The post-project blues


Confessions of Carlisle,
Director of Project Management at Logient

I’ll admit it, there was a moment when the projects I oversaw completely consumed my life.

To-do lists, points to raise, essential things to remember, and solutions to challenges constantly crowded my thoughts and even my sleep. I had the impression that a sword of Damocles was dangling over my head. My whole attention and effort was directed toward completing a project. There was nothing else.

Whether I was overseeing thousands of users’ training for an ERP transition, building a customer management tool for a store, deploying an ERP over three years, undertaking house renovations or my children’s adoption procedure, all of my initiatives left me feeling empty after they had been completed.

I was giving it everything I had. Instead of feeling glad that I could recuperate at last, the intensity and tension were so overpowering that when it was time to quit, I felt bewildered and full of adrenaline. I was suffering from the end-of-project blues. Have you ever experienced those?

I’m not claiming the blues are no longer present, because they are. But now, I discovered that it was and still is a common occurrence that isn’t widely discussed, if not taboo.

The sheer fact that I’m talking about the blues and that it’s “normal” enables me to calm down and let it go. In this light, I wanted to demystify these notorious post-project blues by sharing a few things that I’ve learned over the last 25 years.

The blues and the joy

When we think about the completion of a project, we usually imagine the celebration as the final activity for all of the participants.

However, I’ve always thought that celebrating just after a project’s completion was delicate and risky (don’t jinx it!). It’s as though it’s too soon. If something went wrong, I felt like I’d be called back right away as a project manager. On the other hand, if everything was under control, that meant I wasn’t really valuable anymore. In such a frame of mind, it’s difficult to truly rejoice.

Even after you’re certain the dust has cleared, celebrating doesn’t quite have the same effect. Because, let’s be honest, everyone else has moved on. So waiting too long to celebrate isn’t a good idea either. The party becomes a post-launch meeting. They are already debating what has to be improved, rather than appreciating the efforts that have been done. To be honest, most of the other members involved have already returned to their pre-project activities after delivery was completed. And I, for whom the project was the reason for my existence, find myself alone.

Does the celebration then not simply reinforce my post-project blues?

Getting rid of the blues

I’m afraid I won’t be able to give you a magical cure for the post-project blues. Experience has shown me that it’s an important step to take, and that you need to know yourself, monitor yourself, and catch yourself sliding into melancholy in order to correct it. However, there are a few things that may be of assistance to you.

1- Recognizing the presence of the blues

To address a problem, you must first recognize that one exists. Identifying a few warning signals is definitely a smart approach to see it coming. Here are a handful that frequently appear:

  • Tiredness and a sensation of emptiness, as well as a lack of worth.
  • Putting off the end and deprioritizing the same things you’ve previously deprioritized.
  • Feeling as if you’ve lost your bearings and are unable to choose your next priority.
  • Hoping for a bigger project; perhaps to reclaim one’s sense of self-worth or purpose?
  • Perceiving everything as an impediment and seeing mountains when there are simply hills.

2- Using Agile to smooth out roller coasters

The iterative delivery style, Agile, is one of the things that has helped ease this roller coaster experience during the last decade. As opposed to the waterfall model, the following advantages of continuous presentation and modification of the final answer are:

  • Avoiding a significant increase in effort at the end of the project.
  • Addressing deployment, training, and data translation on a regular basis.
  • Reducing the dangers of misinterpreting the specifications.

Regardless of the delivery method, the roller coaster will calm down, but it will also eventually end altogether.

3- Other helpful hints

The following suggestions also assisted me in calming the blues that I experienced on a regular basis:

  • Learn to accept the circumstances.
  • Take time off for vacations and holidays.
  • Don’t be shy to treat yourself to spa, massage, and relaxation.
  • Advance step-by-step, do a pleasurable activity, and gradually return to action.
  • Begin a new project.?

The same conflicting emotions resurface every time the project’s completion is near, despite my years of project management history. I’m looking forward to it ending, yet I don’t want it to. The contradiction between how I should feel and how I actually feel is probably what throws me off. I should be content, but I’m not.

The blues are more prevalent than one may expect

The post-project blues is an issue that has received little attention. PMI.Org does not even have an article on this topic yet! While this perspective is centered on IT endeavors, the post-project blues may be applied to a wide range of scenarios.

For some people, the conclusion of vacation, returning from maternity leave, and Sunday nights are not peaceful times. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be afraid to talk to your coworkers about it. Develop your own methods, large or small, to help you calmly relieve the blues when an extraordinary time, whatever it is, comes to an end.

Let us recall our wonderful experiences and use them to help us keep going forward.

Carlisle Tabah, Director of Project Management