Anna Preston

Dealing with anxiety as a project manager

The role of project manager comes with considerable expectations. This can prove stressful even if you are a really qualified project manager and have been managing projects successfully for a long time. The key is to recognise your triggers and have strategies in place to deal with your anxiety should it arise.

As project manager your behaviour can impact on the wider team, so if left unchecked your anxiety could ultimately lead to the demise of the project. We've identified key stress causing areas and offer solutions to help you mitigate the impact on you and the project.

Too much to do, not enough time

It's unlikely that there have been projects where there was not enough work! At the beginning of the day it is helpful to note down your three must-dos – what are the key project tasks that have to be achieved that day? Plan your day around these non-negotiable items and note it in your diary so you can be accountable to yourself. When arranging your day to carry out the tasks, leave enough time at the end of the day to manage the 'unknown'. As project manager there will be things that occur during the day that need your attention, if you don’t leave yourself enough time to handle such situations, you will finish the day how you started i.e. anxious and worried that there is still too much to do.

It's good to talk

Not knowing what the project team is up to can cause a project manager a lot of anxiety. However knowing too much can also lead you down a slippery slope. It's important to find the right balance so you don’t find yourself micromanaging. At the start of the project set a clear communications plan with the team. Agree what process will work for both of you; a daily catch up telephone call? A face to face huddle? weekly team meeting followed by monthly individual catch ups or vice versa. Schedule into each other's diary at the outset so everyone knows what to expect and when to have progress updates ready for.

Great expectations

It is easy for senior management to ask more and more of a project manager but this doesn’t always come with additional resources, subsequently you can leave yourself stressed about not being able to deliver. It is better for you, the project, your team and the wider organisation to say no when you are unable to commit any further and deliver the project as initially agreed successfully, than saying yes and failing to deliver anything. Use your project management training knowledge to confidently deal with changing goalposts.

Glass is half full

A project manager sets the tone for the team. You can't do this if you are working from an empty cup. Model positive behaviour for the team and stakeholders, take regular breaks, have lunch away from the desk. Taking time for yourself will help you remain positive and refreshed and more prepared to deal with any challenges that come your way. Your positivity is also likely to motivate colleagues and help them to manager their tasks more effectively.

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