This month marks National Stress Awareness Month here in the UK and this past year, more than perhaps any other, has given us all cause to be stressed in one way or another. Whether it be the stress of managing your workload from a remote environment, the lack of certainty surrounding job futures or a whole host of other possible stressors, you’d be forgiven if things have gotten on top of you a bit – both in professional and personal settings. With that in mind, the Project Management department here at Munday + Cramer, a multidisciplinary practice based in Essex, wanted to offer up some top tips on how to manage stress even in the most difficult of times.
Project Management Can Be Pretty Stressful…
At any one time, project managers must balance an inordinate number of tasks, processes and deadlines. In what’s unquestionably one of the most stress-inducing professions there is, PM professionals have to become adept at managing both their own stress levels as well as those of their teams working beneath them.
In a job where entire projects hinge on your capacity to keep going in, and endure, stressful situations, there are a few tried-and-tested techniques that project managers typically utilise to make their lives more manageable. First, though, it’s worth looking at something called the Yerkes-Dodson Law.
The ‘Yerkes-Dodson’ Law
This principal, founded all the way back in 1908 by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, centres around the relationship between levels of performance and stress or ‘arousal’. It suggests that optimal workplace performance is reached when we reach a point between calm and distress called eustress – in other words, beneficial stress.
If we surpass this point, i.e. if we become too stressed, then this can lead to serious problems like general fatigue, anxiety, a feeling of being overwhelmed and ultimately, if left unaddressed for too long, work-related burnout. What can we do to keep ourselves in that optimal eustress zone, though?
Make Sure To Plan In Time For Exercise
Whether this is an intense workout in the gym or simply a brisk walk around your local park, the benefits of exercise on both are mental and physical health are undisputed. When things are reaching a fever pitch in your job and, by extension, your head, then the endorphins – the feel-good chemicals – produced by exercise can prove an effective remedy.
It might not prove a fix-all for every stressor, particularly not longer-term/more serious issue, however exercise really does help to take things off the boil, at least momentarily. Just make sure, whatever you do, you make it enjoyable – this should be detracting from your stress, not adding to it!
Ask For Help When Needed!
Now, this can be a difficult one. When things are stressful at work, perhaps you’ve got a project deadline looming over you or a particularly demanding line manager, often the last thing you’ll want to do is embrace the idea that things are getting a bit much. Our project management team would always recommend asking for help early before a situation reaches crisis point.
Let’s say, for example, that it’s looking increasingly unlikely that you’re going to be able to make a deadline you initially set for a piece of work. A good way to manage stress in this scenario is to let other team members or your manager know as early as possible. Ploughing on with it, regardless of whether or not you’re actually going to be able to get it done, is only going to add more stress when the deadline comes around and the expected piece of work isn’t produced. Being realistic, open and as communicative as possible is essential in managing workplace stress!
Take Things One Task At A Time
There’s a tendency in many of us that, the busier we get, the less we end up getting done. It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? As your workload piles up, logic would dictate that we ramped up our efforts, accordingly. In reality, though, when we’re being pulled from pillar to post and we’ve got too much on our plates, knowing where to start can be difficult.
It’s all too easy to get flustered and, ostrich-like, bury our heads in the sand – or should that be, in our email inboxes? Consciously making a point of taking tasks one at a time (physical schedules, to do lists and other organisational tricks are great in helping with this) keeps you on track with your workload, no matter how much it might be piling up.
One of the best things you can do is put together a priority matrix (a fancy way of saying a list of what’s most urgent and what isn’t as time-sensitive) so you know what you should be working on most. On top of this, you can then factor in whether you can get delegate any of the less urgent work (so that it’s done by the time it becomes urgent) or, if not, at least schedule in time to do it at later date. Being smart with your workload management is another sure-fire way to keep stress levels at bay, where possible.
So, if you’d like to find out more about our project management department’s work, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today by calling us on 01245 326 200 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can fill out one of our online enquiry forms and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. We look forward to hearing from you.