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Getting Past Done: What to Do After You’ve Finished a Big Project

Getting Past Done: What to Do After You’ve Finished a Big Project
What to Do When You Get to Done

There’s no feeling in the world quite like the mixture of triumph and sadness that comes after finishing a project you’ve been working on for months or even years. On one hand, you’re done and can finally release your finished product, whatever it is, into the world. On the other hand, though, completing a big goal leaves a little emptiness in your life, like sending your kids off to college — one of the major driving forces in your life is gone.

Since you likely have a little more time on your hands now that you’re not working on your big project anymore, take a moment or two to to reflect on what you’ve accomplished, how to build on your success, and how to avoid the mistakes that you’ve made on the way to your achievement. The end goal is to weave the finished project into the overarching fabric of your life — your mission, your vision, your raison d’être — and to capture the energy and momentum of one success and roll it into your next.

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Debriefing

What you need to do is debrief. Like a soldier returned from a successful mission, you need to ask — and answer — a few questions about what went wrong and what went right. Consider sitting down someplace quiet with a notebook and ask yourself these questions:

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  • What was the outcome of this project?
  • What is good about the outcome of this project?
  • How do I feel about my performance?
  • What mistakes did I make that slowed or otherwise negatively affected the completion of this project?
  • How could I avoid making those mistakes in the future?
  • What was the best part of the project? What was the worst?
  • What strengths did I discover in the completion of this project?
  • What new abilities or knowledge have I learned from doing this project?
  • What do I wish I had known when I started this project?
  • In one or two sentences, what were the lessons of this project?

Building on your success

Once you have a good idea of what you’ve learned, it’s time to consider how to put that learning to good use. This might not be something you sit down and figure out in one sitting; finding your next steps is a process that might take a little while. Still, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to get the ball rolling.

  • Is this kind of project something I enjoy?
  • How can I capitalize on the success of this project?
  • What personal connections did I make in the execution of this project that I can draw on in the future?
  • What sort of project would best complement the one I’ve just completed?
  • What questions were left unanswered, or new questions were raised, in the project I’ve just completed?
  • What is the audience I’ve cultivated with my last project, and how can I appeal to and satisfy that audience again?
  • What have I put on the back burner so I could focus on my completed project?

Looking at the big picture

After pouring our heart and soul into something over a long period of time, we often find that we’ve changed — that what once interested us no longer does, and that we’ve developed new interests in their place. After completing a big project, it’s time to consider those changes and revise our goals and our vision of ourself.

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  • Sit down and write a mission statement. If you’ve written one before, take it out and ask yourself what’s changed?
  • Revise your resume or CV. How does your new perspective affect the way you describe what was important about your previous experiences?
  • Who are you now? Does your old job title still fit? What will you tell people who ask “What do you do?”
  • How has your social position changed, if at all, as a result of your project? Are you financially more secure, do you enjoy new respect among your colleagues, are you famous? How will your life have to change to accommodate these new elements?

It’s totally natural to experience a bit of “hang time” after completing something big in your life. You need a few moments to reflect on and savor your success and to figure out what to do next, before your feet hit the floor again.

It’s natural, too, to feel sad, disappointed, even depressed at the end of a big project, even one that’s a resounding success. The things we do define us as people, and the biggest things we do are the biggest part of us; losing them, even by choice and design, is hard. I think this is why so many people seem to experience a fear of success that’s as paralyzing, if not more so, as the fear of failure: they are not prepared for the changes in their life that success would bring.

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The important thing, though, is to embrace all the mixed feelings that come after a project, understand where they come from, and use them to propel ourselves forward. Use the end of one project as the beginning of the next and keep working to fulfill your life’s purpose and vision.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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