Friday, 13 September 2013

Confessions of a completer-finisher

Back at the beginning of April I began a new job.  This probably hasn’t been obvious to many of my colleagues in Newcastle as I’m still sitting here in the same office in the Centre for Rural Economy, in front of the same computer screen.  The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme, which first brought me here to Newcastle University in 2007, finally finished at the end of March, but I was fortunate to be able to continue working here, mainly thanks to the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership.  They wanted to establish a new LWEC series of Policy and Practice Notes, drawing on the Relu experience, and they are paying a large share of my salary so that I can produce the series for them.  Next week we expect delivery of the first three LWEC notes.  I have been waiting for this moment for the past five months and I can’t wait to hold the finished products in my hands.  It feels like a long time for the writing, design and print of such brief, four and six page documents and the completer-finisher in me has experienced a lot of frustration along the way.  I knew the task would be challenging.  LWEC is a much more diverse programme than Relu, it involves a vast number of programmes, projects and researchers across many disciplines.  Even so, I had hoped to have one or two notes out by the end of June.  Looking back I can see how over-optimistic this was.  To begin with, talking to the right people and persuading them that publications of this kind can increase the impact of their research, has sometimes been quite a challenge.  Getting first drafts, working on them and passing them back and forth for comment, invariably takes up more time.  On reflection, five months isn’t really so bad, particularly as three will shortly be arriving together.  Several texts are in various stages of preparation and more numbers in the series should appear over the next few months.  I also have to admit that the time taken has probably resulted in a better product that we would have achieved if the first note  had come out two or three months ago.  Not for the first time, I come to the conclusion a completer-finisher is not always such a good thing to be.  My inclination to see the finished product can take over at times.  I’m good at meeting deadlines – but that can include the completely illusory ones I create for myself.  It’s good to have colleagues who will sometimes tell me to take a breath and think again, and not worry about getting things finished quite yet.  That’s why I know that this new series isn’t just my own achievement, and that’s why I like working here. 

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