Project management can be a very stressful career path. PMs are responsible for delivering projects on time, on budget and cope, and also have to deal with limited resources, client expectations, and long to-do lists. If you’re a Project Manager who is struggling with stress, here’s how you can better manage it.
- Don’t over plan your day. If your to-do list is bringing you out in a cold sweat, don’t pile on more tasks in the hope of getting more done. If workplace stress is getting to you, piling on more to do won’t help. Instead, take some time to decide on the top three non-negotiable tasks each day and block out time to get those done. Leave time available for those inevitable unplanned tasks that come your way and must be attended to right away.
- Don’t take your work home. If a project is running late or over budget, it’s also to let worrying about it eat into your free time. You need a break from thinking about it in order to be fresh for work. Find a hobby that distracts you that you can enjoy in your time off, whether that’s watching every episode of Star Trek, or buying metal detectors to take up amateur detectoring.
- Prioritize matrix mapping. Matrix mapping uses the Eisenhower matrix to help you focus on what you should be doing. Tasks are split into four categories; do first, schedule, delegate and don’t do. Delegate effectively to give you time for the do first tasks. Identify your time-wasting habits in the don’t do section and cut them out, whether it’s spending time sorting old email archives or drafting emails that don’t need sending.
- Understand requirements. At the start of the project, take some time to set ground rules and clarify what the client and the team expect from you. This could mean scheduling time in your diary on a Thursday to produce a status report that the client expects on a Friday. This keeps you ahead and frees up time to respond to other tasks that may come in.
- Schedule time for research. It can benefit you to allow yourself some time to look into new ideas and approaches to project management. You can find new ways to deal with clients, manage your own job and interact with colleagues. Project managers are often responsible for managing whole teams, so it is also worth your while learning some skills in organization, leadership, and mindfulness to better prepare for the pressures of keeping a team together.
- Stand up for yourself. Sometimes you’re going to have to say no. Project managers can be people-pleasers, but saying yes to everything will lead to letting people down. Knowing when to say no is very important. Know what you can realistically deliver within certain timeframes. Spend time considering what is worth your time. Say no to unrealistic deadlines, time-wasting meetings or other drains on your time that will stop you from doing your job to the best of your ability.
- Break tasks down. Break down your tasks into smaller parts to make them more manageable and to give you a better idea of the time commitment required. In a project management role, you need to focus on the bigger picture and this can lead to not being able to break down your own tasks. Set manageable tasks that you can actually achieve in the time required. Rather than taking on one large task, take it on in smaller parts to make it seem achievable and less stressful.
- Take a lunch break. When you’re busy with work, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and like you couldn’t possibly have time for a break. This is a bad idea as the longer you sit at your desk, the worse you’re going to feel. Taking even ten or fifteen minutes to escape your desk can help a lot with your stress levels. Take a lunch break and leave your desk. Go outside, sit in the kitchen or go out for a walk. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle your workload again.
- Share the load. Take a review of the work you’re holding onto and see if there is anything that can be delegated to another team member. Admin based tasks, like rewriting feedback for your clients, can usually be passed on. You can empower your team to take on more of the tasks that need doing and free up yourself for the work you actually should be doing if you’re not bogged down in detail.
Also remember appropriate rewards. When you and your team are under a lot of pressure, a little gift or reward can surprise and relax both yourself and your employees. Whatever the gift, you’ll be more motivated to meet the stress that comes next. What makes people more surprising must be a unique gift, especially if it is individually customized, some small things such as custom lapel pins will strengthen the cohesion of your team and amplify the strength of the team.