Just Say "NO"

You've been there. We've all been there. You're approached by a project manager to join a team and hit the ground running on a new project. But wait. Your plate is full. Your utilization is at or near 100%. My manager prefaced his offer with the option to say "No". I, immediately, knew what was to come after.

Before we start this meeting, I want to say that you can totally say "No".

Once the offer to start a project has arrived do not agree or deny the project at the initial meeting. There are a couple things I wish I had considered before taking on a new project.

Balancing act

Work/life balance is difficult to keep in check when you love your job. This balance is still important to keep from burning out. There are days when I don't even want to see a line of code. Sometimes, there are days when I can't stop thinking about code.

Before accepting additional work, clear it with your significant other and/or family. I had to get my wife's approval since I was to spend my evening hours hunched over my laptop instead of sitting on the couch watching reruns of Chuck while she plays Farm Heroes on her phone. Of course, if you're single this is a non-issue.

Quality of work

Another thing to consider is the quality of your work. If you're racking in forty hours a week, your work quality may dip depending on how tired you may be at the end of your regular work day.

As developers it's extremely hazardous to write code when you're at wit's end. Even the simplest tasks can introduce bugs all over the application you're working on. This results in spending more time debugging and refactoring.

Sadly, I've been a victim of this exact situation. A one-off bug took me longer to figure out than it would if I wasn't exhausted. That's how I knew I needed stop working and wait till tomorrow before I littered the project with more critical bugs.

If you think you can pull off the tasks assigned in your new project without affecting quality, you're good to go.

Deadlines

This should be common sense. Evaluate the amount of work required and "guesstimate" if the deadline is feasible.

Consider all your project deadlines. I had deadlines fall on the same day. This creates added stress in getting everything done for two projects on the same day.

Scope creep

No matter how good the project manager may be, you need to account for scope creep. It happens. When I accepted the new project to be worked on in the evening (Project Evening), I did not account for scope creep of my project during the day (Project Day). All the tasks left in our bug tracker for Project Day were simple changes. That is, until we had our weekly client meeting and our client changed some requirements that totally blew my implementation out of the water.

There I was, four days before the deadline for both projects and I needed to spend some extra time to implement Project Day changes.

Stress

Your health is important. Sleep is essential. Can you take on extra work without losing a significant amount of sleep? Anxiety to get things done can wreak havoc on the mind, body and spirit. Taking on work in the off-hours means you will be bringing your work home with you.

At times I have problems sleeping when I have so much to do. I keep thinking about the day I have ahead of me. Thinking of solutions to problems while eating, showering and when trying to sleep.

I can't tell you how to get these thoughts out of your head because I'm not a psychologist. So get creative and figure out what works for you.

In the end

Take a step back and look the big picture.

  • Will the quality of work dip below acceptable?
  • Did your family accept your proposition to take on more work?
  • Did you account for scope creep on both projects?
  • Can you handle the added stress?

None of these things are in any particular order. In the end, your gut will probably tell you whether or not to take on extra work.