Or, rather, the lack thereof.

I have had a recurring experience with two different corporate design jobs wherein project management hands me a list of design tasks with no due dates and virtually no schedule and says “That should be enough to get you started. When are you going to finish this?”

The next question I ask is inevitably, “When do you need this to be done?” to which the typical response is to treat me like I’m either incompetent or being difficult.

The primary problem I have is that without a schedule, I have no way to prioritize my workload. If I am asked to work on anything else, especially if that something else has a specific due date attached to it, I’m inclined to do that ahead of the undefined work, even if the original work is of a higher priority. Furthermore, it has been my experience that because of the qualitative (rather than quantitative, e.g. engineering) nature of design work, you’re never really “done” until you’re required to put your pencil down, so to speak. So, having tangible deadlines helps me to push certain work back and focus on what needs the most attention.

I find this issue incredibly frustrating and unfortunately, being one of two designers in the company of myriad engineers, it’s hard for me to find anyone to relate to on the matter. So, any thoughts? While I’m not intentionally being obstinate, am I fighting this too hard? Any suggestions on better ways to resolve this?

an astute question well worded.

It is fundamentally weak to answer a question with a question. Any PM assigning work without a deadline is incomeptent. Your answer should be definitive “I’ll have it Wednesday, should we get together before to go over it…” Lead other’s where they can’t lead you.

With no stated schedule do the work that gets dumped on you first, however one of them will have a true priority which should be publicly established. However, if you are of the personality, this is again where you become a leader, do all the work in the time period. Keep competing people happy by showing progress.

It’s true having tangible deadlines is a huge motivator, therefore make your own. Within a corporate structure you’ll get noticed for this.

“Lead others where they can’t lead you.”

Thanks for the reply–this is going to become my mantra for the next while. My initiative skills could use some honing.