Photo Credit: Matthew Sleeper
In January 2016, I was assigned to a half-million dollar project consisting of 5 people: a project manager, 3 senior consultants and myself (a junior consultant at the time). Two weeks into the project, 2 of the senior consultants resigned from the company, and I was cast into the role of being responsible for half the project. I was excited at the opportunity but also awash with many emotions.
- Fear – do I have the right skills to deliver a quality product?
- Anxiety – how am I going to do all this work?
- gratitude – what a great opportunity to learn
- happiness – look at all the cool things I’m learning
- sadness – I wasn’t going to work with my friends (the senior consultants who resigned)
The project manager, a senior consultant whom I admire and respect, is a great leader and like all great leaders she helped me gain confidence in my abilities, and guided the project to massive success. After the ordeal was over, I sifted through what had happened searching for lessons I could carry forward onto my next projects. While reflecting on how the project had unfolded, I realized that I was under a lot of stress and didn’t realize it. It also hit me that there were a few techniques I had unconsciously picked up by working with the project manager and fellow team members.
In essence, the three keys to effectively managing stress are as follows:
- Cultivating a positive attitude
- Mastering prioritization
- Expending excess energy
Cultivate a positive attitude
“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining”
In a difficult situation it’s easy to complain and criticize everything that’s going wrong. However, I found that staying positive and searching for the silver linings helped me stay focused. There were times I felt overwhelmed with problems, but by focusing on the positive aspect –learning something new– I worked with my team to fix any problems that arose.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”
Working on that project, I learned the importance of prioritization. Especially when faced with project deadlines, it was important to get the most important pieces of functionality completed by specified dates. Taking a step back and prioritizing the tasks in order of importance provided a clear indicator of progress. Click here to read about the system former president of the United States, President Eisenhower used to prioritize his tasks.
Expend excess energy
“Let it go”
When we’re stressed, our bodies prepare for a fight or flight response by releasing the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. This winds creates tension and makes the body feel tight and constricted. Being in this constant wound up state creates discomfort, and I found two ways to release this build-up of tension:
- Intensive physical activity – such as going to the gym
- Meditation – focusing on breathing and centering oneself
These tips have saved me from giving into the pressures of consulting and have helped me effectively manage stress in all aspects of life.
What are some of the ways you manage stress? Let me know in the comments below.