Reflect and Unwind Your Project

With a free wind down checklist Winding down a project is nothing new to me, as a skilled consultant providing project leadership and management for financial technology companies. However, this routine exercise is a critical part of the project. ’It’s where I summarize what we set out to accomplish, note monumental milestones, transition ownership to appropriate in-house resources for ongoing support, and itemize the remaining few tasks. I also like to highlight recommended maintenance, next phases and offer ways to expand or grow the initiative. Skipping these wind-down items may be easier and faster, but leaving them out also leaves out much of the ROI for the organization. Similarly, project leaders also need to summarize, evaluate, and grow their own experience as a project or engagement winds down. I know I’m not alone in my thinking. In a conversation with Victoria Petersen, an honorary member of my project management tribe, we share the same sentiment when a long engagement comes to an end. We both relate to being a mixed bag of emotions at the project closure and speculate many others feel the same. We experience sorrow when leaving the great people we’ve worked beside, relief in finishing what we set out to do, and delight over the next opportunity. To deal with these emotions and capitalize on the personal growth during this wind-down phase, implement this 3-part self-care strategy that we’ve found to be tried and true:

Reflect on the Project

Winding down a long-term project is more than dotting the ’i’s and crossing the t’s of the completed work. The first step is to celebrate personal highlights along the journey, reconcile your lessons learned, request testimonials, and update your LinkedIn profile to reflect the engagement. Reach out to team members with your new contact information- ensuring connections with colleagues you now consider friends. Make it easy for them to find you for future opportunities. Consider sending hand-written notes to those who most impacted you and the project and express gratitude. Or one often-overlooked task is to polish up your templates and processes based on how you applied them or how the client received them during the engagement.

Process your Emotions

Working on a project can be an emotional roller coaster ranging from overwhelm to exhaustion to enthusiasm to anticipation to humility to disappointment to gratitude. You work hard to organize chaos and navigate ’others’ energy to work in lockstep towards the goal while staying one or two steps ahead of the work. So, when a project reaches the end, you may feel quite a wide range of feelings. While you’re relieved to reach your destination (or some variation of it) and comforted knowing your client is pleased – you may consider giving yourself space to be – to gather and ground yourself. You may want to write your emotions down and then burn the paper as a ceremonial closure or perhaps apply the energy of the feelings to do something extra special for yourself.

Integrate and Move Forward

Now that you have processed logistics and emotions in winding down a project – you may notice how you feel enlivened as you integrate and apply your learnings, experience, and renewed energy to your next opportunity. Perhaps you notice how you show up with more grace and ease, and prospect conversations move fluidly. Catch yourself before slipping into old patterns. Bring the insights and lessons learned into how to navigate difficult situations differently and apply your proven tactics to move forward effortlessly. Perhaps convert accolades into personal mantras to further integrate that energy into how you work and show up for work.

Embrace the vigor of one door closing and another one opening. And as you step through that door, know that you bring more insights, depth, and tools to further your work and advance along your journey. Meanwhile, add this checklist detailing our 3-part self-care strategy to your project calendar. You will get the time and attention you need to fully absorb the personal benefits when unwinding yourself while winding down a project.

Some questions to consider: What is on your personal checklist for the wind-down period? How have you successfully implemented a self-care routine when winding down a project? What barriers keep you from doing this?

We welcome you to share additional items to consider amending to this checklist and invite you to connect with us (Erica Smigielski and Victoria Petersen) on LinkedIn. Click below to connect with Victoria Peterson or myself on LinkedIn. Remember to click here for the free checklist to reflect and unwind your project!