Congrats on Finishing That Project! Now What?

Last Updated Jul 5, 2011 10:52 AM EDT

I just sent the draft of a book manuscript off to my editor. Finishing a big project always feels great, except for a little quirk of human psychology. When something has consumed your attention for a long time, finishing it can leave you feeling adrift. You show up at your desk the next work day after your big win. If you've already been staffed on a new project, that's one thing. But what if you haven't yet? Or what if you choose your own projects? You'll probably sit there and wonder what to do with yourself.
Here's something not to do: talk yourself into a bad mood. Instead, try these tricks for refilling your tank while keeping your momentum going.
1. Take some mini-vacations. If it doesn't work to actually get away for a few days, reward yourself with some work day personal time. Go to lunch with a friend you haven't seen in ages. Take an exercise class in the AM and drift in a wee bit later than you normally would. Use down time to brainstorm some long-term personal goals, like a list of books you want to read. No one can work at peak intensity forever. If your previous few months have been consumed by high-intensity work, now's the time for calculated loafing. When you're ready...

2. Daydream. What kind of projects would you like to be doing? Where do you see yourself in another year? What would you like to say you've done by the end of this year? Go ahead and write your year-end performance review if you'd like (6 months ahead of time). It will help clarify what is important to you and your organization.

3. Plant seeds. The longer you stay in any given field, the more you see the results of actions you took years ago. Your former direct-reports (who left on good terms) become your best clients. Contacts you've nurtured through conferences and professional development programs suddenly become your top new recruits. The lull after a big project is a great time to reach out and remind yourself who you know, and see what they're up to. Who knows where these conversations may lead -- perhaps to your next big project!

What do you do after you finish something major?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, themissiah