Whenever I undertake something big and challenging enough to be worthwhile, whether editing a W3C specification, running a more demanding distance, a new software project, or something else, I notice a similar trajectory of progress:
Ready to start: Full of adrenaline and excitement. Audacious goals seem readily reachable.
5-10% through: Whoa, this is difficult! And I’m only 1/10 or 1/20 of the way through? What was I thinking? It is important to ignore these thoughts.
One third point: Things seem to even out by this point. The hard slog presses on.
Halfway point: Wow, that’s halfway? Feels more like 90%!
Two-thirds point: Things are getting difficult. Should have treated this more like a marathon, less like a sprint.
90% point: There are two distinct kinds of endeavors from here. In what I call ‘type 1’ projects, the goalposts are strictly fixed, in which case a fresh burst of energy propels me through the glorious finish. But in a more sinister ‘type 2’ project, the finish line keeps receding away, as fast as or faster than I can approach. Depending on my level of stubbornness and anger, I will often finish anyway, just to spite the universe and the project masters, but at significant personal cost.
For anyone out there that has influence over large, ambitious projects, one of the most pivotal things you can do is make sure it is a type 1, not a type 2 project, as seen from the 90% line.
More collected Geek Thoughts at http://geekthoughts.info.