Reading Shelley’s Carved in Stone: the Joys of Choosing an Epitaph over at Peak Perspective about deadlines made me think of my working life before I was made redundant in 2001.
My job as a financial analyst was right up my street as it was number crunching at its glorious best, but as we were reporting figures to the New York Head Office, we had strict deadlines to meet in order for the guys across The Pond to do their bit and meet theirs.
No-one was allowed to have time off at the beginning of any month, and there were extra reports to be completed at quarter ends, half year and annually.
I loved my job, and had spreadsheets with checks and counterchecks by the cell-load.
NY had figures we had to balance to, but no breakdown of how these figures were made up (countries, securities, currencies etc) and that was where my colleagues and I came in.
In short, on a normal monthend, we had to complete our work within 10 days, having a schedule printed out by our supervisor with details and due dates accordingly.
We had specific schedules for quarter ends, half year and year end too, and one particular quarter, I could not get my figures to balance.
I got in to the office at 7am, and after my normal working day was still there at 8pm trying to balance the books on a specific report due later in the week and getting nowhere.
Out of desperation, I worked some currencies backwards, and discovered they didn’t convert correctly either. Convinced I was doing something drastically wrong, I decided to talk to the relevant European Head the following morning.
It transpired that I had been sent the incorrect monthend conversion rates, and after that was all sorted out, it was a doddle.
Now you are probably wondering what on earth we did for the rest of the month when our work was processed and delivered. The Company wasn’t that generous with holiday entitlement, neither did we sit around doing nothing.
For me, I was preparing my quarterly reports as far as possible in advance by entering monthly figures into my spreadsheets rather than have three months to put in all at once in the reporting quarter. I was also modifying my counterchecks and linking sheets and files together so that I only had to complete a file once and the relevant total would be carried over to the next file in line.
I never missed a deadline, and neither did any of my colleagues.
Following redundancy, I was out of work until the New Year. It was the longest and most soul-destroying three months of my life as I tried to find a job. I didn’t care if it was full or part-time, nor was I worried about the salary as long as it was enough to live on.
The number of potential employers who couldn’t understand why I was prepared to take such a large cut in salary, hours, responsibility or skill base were endless.
I eventually landed a job as a credit controller for a book company, and applied a lot of my strategy to the job in hand.
I set my own deadlines, when to run off statements and aged debt letters, when to have them all out by (I allowed myself a week), and when to start chasing up on the phone.
I became known as the Company Rottweiler, I would go after a debt and not let go until it was settled, but I always tried to be fair. My intention was never to see the Little Guy go under, but then I never let the Big Companies off the hook either, and some of them REALLY took advantage.
One customer made a point of coming into the office to meet me face to face, as I had been so reasonable in sorting out his account. All it had taken was a change in his settlement terms over the Summer holidays, and he never missed a deadline either after that.
Unlike Shelley, I don’t have deadlines to meet now. We do certain things over certain timeframes, but for the majority, our time is our own, and the only ‘deadline’ I’m likely to worry about is getting somebody’s birthday card in the post on time.
Much as I enjoy our life here, sometimes I miss the self-discipline.