5 Project Management Tips to Help You Through a Tough Day
Ever have one of those work days where nothing goes right and you find yourself wanting to just go home, pull the covers your head and maybe even cry a little? My friend, you are not alone.
To give you a little background about myself, I’m a Type A woman, at least during my day job. My work style is well suited for my role as a Digital Producer. What’s that you ask, well I focus on working with internal teams at our marketing agency and delivering projects for our clients within the budget and on time. Super easy, right? Ha!
As a project manager, I’m challenged in more ways than you might expect. I’ve had to pick up projects without any organization to them, I’ve dealt with difficult clients with unreasonable expectations (as well as difficult internal parties with unreasonable expectations). Budgets have been blown and so have timelines. And some days I find myself saying “Can ANYTHING go right for this project?! I just want to curl up in a ball and cry!” I’m sure my project manager readers know this feeling too.
Don’t get me wrong, most days I’m ridiculously organized, my teams are collaborating better than ever and my project is running smoothly. However, there are some days where everything seems to be going wrong, and every step forward seems like a step backward instead.
Here’s how I deal with those kinds of days.
- Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath.
Ever received that frustrating email from a coworker or a client. I’m guessing you know the kind of email I’m talking about so I won’t say more. It’s easy to react quickly and unprofessionally in these types of situations. If it’s something where a response can wait a day, do just that. Take a deep breath and try to get it out of your mind for the day.Once you’ve had time to sleep on it, the response the next day will be formulated in a much nicer and more professional tone. If a response is needed sooner, still take the time to take a step back for a moment. Get up and walk away from your computer. Take a stroll around the office. Say hi to a friend. Take a few deep breathes, and then respond. If it’s something that is said in person or on the phone, it is appropriate to say you need to think about how to respond to their concerns and need some time to formulate a response. Taking the time to get your mind clearer and in less of a reactionary state will benefit you in the long run. The last thing you need in those circumstances is an argument to break out because you reacted poorly.
- Try to see it from the other person’s perspective.
Using the example of the frustrating email again… try asking yourself WHY this person sending this email. Maybe the answer is simply that they are having one of those kinds of days too. You don’t need to make their day worse by reacting negatively to an email.From a client side, why is it that they need something done by the time they are asking it done by? Maybe they are just excited to see the project to be completed and a little patience is needed. Or, maybe there’s an important need for it to be done by a certain time like a radio ad that will be going live tomorrow and directing traffic to your site. If what they are asking for is completely not achievable, then what is achievable that will make both you and your client happy within that time? Try to understand the reasons why someone is saying what they are, and it will be easier to come up with a solution.
- Look on the positive side.
Cliché, I know. But seriously…you really have two choices when something negative happens at work – 1. Let it ruin your day or 2. Brush it off, look on the positive side and still have an “okay” day at the least.As a project manager, there are so many things that can happen to a project that’s out of your control – a main person on the project gets sick on the most important day, glitches were caught in QA that were unexpected and pushes completion date back, the assets given to us were not up to our standard and cause issues down the line, the project was sold in too aggressive of a timeline or budget…the list goes on, you get it. It’s important not to take everything that goes wrong in a project personally, or you’ll never make it! Try to focus on the positives…QA caught a bunch of things before deployment, and it pushes your timeline back. The client is upset that the site is going live late. BUT…it is better that QA found these things before site deployment and they are getting fixed so that there aren’t glitches in production. It’s important to remember the positives things. Not only will it improve your attitude, but it will help you show the client the positive side of it as well.
- Focus on one thing you can do to work towards solving the problem
Ever had an issue come up during a project that completely derails everything you worked towards up until that point? The problem may seem so big that you can’t even imagine getting to a point where the issue will be solved and the project will be complete. Recently, we had a project to implement SEO recommendations. We had been working on the project for months and we thought we were almost complete. We had implemented all of our SEO recommendations in a staging site and the last remaining steps were to get our QA team’s approval and push all of the recommendations into the production site. Simple! However, the QA team came back with the longest list I had ever seen of issues he found with the staging site. It didn’t have anything to do with the SEO recommendations we implemented, but it turns out the previous developer handed off an incomplete staging site (even though he said it was complete). Long story short, it didn’t make sense to fix all of the issues with the staging site because of how time consuming it would be. Our solution we recommended to the client was that they should rebuild a new site in a new platform. It made more sense with how long the current site had been up and for what platform they were on, which was causing many issues already anyway. Although this situation was far from ideal, it ended up being the best thing for the client.If something like this happens to you, don’t panic! Get all of the major stakeholders in one room so they are aware of the issue and so you can come up with a solution together. Does it makesense to keep going down the road you were travelling down before this issue occurred, or is there a better solution given what happened? Once a long-term solution is defined, begin to focus on one thing at a time. Ask yourself, what is the most important thing that needs to get done today to start working towards solve the issue? In the case of the terrible, no-good staging site, the first step was to schedule an estimating meeting for the new solution.
- Learn from it!
Once the dust has settled from your bad day, the most important thing to take from it, is how can we prevent these types of things from happening in the future? Even if it wasn’t your mistake, there may be ways you can prepare and prevent for these types of scenarios. For the “terrible, no-good staging site” incident, I learned that whenever you receive an asset from another party, whether it is a creative asset or a staging site, you need to have a thorough internal asset review of it BEFORE starting any work. Trust me, lesson learned. There will be internal asset review time added to all of my projects moving forward when receiving assets from a third party.
Ok, enough advice from me. Admittedly, I’m always learning. That’s what’s great about being in the digital realm! You are in an environment where things are changing constantly and you are learning and growing constantly as well. Although it can be challenging at times, it’s a fun environment to be in. I hope these 5 tips will help get you through your next tough day - It’s a good reminder for me at least! Any other helpful tips on the subject? Please leave your thoughts in the comments! We are always looking for new ideas and ways to improve our work life.