How To Diagnose And Treat a Project Manager’s Biggest Fear

PM Panic.

If you’re a project manager, surely you’ve experienced this.  It’s a very real diagnosis (I should know,  I watched ER for years).  Early symptoms of PM Panic include heightened blood pressure, anxiety, sleeplessness and an overwhelming sense of dread.  Causes may vary, but if left untreated, you may experience missed deadlines, budget issues and unhappy clients. Which can lead to…more PM Panic.

What causes a project manager to experience this?  And how often are these symptoms repeating themselves?  First, let’s look at some symptoms and then discuss ways to overcome it.

Most Common Symptoms:

Trying To Be Superman or Superwoman:  You’ve got way too much on your plate. You’re so overloaded with tasks, that you cannot get organized to work through them all.

Scope Creep:  Ahhh...scope creep.  It’s a sneaky fellow. You’re using too many resources and too much time with not enough money.  Definitely an 8 on the stress meter.

Good Ol’ Delays:  You’ve hit an unexpected setback in the process; something completely unforeseen that can potentially affect the entire outcome of the project. It could be losing a valuable resource or veering into a new budget issue.

Utter Hopelessness:  You’re staring a deadline in the face and fear you won’t make it.  Or you don’t even fear it- you know it. It’s a virtual guarantee you can’t make it happen.  If there’s a time machine somewhere, you’re not getting on it.

Cures For The Common PM Panic:

So, how do you treat this infectious disease? Because it is infectious you know. If you start to panic- so will your project team. Then nobody is being productive.  Chaos ensues and you’re up a creek with broken paddles.

But there’s a remedy for that.

First, get organized!  You obviously must start here.  Get all of your tasks in order by deadline, and focus on one thing at a time, making sure to check things off as you go.  Delegate if you need to, but remember, if you, the Project Manager, are not organized, then nobody is and you’re in trouble.

Second, you must have constant, open and honest communication with everyone involved. This includes clients, stakeholders, project team, resources, etc.  Keep everyone on the same page. That way if something unexpected occurs, people are a bit more understanding if there are bread crumbs in place beforehand.

Now, relax. Take some deep breaths. Focus on what’s most important and take things one step at a time.  Go home, have a glass of wine and decompress. You’re no good to anyone in the throes of a PM Panic attack. If you can follow these steps, you should be on your way to a full recovery, a finality that both you and your entire team can enjoy.

***Jamie Wagner is not a doctor or medical professional. In fact, some days she can barely spell her own name. Please follow the advice of your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of a panic attack.***

Image credit:  The Sam Barnes

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