We've all been there: the project that seems like it will never end. No matter how much time you have or how much support you have from your team, sometimes it feels like you're stuck in an endless cycle of confusion, stress, and fatigue. Here are five ways to make sure your project doesn't become one of those nightmares:
Make a master plan.
A master plan is a list of all the tasks you need to complete to finish your project. A master plan helps you see the big picture, stay on track and know what to do next.
When you make your master plan, list all the tasks to finish your project. Include everything from writing an outline to submitting a funding application. Prioritize them based on their importance and timing, then break down each task into smaller parts if necessary. This will give you a clear roadmap for how much time each component should take, allowing you to manage your time throughout the process better.
Find your mental escape.
Take a break when needed. Listen to music, read a book, or go for a walk. These activities will allow you to free your mind and relax for a while. Sitting at your desk all day is unhealthy, so go to a different location and enjoy one of these activities. One team I worked with used to take afternoon walks to a nearby ice cream shop when everyone was stressed, and the weather was good. We steered clear of project discussions for lighter topics.
Take care of yourself.
You can't do your best work if you're running on empty and burning out. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising, and incorporating some meditation time into your schedule. If a task feels overwhelming or stressful, stop and take a walk. This will help you clear your head so that when you come back to it later, you'll be able to approach the problem with renewed perspective.
Don't forget about hobbies or other creative outlets during the project either - these are important for maintaining mental health!
Make sure you're empowered to make decisions.
It's important that you know you have the authority to make decisions. Suppose your boss is having meetings and telling everyone what they should be working on. In that case, no one will feel empowered to decide for themselves. Instead, they'll wait for the next meeting where their boss might tell them what to do.
You also need to know that there are no consequences for making bad decisions. If someone tries something that doesn't work out, it's okay—that's part of learning how things work!
Make sure your team is communicating effectively.
Make sure your team is communicating effectively. If you have the right people in place and empower them to make decisions, they will share the work and help each other if someone is falling behind. Double-check that critical handoffs are happening as scheduled. Please don't assume that they are.
Good communication will help limit stress. For more information on improving team communications, check out our past articles, The Ultimate Guide to Effective Communication Plans and 5 Essential Communication Practices for Project Managers.
Project management can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. By taking time to work on yourself and your team, you can get more enjoyment out of each project. Just remember that it's okay if things don't go perfectly—make sure you're empowered to make decisions and take care of yourself, so you don't burn out! And let us know in the comments below if you have additional stress-relieving tips to share!
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