Reorientation to Research

One of the hardest things about this project, for me, has been balancing its many threads: reading, research, coding, writing, design.  Each of these could easily be a full-time job, so how do I balance them?  Not only do I have to figure out how to allocate my own time, I also have to provide leadership for the other people on the project.  No two of us have the same skills, nor the same amount of time to commit, nor the same things we want to get out of the project.  This makes it an even harder problem.

This is not something I’m particularly good at, and it’s been a big challenge so far.  While I’ve done a good job of setting aside lots of time to work on this project – I do something for it every single day, come hell or high water! – I tend to get very focused on one aspect of it at a time.  When I’m doing development, I just want to keep developing.  Same if I’m doing design, or reading articles, or writing.  This is not great for making sure all the parts of the project move ahead together!

To address this, I’ve decided to start evaluating each area of the project in the context of our upcoming deadlines.  For example, I’m giving a talk in research practicum next month.  I sat down to make an outline and realized that, while we’ve got a lot of design and development progress to report, we don’t have as many new articles to discuss as I’d like.  

Okay, so I’d identified a challenge, but I wasn’t sure how to address it.  Doing more reading and research is crucial for us, but we can’t afford to take time away from design and development if we want to be able to run a pilot this summer. 

Pazit, however, is an experienced project manager, and she had some really good suggestions about how to handle this.  “Do more research” isn’t exactly an actionable goal – but I have a big list of references I want to read and I know how I want to incorporate them into the project.  She suggested that we each agree to read one article a week from now until next month’s presentation, and discuss how they fit our work during our group meetings.  That’s something we can totally do alongside our existing commitments to the project!  I think the discussion is also going to be key, because I think a lot of good ideas (and an even longer reading list!) will come out of our conversations.

This is my first time leading a research team, so I’m always on the alert for learning experiences like this one.  I’m really excited about the research progress we’ll be making over the next few weeks, and about my new techniques for managing a multi-threaded project as well!

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