Starting from the middle

How do I make the middle-type work more exciting? Even if I broke it up into bite-sized chunks of days’ to a week’s worth of work, can I sustain an activity over several weeks to months?

Sometimes I can work really hard over several days, but need weeks to regroup, rethink, and react. Especially when I am involved in the whole process or cycle of a project.

Take the example of software development work. A few years ago I was part of a well-oiled machine, pumping out releases every few months. There were well-defined roles, and each person was an expert in their role. Everyone worked very efficiently and very effectively. A lot of the risk was handled at the beginning by the project manager & IT architect.

In scientific research, risk is an intrinsic part of the research. You’re expected to be able to do a lot of the work yourself, as often it has not been done that particular way before. If you don’t, you can expect your supervisor and the technical staff to complain. The only exceptions, it seems, are when you are part of a collaboration, or when you pay higher fees for technical services.

Part of high risk is failure. The prospect of failure is daunting, but the rewards of success in a high risk research venture can be high. Middle-type work, by the time the risks have been ironed out, is no longer high risk but low risk. Does this make me a risk taker, as in I take away much of the risk towards the beginning? Would I find the middle more exciting if I didn’t worry about the beginning, at the beginning, so much?


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