All-Nighters Suck, Overtime is a Myth
Don’t wait to deliver bad news hoping that you might fix everything with a mad sprint to the finish. All-nighters suck. And if you lead a team, overtime is a myth.
There are times when optimism has gotten us in trouble. I’ve noticed this in a lot of freelancers. After all, we can do it all! We think, “gosh this deadline is looking tight, looks like I get to do another few all-nighters. No worries, I can pull this off.” We have all done our fair share. Some times we even glorify it like it is a badge of honor. Peter has done six all-nighters this year and not a single one of them turned out to be necessary.
I have been thinking a lot about the myth of overtime. Every time we have had our team push really hard doing “overtime”, we always have an accompanying undertime following it. I think most people only have a certain number of viable work hours in them in an given period. I find I am happier and more productive, as is our whole crew, when we are not being rushed and have time to explore ideas, make mistakes and enjoy our life. A periodic push is rewarding, but is it as necessary as modern thinking makes it out to be?
I have noticed that the all-nighter fairy tale story usually has one of three endings:
1. You pull it off and everyone rejoices.
It happens (really it can). You feel great and exhilarated. And if you happen to be like me, you are absolutely useless for the next two days. All your other projects are put on hold while you catch up on episodes of Heroes and read blogs because you are too tired to actually be creative. Not a horrible thing to take time off, but meanwhile the work piles up creating more urgencies. In my head it’s a toss up.
2. The client responds surprised, “the deadline was today?”
You finish, you are exhausted, you turn it in, and the client looks at you surprised and says, “the deadline was today? I thought it was next week.” Or, they explain that they had to push the launch due to internal reasons, that they will look at your comps or module when they have time. Or my favorite, they take 3 days to respond to your I’m done email. This is by far our most common ending. Five of our six all-nighters have ended this way. In fact, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that all deadlines are fabrications of the owner’s or executive’s ego.
3. You fail and unhappiness ensues.
You push on and in the end fail to meet the deadline, which ends in an awkward, unhappy dialog. These suck. And they cause you to lose clients. And they make you grumpy and fight with your spouse. And hurt your self esteem. As we learned with all-nighter number 6, take the beating up front. At least that way you will probably keep the client because they will appreciate your open communication. That is almost a direct quote from the cranky client.
Common mom, just let me go to bed!
We have had all of these endings happen. Each time, we walked away with the understanding that if we had just asked our client and communicated the challenge, they usually worked with us to find a pleasant resolution that did not require an all-nighter. And if they insist that the all-nighter is necessary, and you still miss the deadline, then you can play the “Hey, I came to you and said this probably won’t happen, and you pushed and I DID AN ALL-NIGHTER. We are doing everything humanly possibly to give you the best service available” card.
Let me tell you, I may sound just a touch cynical on this topic, but I am absolutely not. Notice that Peter is the one who did the all-nighters, not me (haha, I only did two). I am learning not to put up with that Sh*t. If we are not going to make it, I’d rather face the music than spin the all-nighter wheel, but to each their own. Six spins later, I think Peter is slowly coming to my way of thinking.
I bet you all have some awesome all-nighter stories. What was your last all-nighter? Did it work out? Do you love them like Brandon does (he seems to do them every few weeks) or loath them like I do?
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Oh, and there is a pretty sick conversation going on about doing what you love vs loving what you do in the comments of the previous post. Definitely go check it out. I have enormous passion on this topic and would love to have more people join.