There’s no denying that a Project Manager has an extremely tough job. Whilst most people believe they could take on the role of Project Manager, some don’t anticipate the high levels of pressure that come with the role. They are given the responsibility to plan, run and manage a project, sometimes multiple projects at a time. If anything goes wrong, they are the one’s that are held accountable and will have to give some good reasons for these failures. This article looks to give advice on how Project Managers can deal with stress to allow them to focus more on their role.

Most Project Managers will know that it isn’t a standard 9-5 job. You can find work creeping into your home life, doing a couple of hours here and there on your evenings and weekends. It’s difficult to keep a good work/life balance.

The below image is the Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve. It shows that whilst stress can sometimes initially help your performance, too much stress or stress at a high level can decrease your performance. Some people do work under pressure quite well, but if the targets set are unachievable or difficult within the parameters set, this can make people be less productive.

Yerkes-Dodson Curve Human Performance Curve Under Stress

Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve

Project Managers can deal with stress differently, some are able to leave it behind at work, and others can bring it home with them. This will not only have an impact on your personal health but also your family life too. Being in this job role means you sometimes can’t avoid stress, but you can certainly find ways to deal with it. Some common factors that can trigger stress are:

  • Unrealistic timelines
  • Lack of equipment/human resources
  • Lack of budget
  • The conflict between team members or other senior figures
  • Project environment

Stress is not something to be treated lightly and it’s important to recognise it sooner rather than later. According to research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the effects of stress are:

  • Headaches
  • Short Temper / Mood swings
  • Upset Stomach
  • Low Morale
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Muscle pain
  • Psychological Disorders
  • Workplace Injury
  • Suicide, Cancer, Ulcers, and Impaired Immune Function

It’s very important that you can recognise when you are dealing with stress, you learn how to cope with it. We’ve looked into some of the most effective techniques to help you deal with stress both at work and in your home life. Not only will these have massive benefits on your own personal well-being but they could also help you to lead projects more successfully.

Starting at home


If you’re surviving on 4-6 hours of sleep a day and copious amounts of coffee, change this routine now! Most adults need to have at least seven to eight hours of sleep each day. It might sound like a child-like thing to do to set a bedtime each time, but do it!

Developing a routine will gradually improve your sleep, boosting your energy levels and mood for the following day which will result in reducing your stress levels. Before you go to bed, try to avoid using technology (phones, television, and music). Also, start your routine about twenty to thirty minutes prior to your selected bedtime.

Exercise more

Like most office jobs, you will be sat a desk all day long, apart from your occasional trips to the coffee machine or bathroom. Although your boss may state otherwise, humans weren’t actually designed to sit down for 9 hours a day. Exercise keeps your heart healthy and oxygen flowing through your system. It can also release endorphins (happy hormones). Also if you have an office like ours with endless supplies or biscuits, it could keep you in shape too!

In the workplace

Be the voice of reason with team members

Being a Project Manager, you will inevitably have to deal with conflict between team members at some point in your career. Your reaction to this and how you deal with it is very important. Don’t avoid the issue and hope that it will go away. This will only help to inflate the issue even more. On the other end of the scale, however, don’t deal with it in an angry or strong way, this may only add fuel to the fire.

Learn to delegate

One of the most important skills of any Project Manager is the ability to delegate tasks to your team members. Utilise your human resources to help you do whatever you can, that’s what they’re there for. Evaluate some of your day-to-day tasks and see what responsibilities you could pass over. Small tasks such as taking minutes in a meeting, organising project meetings, these are all things that someone else can do so you can spend your time on more important things.

As a Project Manager, you may find it hard to relinquish some control. A good Project Manager can share tasks between their team members. It may not sound like it but you could actually be doing them a favour, helping to get them more involved in the project whilst learning more.

Stop being the ‘Yes Person’

Although you might be looking to prove yourself, try not to commit yourself to too many things. Having a heavy workload can be stressful. Sometimes it’s OK to just say ‘No’. Rather than point black refusing to take on extra work, you could suggest a date or time that would be more suitable for this. If you cannot avoid having too much work, try to prioritise tasks. Leave out tasks that are not vital for you to get done straight away to do at the end.

Make sure you plan

Before a project gets started, always make sure you plan the project out thoroughly. Make sure you have a list of tasks and keep this as up to date as possible. You can do this on basic planning software such as Microsoft Project. If you’re within a larger organisation, it may be wiser to use PPM software such as Microsoft Project Online. This will allow you to have visibility of numerous things such as tasks, resources, deliverables and milestones.

Take short breaks through the day

Try to get away from your desk at least three times a day, this includes lunch breaks. Get up and go and make a coffee, have a walk around. They say you can’t focus more than an hour. Giving your mind a short 5-10 minute can help to refuel your mind and feel ready to take on the next part of your day, leading you to be more productive.

(Try to) Stick to Deadlines

Each project should have deadlines and different milestones along the way. It’s important you try and stick to these. Without setting a due date, you won’t have any strict routine to follow and could up delivering the project late. If you are working to a deadline, you will be able to improve upon your time management and organisational skills. If you’re like me, you will know that there’s a certain sense of joy as you go through and tick items off your to-do list.

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By: Hannah Francis

Hannah Francis

Published: 10 June 2014

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