How you can tackle the Necessary evils one has to face and survive in the Line of Fire
Article by Dr. Pratik P. SURANA
Chief Mentor and Founder
As Working professionals every day we are faced with deadline stress when achieving key targets and milestones related to the management of campaigns, projects and strategies.
How can we manage deadlines in a way that is healthy for own well-being and development?
Over the last few years I have mentored and coached many senior professionals who have been challenged physically, emotionally and mentally due to deadline stress. This has caused many problems including health issues, inability to build and maintain mutually rewarding and supportive relationships and low self worth. After these professionals successfully applied the techniques below they were able to respond more effectively to deadline stress.
Choice – everything revolves around choices and consequences. In each moment you have a choice about how you respond. You can make the choice right now to manage deadline stress. To think anything less is dis empowering You may need to change past patterning and beliefs however this is a possibility. Awareness is the first step. With awareness comes choice.
Breath – breathing is an essential ingredient to manage deadline stress. Breathing needs to be conscious. You need to be aware when you breathe in and out – this is conscious breathing. When we are really busy working on projects, we are focused on doing, rather than being. Conscious breathing allows us to be present and we are able to be. We need to breath consciously throughout the day. To begin with set yourself a target. It may be as simple as: I am going to take 10 conscious breaths three times a day.
Boundaries – to manage deadline stress it is important to have and maintain appropriate boundaries with your colleagues and others. It’s likely that we will often be faced with competing deadlines and we may be asked to manage new projects. We need to be able to say “no” to others when appropriate – this demonstrates that we have self worth. If we are in the position to complete the project we may need to negotiate appropriate deadlines at the beginning of a project. In this situation we need to express what deadlines are manageable. This may not always please others however you are demonstrating self-respect.
Kindness – being kind to self and other is essential. It is easy to push yourself too hard when faced with an urgent deadline. Perhaps you don’t take a lunch break, are constantly on the go and work back late to meet your target. When you do this, are you being kind to yourself? What is your motivation for doing what you do? Are you motivated by the needs and expectations of others? Right now you can choose to be kind to self. How would it look to be kind to self? When you see what it would look like you can ensure that everything you do is in alignment with being kind to self.
Self worth – is your self worth tied up in your ability to complete a deadline? If it is, you will be constantly feel the pressure of deadline stress and you are not alone there are many people out there who want to prove that they are worthy. What we need to do is to recognize this within ourselves and then we have the power to make new choices. We can choose to embrace self worth – to release all thoughts, belief and biases not in alignment – and take time each day to sit with our own self worth.
By applying the five strategies above consistently you will be in a better position to handle deadline stress in your workplace in a way that is healthy to your own well-being
Project management is a field that is dedicated to deadlines. Every resource needs to be properly accounted for, with each person managed in a way that helps ensure project completion both on time and on budget. It’s no wonder, then, that project managers are subjected to a constant barrage of stress. The closer you get to a deadline, the more the anxiety you experience, and that anxiety is going to lead to a poor quality of life and errors in your decision making.
This type of stress may seem like a regular part of the job, but it’s unhealthy for both your mind and body. As much as your experience may have taught you that you can handle that level of pressure, your body was not designed to be stressed every time you have a deadline, and studies have shown that your own anxiety is often placed on those you oversee. That’s why it should be a goal to find a way to reduce this stress as much as possible and work more comfortably even as you get close to end dates.
How to Reduce Stress at the Deadline
• Get a Grip on Life Anxiety
In many ways, anxiety is cumulative. The more you experience from other aspects of your life, the more you’ll experience when you’re dealing with deadline stress. So look for methods to control the anxiety you experience away from work. See a therapist if necessary, integrate relaxation techniques into your life, refrain from activities that cause stress (this includes the little things like watching horror movies or spending time with friends that cause anxiety) – the less anxiety you feel away from work, the less anxiety you’ll feel at the deadlines.
• Teach People and Use SMART Goals
The great project managers plan for every little aspect of a project and utilize their human resources as best they can. But even the best project managers rarely teach others how to utilize the ideas in the SMART goal system, including multiple smaller goals that help not only the staff member plan their projects better, but will give you a much better method of finding out if the individual is still progressing at a pace that shows they’ll be ready by the time you need them. That level of planning and knowing that you’re tracking everyone’s work well will decrease overall stress on the project.
• Invent Fake Deadlines
Maybe there is something in the water, but far too many project managers use the actual deadline as a deadline. But often with large projects, there is ample time to invent a fake deadline that passes the stress on others to deliver on time, while you worry about keeping things on track. False deadlines give you plenty of time to handle any unforeseen errors, while still helping you put pressure on those you are waiting on to complete their projects.
• Keep Communication Open
Another issue that commonly affects project managers is withholding issues while you try to work a solution. But the more you hold back an important discussion (such as if there is evidence that the project may be behind) the more the stress of the deadline will be combined with the stress of waiting for the important discussions. Keeping communication open throughout will reduce some of the pressure you experience near to the deadline.
• Keep Track of Your Thoughts
Project managers should consider keeping a journal with them at all times. This journal is a place that you can write down any thought that comes to mind you need to remember. One of the interesting things about stress and anxiety is that when your brain has something that’s bothering it, it tends to increase your stress hoping that you’ll remember. Project managers often have thoughts roll through their heads while they work.
By keeping a journal with you, you can reduce some of the pressure you put on your mind. Write down anything that you know you need to remember, and review it as needed to help you keep track of those thoughts. This is a stress relief method that people use to help them sleep, but works just as well when you have a job that requires a considerable amount of mental energy.
Experience Less Stress at Deadlines
Japanese psychiatrists also use a technique known as Morita. Morita psychology focuses on the idea that when you have something that causes anxiety you embrace it like an old friend and move forward anyway, rather than try to suppress the stress.
The Meditation Way:
Project manager and meditation seem to be two opposite sides of the world. The link between these two becomes quite noticeable when work stress breaks something; either a manager a project or sometimes both. This article first discusses areas of work stress, its affect, and finally, steps to prevent it. Though in the article a project manager is used as an example, work stress can affect any living individual because every person is prone to it without exception.
Stress and Origin
A project manager is responsible for managing and undertaking projects. Though a project is always a temporary endeavour, it can bring permanent breakdown or burnout into a project manager’s life if not managed efficiently. The role of a project manager is comprised of many areas such as managing people, managing stakeholders, managing expectations of the client and so on. A project manager can easily get caught up in the enormity of the task, both mentally and physically. The end result is work stress.
Job stress or work stress is not always harmful, but it should be kept within limits. Within a limit, work stress forces us to stay on track. Similar to fear, stress has a biological purpose and is very useful. Many reactions start once we develop stress or fear. After stressful stimulation inside the body, chemicals are released that result in a fast heart rate, sweating and tightened muscles. This change in the body is also called the fight-or-flight response. If the body is exposed continuously to these natural responses, then it creates an adverse effect.
Project management contains many challenges and so creates stress generating entry points. The most common challenges that generate a stress level are:
• Unrealistic Deadlines
• Project Risk Factors
• Management Pressure
• Conflicting Situations
• Project Environment
• Career Expectations
And so on…
Stress after Effects
To meet all the requirements of the above factors, a project manager knowingly or unknowingly gets dragged towards more and more stress. The results can be serious. It may lead to sleep disorders, or eating disorders (eating either too much or too little). Those who already have addictions to smoking, coffee or alcohol find themselves more and more caught up in these habits. These addictions provide temporary relief from the stress, but gradually start spoiling the physical, personal and emotional aspects of their life. In this situation one may win a successful project eventually, but will loose everything else in his or her life. Successful project management does not mean a win-lose situation, but rather it is a win-win situation.
Research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has shown that the effects of stress are:
• Short Temperateness
• Upset Stomach
• Low Morale
• Cardiovascular Disease
• Musculoskeletal Disorders
• Psychological Disorders
• Workplace Injury
• Suicide, Cancer, Ulcers, and Impaired Immune Function
There are many ways to reduce stress levels and a few minutes of meditation seems to be the most effective if practised along with other stress management techniques. This does not mean you have to be a meditation guru or leave the office to practice it. Practising simple techniques of meditation is enough for a normal person to keep stress levels under control. Meditation involves making yourself relaxed physically and turning your attention inward to relax your mind. In short it is a mind body medicine. Here are some simple meditation steps:
1. Find a place where you can sit quietly and comfortably without any disturbance
2. Close your eyes
3. Start relaxing your muscles gradually from the top of your head to your feet
4. Breathe slowly and start focusing on rhythmic breathing
5. Witness everything and judge nothing
6. As you inhale visualise that you are absorbing energy and fresh air
7. As you exhale visualise that you are freeing your stress and tension
8. Repeat this for ten or twenty minutes
9. Open your eyes
This detachment of a few minutes from the outer physical world will make you feel fresh and energetic. This will also bring down your blood pressure to a normal rate. Productivity is directly related to your mental and physical balance and if you have good balance you can be more productive. Clear mental balance also helps you to develop concentration. Last but not least, if you feel fresh you don’t have to depend upon addictive substances like coffee, alcohol and tobacco.