In our last post we talked about using a three step process for emotional self-management. The basic three step process is helpful for most situations. Here are some additional techniques you can use to manage your emotions:
- Reduce your stress level – Project managers should be familiar with the need to reduce stress and have at least one method that they employ. There are a multitude of stress reduction methods starting with easy things like exercise and self care all the way through more radical approaches like getting a new job or leaving an abusive relationship. Previously discussed techniques include prayer and meditation. My mentor Rich is a big believer in breathing techniques. The point is that there are a lot of different ways to reduce stress and I encourage you to experiment until you find one that works for you. On the other hand, if you are one of those people who thrive on stress and intentionally create stress in your life, what I write here won’t matter much to you anyway.
- Conduct an inner dialog of Self-Parenting – You may find that you benefit by speaking to yourself as if you were parenting a small child. Replace any harsh self-talk that you do with kind and gentle words. Just don’t do this out loud in front of your project team.
- Talk it out with someone – Besides having several different mentors and coaches outside work, I have had the luxury over the last 2 years of having a good friend and member of the same program management team who was always willing to be a sounding board for my ideas. I found this invaluable. If you don’t have someone in your professional life who you can bounce ideas off, find someone. It is a bonus if you can also ask them to hold you accountable to make changes or follow through on your commitments.
- Give yourself a timeout – If you find yourself heading toward a breakdown, give yourself a timeout. Leave the building, go to lunch early, leave for the day or just head out to the nearest Starbucks and buy something. Try screaming in your car with the windows up- it can be exhilerating.
- Write a letter or email you will not send – This is a technique that Abraham Lincoln reportedly practiced; he is said to have written several letters he never mailed. The idea is that through venting yourself, you release any emotional charge. Just be careful that you don’t actually end up sending something inadvertently. I make it a habit to add the addressee last.
- Use appropriate humor – There is nothing like laughter to remind us to not take ourselves too seriously. Crack a joke, watch some comedy, read something funny (I like Dave Barry), or find someone funny to hang out with. Scott Adams is great at skewering project managers in the Dilbert Cartoon; check out his collection on line. If you can afford it, add a really funny person to your project team. Of course they would need to have an official role and work assigned to them or your project sponsors might not find it all that funny…
I hope these techniques and the topics related to self-management have been helpful. In the next post, we are going to shift gears and begin to talk about Social Awareness and what that means to project managers.