Although we have recently written about managing stress as a project manager, you may find that you’re not actually stressed out yet in your current position. However, you may soon be taking on new, bigger, tougher projects. Or perhaps changing your position to one with more responsibilities or a bigger team. Therefore, it is a good idea to combat stress early. Start putting a system in place which is designed to prevent and minimise work related stress as it slowly creeps into your life!

So, here I offer you some advice on taking action to combat stress early. You can take action before work related stress becomes too much for you to handle! This article is particularly for you if you manage projects or work which is not the same on a day to day basis. After all, it can be difficult to work when there is an ever present opportunity for shocks and surprises.

Causes of Work Related Stress

Work related stress can sneak up on you without you realising. Whilst there are tactics to alleviate pressure, it’s a lot easier to combat stress before it becomes a problem!

Causes of stress – particularly for project managers – include:

  • Lack of direction and being taken by surprise
  • Being overwhelmed by big problems
  • Being pulled “from pillar to post” by many smaller problems (aka death by 1,000 cuts)
  • Challenging and aggressive stakeholders
  • People not doing what they need to do
  • Ineffective team members and team work

All of these cause project managers stress and strain so it’s important to take action now to avoid this.

Feeling excessive project manager stress already? Check out our article on dealing with project manager stress.

How to Combat Work Related Stress

1. Get better at project planning

If your work is getting on top of you despite your best efforts, you may be a little disorganised. Better work planning is one of the easiest ways to tackle work related stress.

You must understand the work which is required to be completed before you start to do it. Then identify the most important and time-critical activities, prioritising them as necessary. Know what work needs to be done and in which order. Essentially, be great at managing your project plan.

You will also need to ensure that you have access to all the resources necessary to complete your work. Being unable to complete your work effectively is undoubtedly going to lead to work related stress. So focus on resource planning and forecasting to tackle this problem ahead of time.

2. Deal with your biggest problems

It’s generally a good idea to be pragmatic and find quick solutions when dealing with “live” project problems. A proactive and pragmatic approach to problem-solving will ensure that things continue to run smoothly.

This will allow you to combat stress and keep your workplace (and your change project or initiative) running like the well-oiled machine that it should be. Effective issue management will be critical to keep a peaceful way of life.

However, dealing with problems in a long-term manner (i.e. with permanent solutions) will also prevent you from getting stressed out. This will stop recurring problems from popping up in the future. Not being haunted by past problems will mean that you can avoid future work related stress. If in doubt, use a problem management toolkit, which utilises numerous problem-solving process in order to find solutions and make your working life as easy and as stress-free as possible.

3. Identify your risks and future problems early

If you have an idea of the potential problems then you can eliminate future worry. It is worth taking note of any risks which are going to arise in your project in the future. In turn, this will allow you to manage and plan mitigating actions ahead of time.

After you have identified the potential problems which are going to stress you out, use and implement effective risk management techniques. You will need to prioritise and take action to combat stress. But, in return, you are very likely to find solutions which make your future life a whole lot easier!

Effective risk management will reduce the number of problems facing you and your project. They will reduce your future project work related stress.

4. Kick-start stakeholder engagement

As a Project Manager, you may be working with important company stakeholders as part of your day to day job. This sort of engagement is a big responsibility and is obviously conducive to work related stress. As a result, you need to do your best in order to combat stress and remain calm around these key stakeholders. In turn, you’ll reduce the pressure put upon you (usually by yourself).

Meet these key people early on in the project lifecycle. Listen to them and understand their point of view and concerns. The sooner you meet these key players, the less you’ll have to worry about them. In turn, allowing you to relax and build your relationships to ensure you have more support when you need it.

5. Influence people effectively to do the right work

Arguably, influence is everything in the workplace to make your project a success. Your influence can be a critical factor in your project, especially if you’re in a position of authority, such as a project manager.

If you’re trying to make friends and influence people, communicate with them effectively. Ensure that your communication is 2-way, as opposed to you barking orders at people without listening back to them afterwards! Not communicating with your colleagues effectively can cause tonnes of work-related stress for both you and your team. So be sure to listen intently and empathise with your colleagues.

This approach builds great working relationships. Eventually, this will allow you to effectively influence people to get important activities and work done on time as needed.

6. Know and understand your team

If your project work is dependent on a team of people (it probably is!), then take some time to get to know the team. Get to know their names, their faces. Get to know more about their life and work. What they’re good at, what they enjoy and what they can actually do for the team.

This will make your life much easier when you need to find a professional on the team. When you need to find someone who works in a certain capacity or at a particular level. As you’ll already know exactly who you’re looking for, it will be less stressful to complete your work.

Knowing your team and their personalities will also help to minimise conflict. I’d recommend using the RACI tool (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) in order to make sense of everyone’s roles and how they relate to you. It will combat stress and avoid future project problems.

Conclusion – Combat Stress Through Effective Project Management Techniques

If you can use these techniques at an early stage, you may be able to show work related stress the door before it even has a chance to kick in!

If you’re keen to avoid work related stress before it comes a problem then focus on effective project management techniques. However, it’s more than just classic project management tools. It is critical to effectively deal with problems and people.

My Retail Project Management online training course covers all of these tactics in more detail, plus a whole lot more. Soon, you will harness the actionable tips and tactics to calm your working life whilst also delivering successful projects.

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. Plus, he’s passionate about helping others to do that too. He blends classic project management techniques with a dose of pragmatism and business reality to ensure retail improvement projects are led, managed and delivered successfully. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

project management expert Oliver Banks

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