Two weeks ago, I wrote about the emotional intelligence domain of self-management. One of the things discussed was the need for project managers to reduce the stress in their lives. The ideas I mentioned ranged from easy ones like exercise and better self-care to more radical ones like getting a new job or leaving an abusive relationship.
Then I read what Tom Asacker had to say about stress in a Clear Eye. His point was that we need to focus on the cause of the stress, not on dealing with the stress itself. He provides 10 ways to reduce our stress from #1 Be Passionate to #10 Take Risks. Read Tom’s complete post here.
While I really like what Tom wrote, and I think he said it better than I did, I have a hard time letting go of the idea that project managers need to do both. That is, both eliminate stress as much as we can and manage the stress in our life. Our projects require us to deal with multiple competing and conflicting priorities, demanding stakeholders, and high-performing but often high-maintenance team members. The context, at least for IT projects, is that a majority of the projects are not considered successful. So the job is by nature stressful.
Is it possible that project managers are “stress junkies”? Just thinking about the demands of project management makes my pulse race. Maybe with the demands of projects and the low probability of success, the people who sign up to manage projects are just doing it because they are addicted to stress. It feels a little like taking big risks and living life on the edge. The question is, how do we do it without getting all stressed out about it?