A number of things made me change.
The defining moment was a coaching session in which I discussed my issues with stress and managing my workload. Within just one hour, I realized that one of my core beliefs was that project management is inherently stressful (and painful), and there is nothing I can do about it. At that stage in my career I had been managing projects for well over ten years, and my experiences told me that project management was a very demanding and stressful job. Period.
Recognizing that project management does not have to be stressful was a true eureka moment for me. I instantly understood that my belief was subjective, not the objective truth, and that I had the power to challenge it and change it. What a shift that was! Understanding that my belief was not necessarily true allowed me to start working with it and to slowly dissolve it and become more effective and valuable in my job.
When you realize that you have the power to change your beliefs and remove a limiting factor that has been constraining you, you have an “aha!” moment. You feel relieved and empowered.
My eureka moment made me pause, take a step back, and do less.I did this to regain my energy and to free up time to collect my thoughts. And then something magical happened. New ideas started to pop up, and I began to see patterns and connections that I had not noticed before. I looked at the bigger picture and started to understand how I could leverage my strengths and work more effectively. I gave myself the opportunity to be more proactive and to work smarter.
I had a closer look at myself as a project manager and the values that were driving my work. I examined my own worth, and I explored my boundaries. Why was it so important for me to work long hours and to micromanage my team? Was there a better way to get things done? I had to acknowledge that it was not the hours I put in that mattered, but the quality of my work. I realized that in order to produce better-quality work, I would have to change the way I spent my time.
One of the changes I made that had a significant impact was delegating more. I recognized that I could not do everything by myself and that I needed to get better at asking for help and support. I got a project administrator on board to help with lower-level task tracking and administrative work. It was essential work, but it was not essential that I did it.
When I started delegating more, my focus shifted. I spent more time liaising with the team and key stakeholders, listening to their ideas and concerns and looking at what we could do better. I started focusing more on picturing the end state of the project and proactively reducing the risks associated with the road to getting there. This shift enabled me to become more proactive and effective, and to leverage my strengths better.
Today, I put as much emphasis on people as I do on tasks. I listen, I build strong relationships, and I trust others. I manage and lead people in a way that complements their individual needs, as opposed to micromanaging everyone across the board.
If you are facing some of the same challenges as I did, first free up time to think clearly. Maybe you feel stressed because you spend too much time being reactive and not enough time on pro-active and strategic project activities. Maybe you too, need to get better at delegating, saying no and levering your strengths better.
A good way to go about this is to identify the 20 percent of tasks and activities you do during your day or working week that produce 80 percent of your results. What are the activities that you do really well and that make all the difference in your performance and increase the likelihood of project success?
Then identify what you can do to focus relatively more time on the 20 percent of tasks that matter. Which activities do you need to stop doing in order to create more space for the 20 percent that matter? How can you start doing that?
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