings when I can… do a few small projects. Keep myself involved and engaged. But everyone I know says that’s crazy and that I’ll be so tired and out of it I won’t be able to work let alone think straight. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like… and why it will so horrible to work 60 days past birth but at 90 days suddenly I’ll be ready to return to a full-time job. I know people do it… but that doesn’t make it any less scary. Especially given I’m still so shaky in this job and I know it’s not at all secure.

Ideally, this year I take 3 months off, but otherwise I do an incredible (enough) job to maintain employment. Next year, with a 6 month to 1.5 yr old, I continue to work full time, possibly from home for two days a week, and focus on being the best employee I can be. The following year I – maybe – get pregnant again, then between that year and my fourth year on the job, I have 3 months of maternity leave again (which, hopefully by then, I’ll be more secure in the role and my place on the team) — then, at year four, I have about $1M in net worth and either I decide to stay or my family moves far out of this overpriced area, buys a house, and builds a life for ourselves with a 3 year old and a newborn — a good time to buy a house… somewhere not in the Bay Area.

But I have to get there. If I can get there then I feel like there will be many more options. That’s four years of employment, starting last month. Forty-seven months left — forty-seven months of productivity and collaboration and success. I feel like I’m drowning already – I know that isn’t a good sign. But I have to make this work. Somehow.

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  1. Steveark says:

    I feel you, predicting project progess is crazy hard when the actual progress depends on others that don’t report to you or even if they do. Sometimes the best course is to take your best guess and double it? But know this, in spite of you not knowing, nobody is really in a good position to second guess you so acting confident is half the battle. I think you can do this if you decide you want to.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      That is a good idea. I don’t have the luxury on some projects to do that because they have hard deadlines — everything is urgent since my role is new but this role has been needed for a while. I’m hoping after the first 6 months things will normalize a bit and everything won’t be quite so rushed.

  2. Do you have a system for managing tasks? I feel like that might help with the “how do I break up this big thing into smaller manageable pieces” part and reduce your cognitive overhead keeping all your stressors juggling in the brain. I know a lot of people use the Get Things Done approach. Maybe take a try at that?

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