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Half done projects

March 23, 2009

I’m glad spring is here – this past winter sapped my productivity.  I hibernated – not just physically as my body took cues from nature as the days shortened and the temperatures dropped, but mentally as my motivation waned.

Last fall, I started building my workshop and work ground to a halt as the holidays approach, and the snow, rain, other obligations conspired against me in the ensuing months.  Saturday, Tim came over and we made some progress on stitching together insulation and siding on the final wall.  We didn’t finish, but perhaps another day will close out this phase.  

workshop endwall

Of course, the trim, roof, doors, and electrical all lie ahead and each pose their own challenges.    I regularly practice cognitive dissonance – I know that it typically takes entire crews of workers to do these things over weeks and months working 40 hour weeks, and yet I somehow unreasonably expect to knock this out in a couple months of weekends with a bit of help from friends.    I seem somehow genuinely surprised that it’s not yet done. 

Of course, another explanation is that I distract myself with other projects left incomplete, like these railings on the second floor porch.  This is clearly a case study on doing things right the first time, as the most efficient way to go.   I didn’t.   It was also another practical lesson in project management.   Any PM who last penned out a gant chart and established the start / finish dependencies on multiple work items understands that many things need to be done in parallel, and those tasks with more lead time must be started earlier.  While building the house, I experienced the conflict between what I knew should be happening, and what I was able to do with available resources – time, energy, money, and begged and borrowed labor.


In the case of these steel railings,  they were a detail that needed to be in place at time of final inspection, and had a relatively long lead time required to design, calculate the materials needed, procure the material, assemble, paint, and install them.  At the time, I was overwhelmed by the remaining tasks and the impending deadline and didn’t get this work  started early enough.  In the end, my neighbor and good friend Rick, pulled an all nighter welding and assembling these for me, and then came over at 6 am and raced the clock to crane them up to the second floor and get them installed before the building inspector arrived sometime after 8:00 am.    So, to meet the deadline, we skipped the prime and paint.   Fast forward two and half years, and I have some very rusty railings.   I’m removing them one at a time, sanding off all the rust, priming and then painting.   The combined set of tasks require about six hours per section of railing, and there are four sections.   I’ve just started the third.

Our house is complete, but it’s not finished.    It seems to defy logic that we could build the entire house in less than 2 years, working nights and weekends and communting round trip accross the county, but haven’t been able to close out all these punch list items while living in it for over two years.

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