The seductive power of finishing a project

When you finish a massive project or piece of work, how do you tend to react?

When I was at university, I was a chronic down-to-the-last-minute deadline deliverer.

If I had an essay due in (often two or three at once, because I’d leave them all to the end of term), I’d pull consecutive all-nighters to get them finished.

Here’s what happens in the run-up and immediate aftermath of finishing my work.

Partial nudity is a totally normal way to celebrate life’s little victories

About 30 minutes before the deadline, I’d jog to the library to have a psychic battle with one of its enormous, ancient printers to get my work printed out (Durham has since gotten over itself and lets students submit things online), before sprinting down the road to the English department to register my submission – usually with scant minutes to spare.

My momentous victory against rampantly undiagnosed ADHD secured, I would stroll back to my student hovel, remove all of my clothes, and start merrily day drinking. I think the clothes thing was down to some sort of sensory malfunction? Like how people who are lost in the Arctic strip off and run into the snow before succumbing to hyperthermia, maybe?

Whatever – basically, I was experiencing profound relief. I would drift in a warm, dopamine-infused daydream (aided on, no doubt, by the bottle of White Lightning) and think, “I will not need to do that for at least another two months!”.

In which I am jealous of 19-year-old Genevieve (that bitch)

Stupid, very ungrateful baby-Genevieve who I definitely do not resent in the slightest, didn’t have much to worry about in the way of ongoing project deadlines. She (for I was a girl at the time) could reward herself with Doing Nothing for a good while after submitting her summative essays.

Adult-Genevieve does not have the same luxury. When they submit a piece of work, they’ve sometimes only got a few hours to relish the feeling of “done!” before they have to crack on with the next project.

Which brings me to my point about the seductive and very dangerous power of finishing a project. As a self-employed person, I want nothing more than to reward myself for completing a piece of work with a week off. Maybe two, if I’m being honest? But alas, that is rarely to be.

Local writer shocked at having to Do Their Job

I recently finished a huge (and I mean HUGE) piece of work; the project’s not over, but I’ve now completed the bulk of my writing. I’m feeling so pleased with and proud of myself – not least because I think I’ve just cranked out some of the best work I’ve ever done!

And my “reward” for besting this behemoth? Leaping onto the next project, which is now down to the wire because my last project took up all of the oxygen in the room, so to speak. No rest for the wicked, obviously*.

I know what you might be thinking… “Oh boohoo, poor little writer gets paid to do interesting work, my heart bleeds!” and yes, you are correct**, but I do genuinely wish that I didn’t feel that way. I have to fight against that little voice that whispers in my ear, “you’ve worked so hard”, and “you don’t need to check your project CRM straight away”, and “you deserve to watch Star Trek DS9 and graze this box of Milk Tray for 3 hours”.

This working thing is, like, HARD sometimes!

Ten years, running a business, and ADHD medication mean I don’t get myself into the life-or-death, down to the wire sprints to the deadline anymore***. But I do still struggle with what to do with myself after I do an achievement; to maintain momentum when all I want to do is curl up (or collapse) in a heap.

It’s a tough one, but I think I’m getting better at pushing on through when I need to. Equally, I’m also working on resting when I need to, and planning in days when I can just bask in what I’ve pulled out of the bag.

At the very least, I can take genuine pride in the fact that I no longer remove all of my clothes after completing a big piece of work****.

Small victories.




** And also, I pointed it out first, which means I’m NOT a bad person, OK? OK???

*** If anyone happens to ask my partner about her perspective on this, know that anything she tells you is a lie and that I am Actually Very Organised.

**** No judgement to baby-Gen and her coping mechanisms. She was going through some stuff, bless her.