Is every project an insanity inducing stress factory? Stress less with these 11 tips:
01) Always tell people that it will take longer than you think it will, because you are wrong and it will.
You think the project will take 3 weeks? Don’t tell anyone that it will take 3 weeks. You’ll have a computer explode, get stuck in the Hungarian corn husking district, or somehow end up getting married in Vegas. . . whatever it is. . . it will be something that makes this project take twice as long. . . at least. So just tell them it’ll take 6 to 12 weeks. If you get it done in 3 then you’re a genius and if you get it done in 12 they have nothing to complain about.
02) Be aware of time sensitive resources and schedule the use of them appropriately
If your project requires having access to the Brahma Kamal which only blooms once a year at midnight. . . then you’d better schedule access to that plant on that night. Seriously. Not paying attention to when resources expire, are unavailable, or cease to be relevant will only lead to failure and then more stress. Be aware and schedule properly.
03) Be aware of accessibility to human resources and schedule appropriately.
If you have coworkers, employees, bosses, clients, and family members (most of us have at least some of these) that you need involved in a project be sure to take note of which days and times they are and are NOT available. If Joe Tableaux is gone every Saturday, don’t expect to be able to send him a request on Saturday and have it filled by Sunday. You should be able to figure out availability by one of two methods: Asking or Paying Attention. (Feel free to mix both methods) Not keeping the schedules and availability of others who are involved in a project in mind when trying to schedule the project will only lead to failure. . . which will lead to stress. Be aware and schedule properly.
04) Put the “Shit List” away. Keeping people on a “Shit List” keeps you stressed, keeps them stressed, and does not improve any situation – ever.
Bob didn’t bring you that triple-espresso-mocha he promised? Susan forgot the final page on that 78 page report and you had to explain the details in front of the board without the reference? Merlin took your dragons and made them fight while pretending to give a prophecy? Let it all go! Keeping hold of the anger associated with these events keeps you focused on the anger, keeps them focused on you being angry, and keeps everyone from focusing on the project! Your “Shit List” is decreasing your morale, their morale, and more importantly the efficiency of your project or projects. All of this will lead to projects not getting done, overdue assignments, more shit for the list, and more stress. . . Do yourself, them, and your project a favor. Let it go.
05) Know when to cut bait
Sometimes we lose. Sometimes what we’ve invested gets tangled up and we can either keep fighting for it and break ourselves trying to keep it. . . or we can cut the line and let the hook, bobber, worm, and fish go. It’s hard to say exactly when the right time to cut bait and start over is. However, if you’re knee deep in the water and your feet are dry. . . it means you’re head down in the lake. That’s probably a good time to cut bait and go up for air.
06) Don’t worry about lost bait.
Yes. . . you lost that peachy keen client. You’d spent four weeks wooing them, but in the end it turned out they wanted too much for too little and you’d have been eating dinner in a cardboard box while setting them up at the swank Hotel down the street. You think about all the money and time you invested in wooing them and it will drive you mad. So don’t. No really I mean it. Spend a good night out in the world commiserating with coworkers, family, friends, etc and then put the thoughts of that away and move on to wooing the next client. Don’t stop trying to gain, just because you’ve lost. Take note of the loss, learn from it, and take what you’ve learned with you to the next client.
07) Keep expectations realistic. Take note of the past, take note of the present, and look forward to the future with the reality of the past and present in mind
One of the biggest contributers to stress is simply having unrealistic expectations. If Bob is always three days late with his projects (but otherwise brings in great results) then always give him a due date that is at least three days before you need the project completed. If you need blooming shots of the Brahma Kamal then don’t schedule the photographer for 3:00pm. Unrealistic expectations are a road to failure and shame. If you keep your expectations realistic it’ll make keeping things under control much easier. If you can manage to keep everyone else in realistic-expectations mode as well then schedules, projects, and tasks will tend to go smoothly.
08) Make time for you and make sure everyone you work with or are involved with knows that it is your time.
If you don’t take time away from the job, the friends, and even the family then you are going to stew in stress. Everyone needs time to themselves and it is not unreasonable for you to take this time. Make sure that everyone is aware of your time for you. Make sure that you do something you enjoy: watch movies, play pool, write a novel. . . play Pacman . . . You need this time away from your job (or whatever increases your stress) to decompress and detoxify. When you return you will be clear and ready to work hard. If you don’t take this time you’ll start to fall apart at the seams, lash out at coworkers, family and friends. . . and just generally destroy yourself and everything around you. Take the time you need to step away and come back better than ever!
09) Know your own habits, strengths, and weaknesses. Set due dates, work time, and goals within the reality of how you work effectively
You know yourself. Probably been with yourself for years now. You know if you tend to procrastinate. You know how long it takes before you NEED to step away from a task. You even know when your blood sugar level is getting low and it’s time for a bonbon. So . . . keep this stuff in mind! Don’t underestimate what you can do, but don’t overestimate yourself into a corner with no place to run and deadlines closing in! Keep things scheduled in a way that keeps you working and out of the ulcer ward.
10) Do not say yes to everything that is sent your way. If you agree to do everything then you will fail at everything.
If you automatically agree to work on every task that is sent your way then you will VERY quickly have too many tasks. All of the tasks will be done poorly because you won’t have time to do them well. Some will not get done at all. . . and in the end. . . you will have people with deadlines and crazy eyes asking you where the Q-42 forms you promised last week are while pointing sharp objects at you. . . Like that time Susan came into my office with a halberd. . . Save yourself the stress (and the expense of blood transfusions and stitches). When you have enough on your plate turn new tasks away. The requester might be irked for a second, but they will find someone else who is not already at capacity to take the project. Trust me. Say no and save everyone a halberd experience down the road.
Yes. There are other people who can handle those tasks. They might be able to do them as well as you, better than you, or at least 80% as good as you. Even if they can only do those tasks almost as well as you can and you could do better. . . how important is that little bit of “better” compared to you not having to personally do everything? You might think it’s very important. . . If you’re not a heart surgeon, nuclear physicist, or military commander, then you’re probably wrong about that extra bit of “better” work being important. Let someone else work on it. This will free up time and energy for you to focus on other tasks. It’ll also keep you from being stressed out by an overabundance of tasks.
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