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Do projects look better in hindsight?

Adeline Teoh ed.
April 9, 2013

Throughout March I travelled around South America and Antarctica, and over the Easter long weekend I did a three-day hike in the wilderness. Both experiences had me conclude that I don’t like travel, but I love having travelled.

I don’t consider myself a particularly anxious person, but if there’s one activity that sets off my risk awareness radar, it’s travel. All manner of things can go wrong, from missed flights to taxi scams, losing passports to being pickpocketed. When I’m leading a hike it’s even worse: what’s the probability of getting lost? Where can we get water? Why are there leeches crawling on my shoes?

Of course, like all types of risk there’s a positive side to travel too and so many things can—and do—go right. We see amazing things, expose ourselves to interesting experiences, and meet new people from fascinating cultures. That’s why we travel, after all.

And yet I can’t help feeling there’d be a market for replacing uncomfortable nights in a badly chosen hotel or the horrible sensation of being seasick for two days with a pleasant screensaver-like interlude, glossing over these less-than-salubrious memories. I’ll admit it now: I don’t like travel, but I love having travelled.

In the afterglow of a trip I flick through photos with a fondness usually reserved for pets and tell funny anecdotes about scary things that happened, usually capped by strong recommendations for people to see whichever part of the world I’ve just visited. Maybe it’s because I’m an editor, but being able to curate the experiences in their aftermath means that hindsight offers a better trip than the messy one I just took.

Which brings me to the project you’re now managing. Many project managers I talk to jest that the best part of a project is ‘finishing it’ but, considering that some take years to close, there must be something else that keeps you in your role now.

Do you get a buzz from being in the middle of it, being busy, being challenged? Or are you seeking the relief that comes with a successful handover, or perhaps recognition for the team’s efforts? Do you like managing projects, or do you like having managed a project?

More importantly, do you cherry-pick your experiences on the project so that you can convince yourself to do it again?

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Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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