Recovering From Difficult Projects
We’ve all been there: tough projects that bring on late nights, stress eating, dreams about deadlines, strung-out teams, and our personal care and boundaries thrown out the window.
A difficult project might be a project that is fast-moving, has a tight budget, involves difficult stakeholders, is particularly complex, or has lingered a long time. When these projects launch, it’s always to a collective sigh of relief. But what do we do when it’s particularly hard to move on? What if that stress or burnout isn’t easy to shake?
Recognize the signs of burnout
Last week I tweeted a link to this in-depth look at burnout, and it's scary-good. Symptoms like paranoia, feelings of being under appreciated, disorientation, and drawn out sicknesses are all common but lesser known signs of burnout.
Keep your health and energy buckets full
I love this article about cumulative stress recovery and the idea of envisioning my health and energy as a bucket of water. Trying to "keep the bucket full" can be helpful during/after difficult projects.
Create an energy line for your work
Creating an energy line for projects, tasks, and even social events visually displays your energy allocation—and draws attention to red-flag areas.
Thoughts from other DPMs...
I surveyed a few friends to see what they do when a difficult project is finished and the response was pretty consistent:
- Thank the team: send gifts or thanks over email/Slack and high-five everyone involved in getting the project launched and done.
- Get offline: take your team out for drinks or a meal, turn off your laptop, and take some time for yourself to reflect and move on.
- Zone out and watch some Netflix: whether that's your favorite rom com, zombie thriller or a cat documentary, relax and give your brain a chance to chill out.
- Eat something good: whether good means a salad, bourbon, a pound of prosciutto or congratulatory take-out...nourish your body and indulge in something that will make you feel good.
- Get perspective: talk to a friend, mentor, partner or therapist about your experience. Try tracking your moods while working on new projects or unrelated tasks to see what's really making you happy these days. Understand that you might need time to identify and break through all of the places the stress has affected you over the last few weeks or months.
Next week's newsletter will be sent from London (sort of the opposite of the desert I live in) as I'm speaking at Ground Control, a conference for anyone who leads digital projects.
Just launched: check out Louder Than Ten's Digital Project Management Apprenticeship for people who manage projects—and pass it on to a friend!
Have project news you'd like to share? Reply back and let me know what's new in your project management world!