Monday, 1 August 2016

Projects big and small

Last Friday I finished a contract for a project I've been working on for the past eight months and today is the first day of life "post project" while I take some time off to recharge and look around for the next opportunity.

Projects are both the best and worst jobs you can do. They are great because they give you one big goal to work towards and there is generally a great sense of solidarity with your project team because you all have a part to play. 

Most projects work to a similar style and structure - so once you've done one, you can step into another and get a sense of the rhythm of the work pretty easily.  The other great thing about projects is that they aren't like everyday working life. They are set up for a specific purpose and they don't generally have much to do with the day to day work of an office, so they can be a nice break from a normal working environment.

But on the other side of the coin, projects usually work in fairly contracted timeframes, which get tighter and tighter as you get closer to your deadline. There are always a lot of competing goals for people to achieve and sometimes the priorities can get a bit confused. There is also a fair bit of pressure to deliver your part of the puzzle so you don't let anyone else down.   

The last four months of this project have been super busy - and with every passing week, the hours I spent at work stretched and grew. First I started going home half an hour later - and then another hour. Next, I started moving the alarm backwards and catching an earlier bus into work. 

I drafted emails while eating breakfast, wrote post-it notes when I got out of the shower, went into work on Saturday morning for a few hours, and then added more time on a Sunday afternoon. Before I knew it, I was devoting most of my time to work. And thinking about it. And dreaming about it. All. The. Time. 

I don't share this admission as something to be proud of because frankly, it's not a good way to work and doesn't promote any kind of work life balance. Neither was there anyone standing over me pushing me to do the hours I was doing. But the project team was pretty small, the deadlines were short, and we had some big tasks to deliver. So like many others, I rolled up my sleeves and knuckled down to the job. 

It's been more than a bit stressful at times; but now that it's done, I feel like there have been rewards. The planning and effort I put into my work really paid off and I got some great feedback from both the project team and our stakeholders. There's also been an enormous sense of acheivement in reaching a goal I've been striving towards and knowing that I have played a part of delivering something great. 

After a few weeks of closing out jobs, it was time to pack up my desk and say goodbye - which I found equally sad and exciting. After eight months, I'd got settled and had put down roots. I'd worked out the personalities, made friends, and knew how to work the photocopier. After working hard to fit in, it was time to step out and move on. It was strange waking up this morning and think of people going into the office and working without me. 

But on the plus side, I had a glorious sleep-in and now I'm sitting in one of my favourite cafes and starting a few writing projects that have been buzzing around my head for the past few months. I've got time to catch-up with friends - and the laundry - do some errands, and maybe take a few days away at the beach. And who knows what exciting opportunity is just around the corner?

For now, I can enjoy the sense of achievement that comes from knowing I've worked hard, delivered a great outcome and earned a break.

It's time to unwind, slow down, and stop thinking about this job - before I start thinking about the next one. And that all feels pretty good. 

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