There must be thousands of self help books on how best to handle stress, and, in a way, the mere process of reading them is probably therapeutic in itself. But although I, as a manager, am reasonably good at identifying stress in others and to helping them keep a balance, I find it so much harder for myself.
Luckily, for my clients, the times I become stressed are mostly in my private life or when trying to balance work and leisure. An example: I find it so hard to accept that a builder can simply get away with following their own planning and begin working somewhere else, before their work for me is completed, simply disregarding any agreement or promise that may have been made.
During contracts, even running the most intensive and complex projects, I can always find ways of keeping my personal stress levels under control. My first student job (working in a very busy restaurant) taught me that when everything is beginning to pile up and there is no end insight to the chaos, to simply focus on the thought that a calm period is just around the corner. It is there but not yet in view.
Someone once told me that when you are in the middle of a crisis, you should imagine the situation like the passing by of an island on a boat. Soon you will be watching it gradually disappear into the horizon behind you. It is hanging on to the notion that it will pass that often gives us the strength to carry on and to calm our minds sufficiently so that we can think more clearly.
As I say in my book: 'Making a Difference':
‘Observe someone in a stressful situation, such as a live interview or a television
quiz show where everyone can see them make a fool of themselves. If we assume that to qualify they had to pass a series of preliminary selection rounds, why is it that for many contestants, their otherwise quick and sharp brains become so slow and muddled? When posed the question why was Schubert’s 8th Symphony called ‘The Unfinished’? It seems that such a simple question, asked under stressful conditions, can raise all manner of ridiculous answers from otherwise intelligent, well-educated people.
However for some of us, no sooner have we gone through one crisis point we are immediately faced by another and then another. Or even multiple crisis points, all converging at the same time. This is often because we become so accustomed to taking on challenges and solving problems, that we forget that we need to take on less and learn to say ‘no’, once in a while!
You maybe wondering why I raise this subject this week? Well perhaps its because I have the builders in at home, and my peaceful zen inspired living room is looking like a Chinese laundry, there are people drilling holes in the ceiling and dragging water pipes through the bedroom, scope creep has entered the project like never experienced in my professional life, and it’s hot and the ready mix concrete is going hard, while there is still a debate going on as to where the foundations should be!
I think how can this happen to me, after all, I am a professional project manager? But there is nothing you can learn that truly adequately prepares you for handling builders, domestic suppliers and family members that come up with new and ever more challenging projects in ever reducing timelines!
The good news is, writing this blog has helped a bit, the blood pressure levels are finally receding! Have a good week and don’t let yourself get wound up unnecessarily, especially over things that you simply have no control over (like builders, family demands and the weather) 😉