As I wrap up my vacation and this series on our renovation, I thought I would share some lessons I learned personally. Whereas I feel like I did pretty well on the construction and AVL design/build side of things, I’m not sure I scored as highly on the personal side. While the project is by all measures a success, it came at a pretty high personal cost for me. In retrospect, it was probably too high, and should I ever take on a project like this again, I will do some things differently. Here are some things I learned (and this is as much about myself as about managing a project).
Find ways to take time off
I failed at this. Because of the way the project fell on our church calendar, I ended up not working only 4 days between July 11 and Sept. 9th. Four days off (and that was really it—I worked the other 56 days). I knew going into this project that it was going to be a hard slog, and it was. I knew I needed to be on site a lot to keep the contractors working, and I did. What hurt was having to also be around for the weekends because it was summer (so we were short on volunteers) and because we also had some of the largest, most complicated weekends of the year during August.
In retrospect, I should have found a way to take more time off. Even if it was coming in on Saturdays to get things running, then staying home on Sunday. The first few weeks weren’t too bad, as I was able to be home by 5 or 6. But by the end, when I was working 10, 12, 14 or more hours a day, it was tough. I ended the project spent, physically and emotionally.
Thankfully, I knew it was going to happen, so I planned 16 days off immediately after the project. And because I know that I would have not taken the time if I was home, I actually booked a flight to Seattle to force myself to leave. I did this the first week of the project to hold myself accountable. That was a big win, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Delegation is tough for me because I’m a perfectionist and have very specific ideas of how to do things. I really want things done the way I want them done. When you delegate that doesn’t always happen. However, if you do it well, you get a whole lot more done. I think I scored about a 50% on this project. Near the end, we had quite a few of our tech team volunteers on site and I was able to hand off a bunch of stuff like cable pulling, labeling and all that to them. My ATD, Jon, soldered everything. My daughter actually did a lot of the painting of the tech booths.
There were still a few things I held too tightly, and that was one reason I worked too hard and too long on this project. However, I did pretty much hand off most of the regular TD tasks to Jon, which he handled ably. If you’re going to tackle a big project, plan in advance what you can hand off to others, and then do it.
Part of delegation is letting go of some things. Not everything got done exactly the way I wanted it done. It’s all fine, just different from how I would have done it. That’s OK! Some of the lights are hung in different spots than I would have done; and some cables didn’t get bundled the way I was thinking of doing it. But so what? The end result is just fine, and the truth is no one would know the difference.
Letting go can be problematic for us high-capacity TDs because we think we can do everything, and do it really well. But the reality is, if we’re going to survive at this, we need to learn to let things go. I don’t mean we have to lower our standards, but we have to be willing to accept different ways of getting to the same place. I’m learning this almost weekly as we turn over more and more production to the volunteers on the weekend. No one is as picky about details as I am, so the reality is, most of those details don’t matter. Let them go.
Only Do What Only You Can Do
I received this advice a number of years ago. I was talking with my boss and worship leader about how to manage my schedule. She advised me to only do the things that only I can do. Give everything else away. I tried to do this with varying degrees of success. I turned over all the soldering (even though I’m pretty good and fast at it) so I could spend more time on carpentry. Of everyone on our team, I’m probably the most skilled carpenter, so I tried to tackle most of those tasks. As much as I could, I gave other technical installation details to Jon and the volunteers because they were completely callable of doing them.
If you are the only tech person on your staff, focus on doing those tasks that only you can do. If someone else can do (or can be trained to do) something, hand it off. No, it may not be done as well as you would do it, but it will get done. And over time, proficiency develops.
There were so many other little lessons learned throughout this project, and you’ll probably see things popping up from time to time. But these are the big ones. What have you learned from completing a big project?