PM Tips: 4 D’s For Stress Aversion

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Does just hearing the topic of time management create anxiety and stress? You are not alone. Creating deadlines and managing projects is the fun part of project management. When those deadlines are challenged, you typically aren’t the only one who is noticing. This is where the stress can begin.  

Say you have a meeting with your boss this week. You know this project will come up in your meeting. How are you going to handle the question? Make something up? Give excuses for why it is delayed? Or are you going to do a rundown of why it is late without blaming anyone and what you are doing to correct it? 

Fight or flight leads us into the first two options. When you are prepared with full knowledge of your project and have your risk management plan in place, you can be more at ease knowing you have everything in place. I understand how easy this is for me to write versus being in the situation.  

So, what happens when you have your risk management plan in place, and you are still stressed about the deadline? The 4 D’s are a starting ground to ease your mind. The 4 D’s are: Delete, Delegate, Defer, Do. 

  1. Let’s start with delete. Are your own tasks falling behind causing a delay in the project? Time to evaluate your daily routine and to-do list. How much time are you spending on emails that are junk and a waste of your time? Set up filters for these or simply bulk delete. Many employees spend 80% of their time on activities that are time suckers and not necessary. 
  2. Within your project plan you probably already have tasks delegated to others on the project team. This is the time to look at your resource allocation. Do you have too many tasks on one person? If there is another person on the team who can take on some of the workload, this could free up your plan and move it along. There is nothing wrong with delegating to others or taking on the task yourself. Think about how hard it is to ask for help. When someone offers to help and it is within their skillset, take advantage of that offer! 
  3. Another option is to defer a task to a later time. Review the project plan and the tasks. Are you able to move your task timelines around? Maybe you have put together the list of tasks in order of importance, but one task that is at the top of the list is taking much longer to complete when a lower task could be completed in no time. You are still accomplishing task completion but in a different order. Alternately, you may find that tasks that aren’t crucial to the project plan can be deferred and may become obsolete to the plan. Not every task you defer is non-essential. You will need to evaluate the deferred tasks once your plan is back on track. 
  4. When all else fails, just do it. With the one touch rule, if you can complete the task there is no reason to defer or delegate. When you take the time to review the task, determine if it should be moved to another person on the team, then assign it to that new person for them to review and complete, that could be four touches or more. If it’s valuable to the project and your team to take on the completion of that task, then take the time needed to complete it in one touch and move on. 

Project managers need to be able to work with a level head. Stress and anxiety are inevitable, but how we manage that stress is what makes or breaks your success. I definitely have anxiety when projects are falling behind, but I don’t let the anxiety get the best of me. The anxiety fuels me to figure out next steps and alternate options in order to keep the stakeholders aware of any issues before they hear it from someone else on my team. Once I have alternate options for the project plan by following the 4 D’s, I experience a sense of calm.  

Ultimately, different tactics work for different people. This is one of many project management tools that may just work for you too! 

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