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Kelly J. Cooper

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Failure [Jul. 12th, 2007|08:10 pm]
Kelly J. Cooper
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I failed to meet my deadline. (I was writing a detailed, complex analysis and summary of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins for money and I didn't finish by the due date.)

I failed for several reasons.

1. I didn't give myself enough time to read the book - it's much more dense and difficult to read (and therefore explain) than I expected. I got the assignment in early June, but was distracted by my upcoming trip to Spain. The Porter Square Bookstore didn't have a copy, but I didn't have them order it until I got back. I'm such a fast reader that I forget how hard it is to read dense material and do an analysis.

2. I should have sat down with the guidelines and written an outline for what was expected immediately after receiving the materials. Instead, I struggled to figure it out when I sat down to begin writing. This not only derailed my motivation to begin writing, but when I'm thoroughly prepared for how to discuss the text BEFORE I start reading the text, my subconscious does a pretty good job of sorting and considering the material in that context.

3. I did a poor job of moving from reading to writing. I should have started doing the summary/analysis of each chapter after having completed the chapter. Instead, I got through four chapters before sitting down and beginning to commit material to writing. This meant that I slowed myself down by going back and re-reading the material as I worked on the analysis. If it had been fresher in my mind and less conflated with subsequent chapters, I would have had greater clarity and speed.

4. I didn't do a good job of pace-setting. Given the density of the material it was extremely difficult to stay focused on the work, despite the fairly conversational tone of the text. I should have given myself a page count or a chapter count to hit every day instead of doing it in bursts.

5. Repeatedly ran into the block of fidgeting, doing everything possible to avoid the work because it was hard and not very fun. I'm not sure how to get around that except to plan better and allow for the wasted time in my schedule.

Things I did right.

1. Stayed off of IM so that I wouldn't be distracted.

2. Forced myself to write even when I didn't want to.

3. Teased out some important, non-obvious aspects of writing a nonfiction analysis for this company (the directions are mainly focused on writing fiction analyses, so their nonfiction guidelines are crappy adaptations of their directions for fiction).

4. Created a handy chart for making notes to myself on important people, objects/places, quotes, and topics for discussion that I uncovered while working through the text. (They wanted a separate section for each.)

5. Communicated with my liaison (who subcontracted the work to me) about my lateness.

If I get another chance to analyze a book for this company, I'll be much better prepared.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: lillibet
2007-07-13 01:19 am (UTC)
This is really good. Not so much the lameness, as I'm sure you already know, but figuring it out and including the things you did right. I hope this smooths the path for more items in the plus column on your next project.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-13 03:11 am (UTC)
Thank you!
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From: i_leonardo
2007-07-13 02:14 am (UTC)
a well-considered, thoughtful, and constructive self-critique. nicely done. i hope my next "lessons learned" episode (success or failure) is equally well executed.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-13 03:11 am (UTC)
Thanks very much!
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[User Picture]From: miss_chance
2007-07-13 02:15 am (UTC)
Wow! What an incredibly balanced, well-thought-through, constructive review of the process. I've seen you do that with me and other people when we are struggling with goals and deadlines, but to do that for yourself is a truly rare talent.

I'm seriously impressed.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-13 03:11 am (UTC)
Thank you! I think it was because I was too tired to whine. *grin*
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[User Picture]From: kimberlogic
2007-07-13 03:19 am (UTC)
Wow. You may feel like this was, in some ways, a failure. But you've written a very concise & constructive analysis to help future efforts and that's damn impressive, babe. This just reinforces many of the things that make you such a good coach and organizer.

*hugs*
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-13 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly. Although... organizer? Heh.
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[User Picture]From: kimberlogic
2007-07-13 03:23 am (UTC)
also - i'm really proud of you for noting things you did *right*
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-13 03:29 am (UTC)
Yeah, I almost posted after I finished with why I failed, then I thought, I always try to tell people what they did right/well, and I should do that for myself too. If for no other reason than my friends will yell at me if I don't.

:)
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[User Picture]From: hammercock
2007-07-13 03:48 pm (UTC)
If for no other reason than my friends will yell at me if I don't.

Hey, whatever works! ;-)

This writeup is actually pretty inspiring, and a much better way of analyzing the situation than, "Gah, I suck, I suck, I suck." I hope the next time I fail to do something that I can be so clear-headed in my analysis.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-14 05:23 am (UTC)
I'm happy to have provided inspiration! That's pretty flattering, right there.
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[User Picture]From: egwenna
2007-07-13 12:06 pm (UTC)
That is an excellent bit of self-analysis. And the writing when you don't want to is a BITCH! Which feeds directly into fidgeting and doing everything possible to avoid work.... If it didn't, I'd have a book by now (but it's so much easier to give in to the excuses).
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-07-14 05:24 am (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, excuses are easy and evil.
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