When I finished my book in January, I often fantasized about the unfettered downtime I would have when I finished the book. Well, it’s been a couple months and I’m finally getting there. I totally underestimated how much damn stuff I had been ignoring for all that time, and how long it would take me to catch up before being truly able to relax. Particularly during the last three months of getting the book done, my head was just in the sand about anything that wasn’t the book (or my new baby). (Finishing a book with a newborn? That’s a subject for another day.)
So here’s my advice to you: Whenever you get in Big Project deadline mode, remember to pad your schedule at the end of The Big Project to allow you to catch up with stuff you’ve ignored. Besides taking some well-earned downtime, you’ll almost inevitably have a backlog of things to attend to: unopened mail, bookkeeping, and marketing outreach, to name just a few. (Laundry, anyone?) Don’t schedule projects back-to-back, and don’t underestimate how long it will take you to catch up in between projects. After finishing my book I needed a full month to really feel that I had caught up with administrative tasks, personal and home miscellany, and plain old downtime. And sleep.
Here are a few more tips:
- The bigger the project, the more you should pad your schedule at the end. A month-long intense project will require less catch-up time than a 6-month work tunnel. When your eyes adjust back to “normal” life, you may be surprised at how much you had been ignoring.
- Administrative tasks and office organization will likely need the most attention. Deadline pressure is a great way to justify stuffing receipts into a box and ignoring them, or letting important mail pile up in your basket. Chances are that one of the biggest casualties of your work tunnel will be the administrative side of things (no one ventures into self-employment for the thrill of tracking projects and doing bookkeeping). Make sure to include enough time for office and admin catch-up when you’re done with The Big Project.
- Stop being a stranger—catch up with your networking. Another area that usually takes a hit when you’re under deadline pressure is networking. But being a hermit is no way to spread the good word about your business. As soon as you are confident that an end date is in sight for your Big Project, start scheduling lunch or coffee with people in your network (and those whom you want to draw into your network). See what events are happening and show up. Don’t delay your re-emergence into the world—get out there and remind people what you do.