Fortunately, through rigorous planning, effective communication, and the use of the right project management tools, PMs can eliminate the majority of stress as they progress towards deadlines.
Implement a realistic project delivery strategy
How can you reduce the stress of completing a project without “padding” the project delivery dates? If you’ve ever felt the stress of delivering your project on time and on budget, you have likely asked yourself that exact question.
Planning your delivery strategy based on best-case scenarios can lead to unrealistic deadlines. On the other hand, a padded schedule (where your dates are overly conservative) has its drawbacks. You’re tying up resources that could be used elsewhere and decreasing your team’s productivity. Plus, by creating conservative schedules, you could be losing clients that aren’t willing to wait that long.
The key is to create a project delivery strategy that is not overly pessimistic or optimistic. You want to balance meeting deliverables with optimizing team efficiency.
You can use a proven project framework (such as agile or waterfall) to help you map out your project structure. Then involve your key project stakeholders in creating the strategy and schedule to reduce the chances of something being overlooked or poorly estimated. Don’t forget to include a reasonable contingency buffer to help mitigate risks to the schedule (this is often 5-15% of the project budget). You can use a contingency planning software to make this process easier.
Allocate resources effectively
Proper allocation of resources can go a long way toward alleviating the stress of project management. Effective resource allocation ensures you have exactly who and what you need when you need it. Plus, planning around your people can boost your team’s performance and productivity, resulting in lower costs and higher quality project deliverables.
To allocate your resources effectively, make sure you assign the required resources to each of the tasks and activities in your project delivery plan. You should assign the actual people and assets, not generic roles like ‘developer’ or ‘designer.’
Remember to make sure the resources you need will be available when you need them. It may be easy to say Dave is going to do your design work next week. But what if Dave is on vacation or already fully booked on other projects?
Communicate with stakeholders
Stakeholders can be a significant source of project stress. Consider an executive continuously asking for project updates, a customer disagreeing with the deliverables, or a team member misunderstanding what they’re supposed to be doing. All of these are problems that can be avoided with effective communication.
Project management should never be done in isolation. Everyone who has a stake in the success of your project should be aware of your plan, your progress, and any risks, issues, or changes.
By proactively communicating with stakeholders, you help relieve your stress and theirs as well. Research shows that communicating bad news is hard for just about everyone. But if you share potential issues early and deliver the bad news first, stakeholders are likely to be more receptive. Plus, you don’t have to stress about hiding problems from them.
Communication and transparency tend to go hand in hand — and they’re both vital for reducing stress on projects. Transparency refers to maintaining open two-way communication with stakeholders (including your team and customer) about the status of the project. It ensures that everyone knows what’s going on at all times.
Have you ever felt like a key piece of information was being hidden from you? Or maybe you had to go ask three different people about an action item before you were able to find out it’s status? These are signs that your project doesn’t have enough transparency.
When your team is transparent with you, it helps you stay up-to-date on progress and potential issues without having to micromanage them or continuously ask for updates.
There should never be a question of who is responsible for which action or when a task is supposed to be completed. Plus, transparency can increase team collaboration, which leads to greater engagement, lower worker fatigue, and higher success rates.
Top tips for reducing project management stress
Implementing a realistic delivery schedule, allocating resources effectively, proactively communicating, and ensuring transparency can go a long way towards alleviating project stress.
Here are some additional solutions to answer the question, ”how can you reduce the stress of completing a project?”:
- Build standard processes and templates: The more standard processes, templates, and forms your team has, the less there is to worry about. Plus, processes and templates can save time and reduce the possibility of errors, both of which can lower your stress levels.
- Prepare for change: Something unexpected will inevitably happen during the project life cycle. By monitoring and mitigating risks, staying on top of project progress, and contingency planning, you can be assured that when issues suddenly arise, you have the capacity to handle them.
- Cut out time wasters: Do you have daily meetings that add no value? Do you create reports no one reads? What about micromanaging your team or doing work that could be handled by someone else? By delegating and getting rid of low-value duties, you can focus on what's value-added.
- Focus on being a leader: One of the most important roles of a project manager is to motivate, coach, and lead your team. When you focus on helping them improve, their productivity increases, and quality improves, meaning you have less to stress about.
- Use tools to streamline your processes: Why spend hours creating a report in Excel when software can do it for you with the click of a button? Adopting tools for resource management, time tracking, and other project functions can save time and improve the quality of project deliverables.
- Celebrate the wins: It’s easy to focus on the issues and problems your project is facing. But by acknowledging what is working well and what your team has already completed, you can reduce stress, boost employee morale, and improve overall team performance.
- Embrace lessons learned: Not every project will go smoothly. But every bump in the road is an opportunity for future improvement. At the end of each project, you should gather your team to assess what worked, what didn’t work, and how things could be handled better if you were to face similar issues again.
Wrike project management software can help you implement a realistic project delivery plan, streamline your processes, and provide transparency into your projects. Get started today with a free trial.