The next time you feel stressed, stop and listen to what is running through your mind. What exactly are thinking about? Are you worried about how threatening a situation will be if an imagined situation ultimately unfolds? Are you wondering if you have the resources (knowledge, time, energy) necessary to address and proceed past the threat?
One of the primary causes of project manager stress is "worst case scenario" thinking. This is a dysfunctional method for resolving situations that need to be dealt with efficiently and effectively.
The Action-Oriented Approach to Stress Management
Instead of procrastinating and ruminating about particularly difficult projects, take an action-oriented approach. Your mindset can prevent negative thoughts from causing physical symptoms of stress. Dealing with stress correctly will help you reach a satisfying conclusion of a project as quickly as possible.
Take action against stress by training yourself to be better at:
- Managing your time - stop procrastination or delegating tasks to others who are not properly equipped to do them.
- Developing preemptive solutions to possible project issues.
- Avoiding multitasking and refusing to compromise your attention on critical tasks.
The Emotion-Oriented Approach to Stress Management
Overly negative thinking is, for the most part, the correct answer to why we feel stressed. This approach finds ways to prevent stress that you might be experiencing because of your perception of the situation.
Change your perception by training yourself to start:
- Appreciating things that are going well and not discounting positives because of an isolated negative.
- Maximize the positive and choose to learn from the negative aspects of your project.
- Focus on adjusting what IS happening instead of obsessing over "should" statements. Telling yourself "I should have done this" or "that should have been done earlier" over and over is self-sabotage.
- Avoid the temptation to feel attached to each aspect of the project. Taking it personally when things don't go according to plan can put you on the defensive. That can hinder your ability to stay calm under pressure.
Learning to use stress management techniques effectively is a process. Try one or two of our suggestions this week. With some patience and practice you'll soon be able to consistently overcome major project hurdles without the stress.