A day in the life of a Director of Publishing Operations

James Careybw Copy

James Carey is Director of Publishing Operations, UK for The Quarto Group. Having worked in Production, Sales and Operations roles at Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Bonnier, he is currently responsible for the Quarto Group’s production, freight, distribution and inventory as well as sales reporting, eBooks and various other aspects of operations within a global illustrated publisher.

06h30*– Alarm sounds. Alarm silenced. Groggily check newsfeeds and personal emails, and generally avoid thinking about too much for 45 minutes or so.

07h15 – Shower, breakfast (if I’m awake enough, otherwise I’ll get something on the way to work), get dressed – which means deciding which of my exclusively navy or grey shirts or jumpers to wear with one of my pairs of Levi 511s.**

08h00 – This is when I begin working. I sit at my desk at home and clear my inbox before I leave the house. I started doing this a few months ago and it has really improved the way I work. It means I can get to the office knowing what I actually have to do, rather than noodling around in my inbox, making coffee, and generally procrastinating. If you’re interested, all emails are parsed into tasks and added to GQueues.com in a bastardised form of GTD that I’ve developed over the last couple of years. It’s important to do this properly, in front of a computer I find, rather than on the iPhone.

I then leave the house feeling clear of mind, ready for the descent to the Northern Line, chest puffed, copy of The Economist in hand.

08h45-09h45 – Depending on the state of aforementioned inbox, I will arrive at work sometimes before eight and sometimes pushing ten. I avoid scheduling meetings before 10h00, and also I do not schedule meetings on Fridays as that is the day that I review the week, tie up any loose ends and plan the coming week’s work. Between now and my first meeting of the day I will review today’s task list and determine which tasks are the most important. I will then, depending on how long I have, try to tick off as many smaller tasks from the list. It gives a false sense of momentum which I long ago tricked myself into believing in.

10h00 – Usually this slot is reserved for a one-on-one with one of my team. I have two Production Directors, a Sales Operations Manager, a Trade Programme Manager and a Business Analyst in my team. It’s my job to make sure their goals are clear, we’re all heading in the same direction, and essentially to ensure they are happy and moving forwards. I enjoy these meetings, as it’s the time that I get to find out what’s going on, what’s working, and what needs fixing (thus giving me something to do).

11h00 – Mid-morning to lunch is when I like to properly tackle the first task of the day. For me, this could be something like drafting a company-wide notice on a change in shipping policy, requiring close reading of trade regulations and guidelines and phone discussions with freight forwarders (stay with me here) in order to ensure the company is doing things correctly and efficiently. Or, it could be reviewing sales and print volumes across the different formats that we publish in order to shape our negotiations with our print suppliers effectively. In general, I am usually looking for ways to make the business more efficient, to help people get things done more quickly, and to help them find time to do the things that in turn help the business be more effective.

13h00 – This is the time that I go for lunch, and as far as I’m concerned, this is the correct time for lunch. I may leave at 12h45 for lunch, and have been know to begrudgingly go at 12h30 if I must, but 12h00 is simply out of the question. This is a deep-seated, irrational belief so do not attempt to argue with me on this point. I am a bit of a foodie,*** so I always look forward to lunch as it’s an opportunity to visit some old favourites (the pizza in the Three Johns is very good, Vietnamese at Little Viet Kitchen comes with about a fiver’s worth of coriander and mint, falafel from Alturath on Chapel Market always a winner), or try out some new places. Either that or I will be fasting. ****

14h00-16h00 – Depending on the day, this will either be a continuation of what I call ‘actual work’ (i.e. completing tasks from my task list), or, as my beloved US colleagues begin to arrive in the office, this is usually the time given over to calls with them. I work closely with a US counterpart (who is of course not ‘Director of Publishing Operations’ but ‘Vice-President of…’) so we might catch up on transatlantic projects we’re working on, or we’ll just check in and let each other know what’s been going on. My boss is also based in the US so I might catch up with him, or some of the Ops and Inventory teams in the US. At the moment I am leading a big project to replace all of our various databases with a single solution that will enable US and UK teams to work together much more closely, so there is a weekly status update on this as well as training and discovery work to be done as we push this project onwards.

16h00-17h30 – I’ll try to do the final check of the inbox for the day and then try to use the last couple of hours of work to ensure that anything that absolutely must be finished today is done, and then I’ll start looking at tomorrow’s task list to see if there’s anything I can take care of today, and if there’s anything huge on the horizon that I’ve forgotten about and I need to go home and worry about while I lie awake in bed that night. It’s good to plan these things. I’ll also print out anything that I might want to read on the tube home – despite being a bit of a technophile, I’ve found over the last few years that to review documents with any level of thoroughness, they need to be printed out, and I need a red pen in my hand.

17h30 – The working day is done, and I will either jump straight on the tube home to cook dinner, or I’ll head to the superb Craft Beer Co. Pub some 300 yards from the office, where I’ll catch up with colleagues from all the other departments and find out what is really going on.

* Yes, I do write times like this and I think it really annoys and/or confuses my US colleagues – which may have something to do with my persisting in it.

** Sadly this is not a Mark Zuckerberg-esque attempt to reduce decision fatigue and improve productivity. I am just rubbish at buying clothes and have realized while writing this article that I own a lot of very, very similar outfits.

*** Believe me, I do not enjoy using that word. But what else? ‘Food enthusiast’? ‘Gourmand?’ ‘Gastronaut?

**** Something I started doing about five years ago and have been doing with decreasing regularity since. If it is a fast day, this time table should be updated with a black coffee and a cigarette roughly every 60 minutes.

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