Not long ago, at around 3:00 p.m., I spent about 20 minutes staring at my computer screen. I wasn’t gazing into an editor, hoping to coax a solution out of the existing pixels. I wasn’t poring over a spreadsheet stuffed with nonsensical data. I wasn’t even digging down into weeks of ignored Facebook and Twitter feed.

The latter had already been accomplished some 20 minutes earlier. Apparently some of you are up to a lot these days while others are still taking pictures of your food.

Come on. It’s 2015. I don’t have time for stories that don’t have an amazing twist guaranteed to make my jaw drop.

I was simply staring into the void. And this was something I hadn’t done in months, maybe a year. I got up and took a walk, came back, sat back down. Nothing.

I had absolutely, positively, beyond the shadow of a doubt, nothing to do.

And I freaked out a little bit.

All right, here’s the context. My startup had just pushed the final deliverable on a month-long sprint to create a feature that would revolutionize how we do what we do. I can’t go into much more than that, for various reasons, but we took our best people, cleared their schedules and duties, and gave ourselves a deadline that no mortal human could ever possibly hit.

But we hit it, with about 15 minutes to spare.

We worked nights. We worked weekends. We worked major holidays. We worked the minor, less-known startup holidays (Beer Friday, Pong-a-Thon, Go See That New Movie Our Significant Others Wouldn’t Be Remotely Interested In).

We turned out something awesome. Something incredible. Something I would someday tell my grandchildren about and then shake my fist while they rolled their eyes and resumed their virtual reality time travel cold fusion recipe trading.

But it was done. Over. Curtain down. Sure there would be more left to do and the rewards are yet to be reaped, but the next steps were now completely out of our control – out of my control.

I had paperwork in front of me, about a hundred tasks I needed to catch up or weigh-in on, resumes to read, correspondence to dig through, vacations to approve, I think we might have hired someone a week ago.

Wait. Did Kenny go to China? On purpose?

I did the bulk of the high-priority stuff in a haze of muscle memory and a crash of unhealthy caffeine high.

Then I shrugged, packed up my crap, and went home. At 4:00. For the first time in months.

Every time this happens to me, it’s like it’s happening for the first time. The last time wasn’t even that long ago, a few months back when we had a high-profile project for a high-profile customer on a tight schedule with a lot of risk attached to a lot of revenue. But even that was something we had done before, quite a few times in fact, and, for me anyway, it was far less hands on and lot less creative.

The last time it happened with such an impact was what I’ve taken to calling my exit from ExitEvent, the startup I founded on the side that snowballed into a real thing despite my best efforts to keep it small. Up until the acquisition, I had been finding new hours in a day to code the site, write columns, verify entrepreneurs, grow the network, plan the events, and on and on.

When it was no longer my responsibility, the day the papers were signed, I drifted for days. I had all this time and nothing seemed worthy enough to fill it.

I’m not talking about family or health or anything life altering. I’m just saying doing those things I always said I’d do if I had more time – catching up on movies, reading a good book, going to a coffee shop and just exhaling for a little while – all seemed kind of pointless.

I know. It’s a sickness.

And speaking of which, more often than not, I immediately get sick when everything stops. It’s the only time I ever get sick, and I fully intend to be down for a weekend shortly here, because weekends and holidays also happen to be the only time I get sick.

On the way home I remembered something a founder friend of mine told me about the day one of his past startups continued on without him. He said it was like he had been driving for 100-miles-an-hour for days on end and all of the sudden it just stopped. It wasn’t devastating or depressing and there was no mourning period. It was just weird.

Then it occurred to me that this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to startup. It happens in corporate offices and small to medium-sized businesses everywhere. Big important things can eclipse everything else, and if those things are worthwhile and valuable and satisfying, it’s a totally different feeling coming up for air than those projects in which you count down the days until they end and then just pick up the pieces and move on.

You miss it. And you need time to recover. And you have to be very careful about what you do next, because that next thing could be just as important as the thing you just shipped.

So today, I’ll reengage with some of the aspects of my life I’ve been ignoring. Again, not my family or health or hygiene, I’ve been pretty good about that. But things around the house and around my life I’ve been ignoring. I need a haircut. And my garbage disposal is make strange noises.

Tomorrow I’ll get up and start that next thing. And here’s something that is more prevalent in startup than outside – I’m going to take everything we learned over those crazy 30 days, and use it to make our company better, stronger, and faster, so that the next time we do something stupid like this, we can get even farther than we got this time.

Because that’s what we do. That’s why we’ll do it again. And that’s why even when I’m doing 16-hour days or I can’t sleep because I’m still churning on a solution for a problem that nobody else has, that’s what makes all this stuff fun.

Editor’s note: Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. He is VP of Product at Automated Insights and the founder of startup network and news resource ExitEvent. Follow him at @jproco or read him at