Project Practitioners > Are You Stressed?

Are You Stressed?

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


“Stressed is the achiever word for ‘fear.’” – Tony Robbins


Everyone is stressed. Just look at social media reminding everyone to breathe and relax. Deadlines are approaching. Budgets are busting. People are quitting. Nothing is getting done. Stress, stress, stress.


Tony Robbins reframes this as the achiever's word for fear. The fear of the unknown. If the deadline is not met, what are the consequences? Some contracts clearly state liquidated damages, and you know at least one awful consequence. Others leave it up to interpretation.


Achievers fear the gray area. Clear cut issues are easy to determine. One team scores more points than the other. One person makes more money than the rest. One contractor or vendor produces more than anyone. These are measurable items that can be adjusted throughout time. If you can measure it, you can control it.


Achievers fear the unknown and the uncontrollable. Let’s reframe stress as fear and start to measure fear so we can manage it. How can we do this?



Journaling –

Write your fears down. Journaling is a fancy word for putting pen to paper. What is stressing you out? Write it down. Why is it stressing you out? Write it down. Who can help you delegate or relieve the stress? Write it down. Be honest, or at least do not lie, about what is the stressor and the cause.


This step makes your fears actionable and concrete. In project management, what can be measured can be managed. Journaling puts a quantifiable quality to your fears. There they are right in front of you. You may not necessarily know what to do, but now you know they exist.


Take the next steps, or act. Again, the direction may not be known, but there is only way to find out, and that is put yourself out there through action. If you can delegate the fear, do it. If you have to face the fear head on, do it. The action takes away the unknown which helps reduce the stress/fear.


Read –

Guess what? Others may be going through the same issues or have already conquered your biggest fear. Most likely someone has written about it. Your fear is not as unique as you think.


While we all like to think we are somehow special and one-of-a-kind, there should be no issue reaching out for help. Books are a great way to take that next step while still keeping your cards close to your chest. Do you want to be a great leader? Read an autobiography from a leader you admire. Do you want to start your own consulting business? Pick up a book written by a successful entrepreneur.


If you find yourself dreading a task, the For Dummies brand probably has a basic how-to guide for the stressor. Excel, done. Outlook, done. MS Project, done. Gantt charts, done. All of these examples can be taken care of by spending a few minutes every day learning a new aspect of each and applying it to your situation.



What’s the worst that could happen?


Ask yourself this question about each of the fears you listed previously. Again, be honest, or at least do not lie. Is the fear of hurting your reputation real or based on your ego’s interpretation? Is the fear of not knowing the answer in an important meeting a worst case scenario or does it make you human?


Most of these fears are ego-based. The worst that could happen is people may think less of your ability. Is that real or a misinterpretation? Are you projecting reality or is your ego hurting?


Your team knows that you know what you are talking about otherwise the project would not be where it is, and you would not be where you are.


Also, factor in probability to your worst case scenario logic. Of course, an apocalyptic event could occur but what are the chances? The dog could eat your homework, but how likely is that?


Breathe –

Wim Hof, aka The Iceman, climbed Mount Everest in nothing but shorts and shoes. You read that correctly. Shorts and shoes only. He credits his breathing techniques for his ability to survive extremely cold environments. Most people would classify this as an extreme stressor. Meanwhile, he welcomes these challenges.


His breathing techniques give an example of one way to overcome fear/stress. Rather than panicking and freaking out because of the cold, his students remain calm and use his techniques to get them through unbearable situations.


Is the upcoming meeting as extreme as a polar plunge? Unlikely, so these techniques should work for you. The technique revolves around one long inhale and a few quick exhales. Each time, more breath is coming in than going out. Try it for a few moments and see how you feel.




“Stressed is the achiever word for ‘fear.’” – Tony Robbins


Project managers are stressed. Project managers are achievers. This simple life math means project managers are fearful. Write these fears down and measure them. Start to get inside your head as to what is stressing you out and why. Get to the root cause of it. Treat this experiment as one of your projects.


Look for subject matter experts. Someone has written a book on your problem and come up with a litany of solutions. You find a plumber to fix a leaking toilet. You call an electrician when the lights do not work. Find the expert in your fear to relieve the stress.


In the end, just breathe. Remember, what’s the worst that could happen?

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