Be honest. How many days have you worked late this week? How many weekends have you worked in the past month?
How’s your energy level? How are your relationships with your family and friends?
I’ve been there. It is so easy to get sucked up into a never-ending marathon. Are there better ways to manage projects, reduce stress, and increase our productivity?
In 2008, I helped manage the largest, most complex program my company had ever undertaken. The purpose of the program was to re-engineer hundreds of business processes, replace insurance core systems (e.g., policy administration, claims administration, and billing), and train hundreds of people in 158 remote locations.
Going into the program, I knew I would work long hours for the next few years. I thought I was prepared. (After all, I bought all of the Eight O’Clock coffee at our local Publix grocery store. You should have seen the check-out clerk.)
As we kicked off the program, my world changed in the many ways. I:
- Worked longer hours, including evenings and weekends
- Dealt more with conflict
- Increased multi-tasking
- Felt increasingly anxious
- Spent less time exercising
- Spent less time with my family and friends
- Slept and rested less
Eventually, I had to see my doctor. After the examination, the doctor said that I had too much stress and needed changes in my life.
Charging Our Batteries
When we are busy, we often compromise the healthy habits that allow us to perform at our best. Rather than exercising, we spend more time at the office. Rather than having an engaging evening with our spouse or a friend, we check our email. Rather than going to bed early, we watch another TV show.
There is a price to pay for bad habits. Our health and fitness decline. Our focus and energy deteriorate. Our relationships weaken. These habits lead to physical, mental, and emotional distractions at work.
In order for us to perform at our highest potential, we must first take care of ourselves. As blogger and speaker Michael Hyatt says, “Think of it as the preparation to serve others.” It is a way to charge our batteries so that we can be fully engaged.
Changes in My Life Management Plan
After that memorable doctor’s appointment, I made the following changes:
- Increased the frequency and duration of my exercise program (ran at least 3 times per week for 40 to 60 minutes).
- Started eating energy-rich foods in smaller portions at least every three hours during the day.
- Decreased caffeine.
- Went to bed earlier in order to get at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep per night.
- Going to bed early, I learned to rise earlier. I read a devotion, prayed, and planned my day.
- Said NO to discretionary items.
- Delegated more activities.
- Went home earlier and engaged more with family and friends.
These changes were not a magic potion. However, within a week, I started feeling better. I was more engaged. I thought with greater clarity. I led with more energy. I was able to get more completed in a shorter period of time.
Question: What can project managers do early in their projects to reduce these problems? What advice do you have for other project managers who have fallen into these bad habits?