The Project Post-Partum Blues

Projects are amazing. I thoroughly enjoy them and have been doing large projects for nearly 35 years of my career. I’ve written books, designed and written a full curriculum, designed, delivered and filmed webinars. And over the years I’ve discovered  3 distinct phases to every major project.

Because I come from Kona where one of the most challenging triathlons in the world is held. And because I’ve have had triathletes stay at my home, I’ll use their process as an example.

  • Phase 1 – Preparation & Planning  – In this phase, which is 1-4 years in the making, the triathletesFinish Line
    • Establish the goal
    • Review their checklist
    • Push themselves on the prelims to the race (running, cycling & swimming)
    • Get vitamins, minerals and diet in perfect order
    • Keep mental and emotional resiliency and balance
    • Stay focused and keep a perfect energy/rest schedule
  • Phase 2 – Activity & Action  – This includes the 24 hours prior to the event and the event itself:
    • Do a final bike check & deliver them to the start line
    • Have a high carb diet the night before
    • Prep the food and water they’ll take on the race
    • Get a good night’s sleep
    • Eat a perfectly balanced breakfast
    • Show up at the start and run the race
  • Phase 3 – Completion – This is the final phase of the event where their physical resources have run dry and their mind is screaming things like, “Why did I ever start this?” And, “This is stupid! I want to quit.”
    • Push through the ‘wall’ that they hit at approximately 80-85% of the event
    • Manage the mind
    • Put one foot in front of the other on the final run
    • Keep on keeping on until they reach the finish line

Naturally, each project has different items to accomplish within the three phases. But every time I finish a project I remember that there’s a fourth phase to the cycle of projects. I call it the ‘project post-partum blues’. And it’s really phase 4 of any project.

  • Phase 4 – project post-partum blues is the anti-climatic empty feeling after the event is over. It feels like a big void and it also happens in life beyond projects: the birth of a child, the empty nest, hitting your weight-loss target, the end of a relationship,  the passing of a loved one. The list could go on and on.
    • A feeling of malaise or even depression
    • Feeling lost or even alone in a bubble that no one else understands
    • An excess of time (that was filled with things to do)
    • I did it. It’s done. So ‘now what?’
    • Lack of focus or priorities – drifting from one thing to another not knowing what to do next

However, if you’ve ever hit this phase you don’t have to go through feeling as if something is wrong with you. I just hit one along with our team here at Elan. In other words, it’s universal yet I only remembered it after we hit it again on our last two big projects.

There are two secrets to dealing with it. The first is to be aware that it’s coming. The second is to be proactive. Plan for it!

  • Celebrate your completion
  • Throw a completion party
  • Take a break and intentionally ‘not do’ for awhile
  • Take time to focus on a hobby – play is good for the soul at this point!
  • Take some ‘time out’ with friends and family
  • Go on a vacation (short and sweet or long and luxurious)

After doing one or more of these, set a deadline for the start of your next project. Our Élan team will begin next week with a plan for our next project. Meanwhile everyone is celebrating with a little time off.

How do you experience project post-partum blues? What have you done to move through it?

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