Project Management Institute

Avoiding burnout


Robert Bryant, PMP, knows instinctively when things are off kilter. “I can tell when the client sponsors, stakeholders and project team are pleased,” he says. “When I get a sense that this is not the case, I know it's time to take action to keep the project on track.”

Like any good project manager, Mr. Bryant, a consultant from North Granby, Conn., USA, relies on detailed planning at the onset of an engagement. “That will pay off 10-fold for the client, team and project manager,” he says. “When team members are clear on expectations and have the necessary information, the project manager is free to focus on communication, coordination and addressing fires as they arise.”

But also like other project managers, Mr. Bryant must address unforeseen issues—scope creep, for one—that can easily undermine project control and set off a chain reaction. In this case, focused change management goes a long way toward prioritizing out-of-scope changes and reducing the amount of time spent managing a myriad of additional requests.

Still, dealing with the daily onslaught of issues—especially with complex endeavors—can leave a project manager feeling overworked, overstressed and unprepared for the next problem. Best practices make projects easier to handle, but successful project managers must develop individual strategies to overcome the threat of burnout.


Keep Your Head

Proper delegation right from the start helps maintain a balanced workload, says Rich Lanza, PMP, president of Cash Recovery Partners LLC, Lake Hop-atcong, N.J., USA. Take the time up front to realistically establish project constraints in cost and time, he advises. “Don't wing it when someone pressures you to come up with a plan because of their own deadlines. Utilize sound planning and scheduling techniques.”

Of course, for project managers lucky enough to be involved in the selection process, it helps to put together a good project team. The more competent individuals are at handling smaller issues, the less time you'll spend micro-managing them. “Find the right people for your team and be creative in getting the talent you need,” says Joy Gumz, PMP, director of Project Auditors LLC, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., USA.

The more competent individuals are at handling smaller issues, the less time you'll spend micro-managing them.

If you had no choice in your team members, Ms. Gumz advises project managers to identify team members' individual strengths and capitalize on them. Try meeting with all of the team members individually to see what they want to get out of the project experience. If you can help them achieve their goals, they will probably more willing to work for you, she says.

When faced with a definite, tight deadline, Brenda Treasure, implementation manager with Venue Technology, Melbourne, Australia, has learned to be creative in organizing her priorities and managing her time. As technology manager for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, which draws 4,500 athletes and thousands of staff and volunteers, she doesn't have time to waste. “I document and highlight every task in a bound notebook, whether they come from meetings, workshops or general office chats. This way they are documented, can be prioritized and deadlines noted. There are no loose pieces of paper that can be lost, and it's easy to prepare status reports for my manager on the tasks he's requested.”

Be Realistic

Even with all that planning and delegation, you can still feel like things are spi-raling out of control. You may be asked to do more or take on another project and if you say no, you risk being perceived as not pulling your weight. “‘Yes, I can do that,’ is a common response,” says Frank Parth, PMP, president of Project Auditors LLC.

Yet, always agreeing to do one more thing leads to overload, stress and burnout. Before taking on an assignment, discuss your availability with executives and don't hold back concerns over time management. “We need to teach project managers to follow change assessment in their own work when asked to take on more,” Mr. Parth says. “We teach them to assess the cost and schedule impact of any requested changes to their projects, but we don't teach them to do the same thing with their own time.” img

Robbie Miller Kaplan is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., USA. She writes on career and workplace topics and is the author of nine books, most recently How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say (Prentice Hall Press, 2004).

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

<< << FEBRUARY 2006



Related Content

  • PM Network

    The Youthquake Arrives

    A new generation of project talent is rising around the world. With Gen Z entering the workforce in real numbers and more millennials taking on management roles, organizations are being dynamically…

  • Why Great Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure They Don't

    By Vargas, Ricardo Viana | Conforto, Edivandro Carlos | Oumarou, Tahirou Assane To reduce failure rates and successfully deliver strategies in 2020 and beyond, organizations must overcome disruptive forces and flip posing challenges to opportunities and advantages. It all…

  • Project Management Journal

    Senior Project Leadership Skills and Career Stallers member content locked

    By Floris, Maurizio | Wiblen, Sharna L. | Anichenko, Ekaterina We know little about which leadership skills matter most and according to whom in the career progression of project leaders. This research suggests that high- performing senior project leader talent…

  • PM Network

    Vital Signs

    Transforming horizon-focused strategic visions into here-and-now reality can't happen in a vacuum. Instead, project leaders must cultivate a deep understanding of the business, technological,…

  • PM Network

    Erasing Boundaries

    By Khelifi, Yasmina As more projects have a global scope and scale, it's increasingly common for project professionals to manage stakeholders around the world, juggling time zones, technologies, languages and other…