Most of our daily and weekly activities in life and business are in essence small or big “projects”. Think about it. From having a breakfast to launching a product we constantly deal with “projects”. If we want to deliver successful projects, we need to go through ALL stages of the project. Here is why it’s important.

Four project stages

As we all know from project management theory, each project has four stages:

  1. Planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Execution
  4. Clean-up or Finishing up

Most of our daily and weekly activities are in essence small or big “projects”. Think about it. Even when you are taking a shower in the morning or going to work (i.e. doing “projects”), you’ve gone through all four stages.

One example to illustrate this: when I conduct any workshop, maybe on leadership, personal effectiveness or business strategy, I go through all of these stages:

  1. Planning: I plan the dates, location, number of people, necessary marketing, etc
  2. Preparation: I prepare the content and presentation, coordinate the administrative aspects of conducting the workshop, the promotion, advertising, how I will get there, etc.
  3. Execution: I present the workshop on a specific date at a specific location
  4. Clean-up: After the workshop, my team and I need to clean up the room, gather materials, and get back home or back to the office, etc. AND I need to devote 1-2 hrs the next day to reflect on what was good, what needs to be improved, and plan any necessary changes and improvements for the next seminars.

This process is universal for almost any activity or a project you are dealing with, isn’t it?

Important, but usually missed stage

One of the stages usually missed from many projects and activities is “Clean-up”. This is when you finish up and sometimes literally clean-up after yourself like in the previous example or just reflect on outcomes and plan the next steps in the project based on outcomes (be it a continuing project or improvements for the next one).

Each project needs to be finished.

I mean not only delivery of desired outcomes, but also sometimes administrative details like documents, reports, archiving, etc that need to be dealt with before the project is truly “finished”. In addition, planning improvements for next steps, future projects is essential as well.

Plus . . .  as long as a project stays unfinished, it will provide constant stress for you, and at some point it will become urgent, most likely at the least opportune time.

Benefits of the “Clean-up” stage:

  • Effective project management: you will be more effective as a project manager, since you will take time to analyze outcomes and not miss details that are important for the next steps;
  • Better results: you will improve your overall results, as you will have a clear plan for how to improve the next step, the next project;
  • Save time: you will save time, as unfinished projects always have to be finished anyway, but you will plan this stage as part of your project from the start already;
  • Better relationships with colleagues: you avoid resentment from colleagues. Since all projects have to be finished, if you don’t plan in time to do it, somebody else may have to do it at a time that is not good for them, and they won’t appreciate your poor planning forcing them to rearrange their schedules;
  • Budgets can be planned more effectively: regardless of whether we deal with budgets or not, all time costs money, and when a necessary part of a project is not planned in, then  it is also not budgeted for. In a competitive environment where projects may have small profit margins, failing to plan in clean-up time can literally make the difference in a profitable project, or one which loses money.

Do you usually schedule time at the end of each project, meeting, or activity for reflection and wrapping up? Do you devote time to reflecting on accomplishments and planning the next steps? If you don’t, here is how to do it effectively.

What you can do to make any project successful

The same way as you plan all other project stages, plan this “clean up” stage as part of the project and schedule it. Once it is in your calendar, this time is blocked out and cannot be used for other activities. It will give you more freedom and peace of mind.

Examples of “Clean-up” stage in different “projects”:

1. Meetings

Don’t schedule meetings back-to-back. Instead, if you have a meeting, you might schedule 30 min beforehand as preparation time and 30 min afterwards as clean-up time. Write some emails as follow-up, schedule next actions based on discussion outcomes, while things are fresh in your mind. If you cannot avoid back-to-back meetings, then you can do the clean-up for several meetings after the last one. The principle is, do schedule this time to clean up after meetings before the day is over.

2. Marketing campaigns

After your marketing campaign is over, schedule specific time to reflect on the outcomes, to analyze online and offline statistics, prepare reports, presentations of results, discussions with the team on what went well in the planning, preparation and execution, and create a clear plan for improvements for the next campaigns.

You get the idea.

Once you start to see most of your important activities as “projects”, it will become easier for you not to miss important stages, be it cleaning the house, executing a project or building a business, and this enables you to be more effective.

More time for meaningful things and less stress will be your reward 🙂

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