The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Friday, June 07, 2019

Manic May

Phew! I've just come out of what felt like a very busy, head-down patch of work. Since I got back from a break mid-April, it's been full-on through to a couple of deadlines at the end of last week … and it's really taken its toll.

As many of you will know, I suffer from a chronic pain condition that tends to flare up when I put in too many hours at my desk. I try really hard to keep a steady, manageable flow of work, but that's always a challenge. In this instance, a number of factors conspired against me:

  • The two main projects I was working on expanded significantly from their original briefs, involving a lot more hours' work to complete, but without the deadlines really moving.
  • A few unexpected queries came in from projects I thought I'd finished. Although they weren't big things, they did take time emailing to and fro, going back to look through documents, tracking down information and generally getting my head back into a different project.
  • Several things also came up about potential future work, all of which is good, but again, is a distraction and requires shifting yourself into a different headspace to consider whether each one is of interest, whether it will fit into your schedule, then flurries of emails, phone conversations and in one case, travelling to a face-to-face meeting.

All of which made for a sense of there being not enough hours in a day and days in a week … and inevitably led to a pain flare-up. That then had its own knock-on effect as I struggled to work through more pain, which made me slower and less productive, so everything took even longer. On bad pain days, there are only so many hours I can manage at my desk, so I tended to work shorter days and with work piling up, that meant I ended up working through five weekends in a row just to keep up. And while fewer hours per day spread across 7 days instead of 5 meant I ultimately managed to keep all those plates spinning and hit my deadlines, the lack of any respite took its toll too.

Thankfully, this week has been much calmer. There's no rest for the wicked though with two new projects starting straight away, albeit at a less hectic pace – so far! – plus decisions to make about what I take on over the next few months. I'm feeling utterly drained and my inclination right now is to say no to everything and just rest, but I need the work and some of it does look interesting.

All of which got me reflecting on my working hours again and took me back to a blog post I wrote  last summer about My Working Life in Stats. As it's almost a year on, I thought I'd do a quick update with this year's stats.

2018-2019 in Stats
It's been a very tricky year for work. Just after I wrote my post last year, I took a couple of months off work almost completely to try and get my health back on track (see Not Working). It did help, in the short term at least. Then, when I got back to working in the late summer, I had a frustrating patch of jobs being delayed and cancelled. This had an especially big impact because I was being cautious about not overdoing it, so I'd only planned in one project at a time and when that dropped off, it left me with nothing to fill in.

As you can see from the graph, things picked up towards the end of the year (the numbers along the bottom are week numbers, so 41 is into October, 01 start of Jan), but work was very bitty with lots of short jobs which led to sudden peaks in busy weeks. January to April was quiet-ish, again with several shorter jobs, then the recent flurry through late April and May.

Financially, the year 2018-19 (that's the tax year April to April) was dreadful with my overall income dropping to about £21K which was just £17K after expenses. In part, that's down to the couple of months I didn't work at all for health reasons, in part it's down to the working time lost through delayed and cancelled projects, and also the bitty nature of short projects (which I wrote about here). I also worked through the autumn and winter on a royalties-only writing project which accounted for around 27% of my hours for the whole year. That paid nothing in the short term (although I have included the hours in my working hours graph), so that's effectively more than a quarter of my year working 'unpaid', but it will, hopefully, pay back in future years (fingers crossed!).

Looking ahead
I'm hoping the year ahead will be an improvement. From a financial perspective, my recent flurry of work through April/May wasn't counted in the income figures above and with solid work through June and into July, I should already be on track for a better start to the new financial year. And with a few potentially interesting projects in discussion, it's looking like the issue over the coming months won't be lack of work but trying to fit it into my schedule in a way that's manageable. In the short term though, I've just booked a week off before things get too busy again to wind down somewhere warm, do very little and hopefully ease off some of those pains!

Labels: , , , ,