Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Deadline Approaching? Here Are The Seven Things You Need to Do to Manage the Stress

Deadline Approaching? Here Are The Seven Things You Need to Do to Manage the Stress

According to Hive, as of 2018, 70 percent of organizations had suffered at least one project failure within 12 months. For many project managers, the threat of failure and missed deadlines can be a severe worry. Budgets, new products, and the direction of a company can ride on the way a project unfolds. This situation can easily overwhelm project management professionals and cause severe stress for project managers and their teams. So, if you are in this position, how can you overcome this?

Fortunately, there is a way to ride into each milestone and reach your final deadline without losing sleep or feeling extreme stress. How can you overcome this? Here are some steps you can take to manage stress as you are approaching your deadline.

Have Your Agenda and Notebook Handy

One of the main reasons we fall into stress at work is because we are afraid we haven't addressed all project tasks. For the project manager, the duties can feel endless. There is always going to be something you missed or forgot to do. To get rid of the stress, keep your agenda and notebook near you. The last thing you want is to end your day at five, and then jump back on at seven because you feel like you have to manage something you forgot. Get into the habit of scheduling time to handle things you may have overlooked. Getting these things on the calendar will make you feel like you have thought things through and have a plan for the things you haven't yet dealt with.

Don't Stray Away From the Scope

Yes, you want to satisfy your clients, and it's important to always keep their interest in mind. Nevertheless, you don't want to move away from the original agreement. In fact, according to the Project Management Institute, avoiding scope creep or uncontrolled changes to a project’s scope is a top driver of project success. Any change or revision on the side of clients could cause your team hours of extra work—and put a dent in your budget. It's okay to discuss potential delays and additional costs with your clients if they request modifications.

This situation is where a contract or statement of work is going to be very useful. There should be information that conveys that you will have to renegotiate price and timelines if there are changes requested which are outside of the scope. Also, don't be afraid to say "no" when necessary. It will save you and your team much stress as you get closer to your deadline.

Trust Your Team

One of the best things you can do as you get closer to your deadline is to trust your team. It will help you if you remember why you hired each person. Recall their skill sets and trust that you have delegated the right tasks to the team's best professionals. It is very easy to fall into micromanagement out of stress. Avoid this step. Not only does it put unnecessary strain on your teams, but it keeps you from having an overhead view of your team's projects. Trust that you have built a team that knows what they are doing and give them the opportunity to do it.

Establish Expectations for Check-Ins

Not knowing what is going on with your team can bring a considerable amount of stress. You can combat this by setting expectations for your team through check-ins. You can take advantage of these brief meetings by understanding what you need to know and planning these exchanges far out enough to ensure that the project stays on the right path.

For example, you may want to set up progress updates a week before significant milestones to help team members change course if the work needs to take a different direction. Knowing when these check-in moments are and planning around them can help you alleviate stress, as you already have scheduled time for brief progress reports before each milestone.

Use Longer Meetings to Your Advantage

Approximately, $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings per year. So, instead of just having meetings to have them, look at them as a way to propel your project processes forward. For example, if you are looking for detailed project updates, give your team a heads up about what you need so they come to the meeting ready to share.

Additionally, make these meetings serve everyone. If your team members have questions, create time during the meeting for this, and schedule offline discussions for any inquiries that need more explanation. Knowing that you have scheduled time to address your team members' concerns and have allowed them to keep you posted on what's going on will help you take care of some stress around the final sprint to the deadline.

Engage in Activities That Relieve Your Stress

Work-related tactics are not the only way to do away with stress. Whether you are two weeks, a week, or even a few days before a deadline, it's important that you have some non-work activities that can help you alleviate your stress. For some, this is yoga; for others, this is making an effort to take a walk or workout. Find activities that help you to release some steam and center your mind.

You'd be surprised how much easier it is to make decisions and lead your team to the finish line when you take some time away from work. Studies have shown that people bring a renewed sense of creativity and view to their work when they take a break from what they are doing. Again, you want to make sure you are available to support your team, but it's essential that you allow your mind to refresh.

Understand That You Can't Control Everything

As a project manager, your goal is to manage every aspect of the project process. From the budget to the deliverables, everything is under your leadership. Nevertheless, even with the best plans, things can and likely will go wrong. A customer may ask for a change, a team member may need to take time off, and you may be in danger of going over your budget. One of the best ways you can manage your stress is to acknowledge that something will go wrong and trust that you and your team have developed tactics to solve the problems that arise.

The Approach to a Deadline Doesn't Have to Be Stressful

It may seem impossible, but the last 48 or 72 hours leading up to a deadline don't have to be overwhelming. You can find a way to effectively manage your team and reach the end without experiencing strain. Know where the problem areas usually arise are and try the best you can to prepare for them.

However, the final takeaway is that even with the best preparation, things are not always going to go according to plan. Understanding this gives you the freedom to take care of what you have control of and work with your team to manage what you don't.

Sources:

14 Fascinating Project Management Statistics, https://hive.com/blog/project-management-statistics/

How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers

Infographic: The Cost of Unproductive Meetings, https://www.tameday.com/infographic-the-cost-of-unproductive-meetings/

Success in Disruptive Times, https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2018.pdf