The role of the project manager is notorious for requiring long hours and creating a poor work/life balance. Juggling the demands of multiple parties and hitting deadlines can involve a lot of work. The stress of being in charge of a big project can take its toll, many end up leaving the profession because of it.
So how can you stay balanced as a project manager? How do you avoid burnout? Here we cover some of the ways to achieve a decent work/life balance.
What is burnout?
Researchers have identified three main types of symptoms for burnout:
- Exhaustion – extreme tiredness, poor memory, frequent illnesses
- Alienation – isolation, negative outlook, agitation
- Reduced performance – less engaged at work, missed deadlines, procrastination
Experiencing these symptoms now and again is perfectly normal, we all have bad days. But if they last for a protracted period, it could be a sign that change is needed. Studies show that over two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout at least once in their careers.
When people suffer from burnout, it can affect their personal lives as well as their work. Employees experience a lack of motivation and it’s characterized by persistent fatigue and a lack of enthusiasm. That’s why It’s important to address the cause of burnout before it takes hold.
How to stay balanced
1. Manage your time
Do you feel in control of your time? The answer may well be no. It’s all too easy to fill up your diary with endless meetings and find that the only time you have to do any actual work is if you get to the office early or leave late. You don’t need to be at the beck and call of your colleagues all the time. Make sure you schedule several hours a week when you can work uninterrupted. Have a ‘do not disturb sign if necessary, you don’t need to be always on hand to answer questions.
Schedule meetings based on your availability and that of the team. Only hold them if absolutely necessary and stick to the agenda. Meetings can frequently be a waste of everyone’s time so make sure they serve a purpose. Prioritize what is important, if there is no time in your diary for a meeting it will have to wait, the project won’t grind to a halt if you have to delay a meeting for a couple of days.
2. Review tasks and goals
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do a good place to start is by discussing this with your line manager. Tasks can be allocated to other members of staff and work delegates. Deadlines could be moved and goals reassessed. It’s important not to just suffer in silence but to talk to someone in your organization about it.
3. Take frequent breaks
Make sure you step away from your desk every 1-1.5 hours, that is how long we are able to concentrate before our brains need a break. Even 5 minutes away from the computer will do you good. Try to get out in the fresh air at lunchtime, a walk-in nature will refresh and rejuvenate you. Always lunching at your desk is a bad habit to get into, you need to take a break.
4. Make sure you get enough rest
When we are busy our sleep tends to suffer, but it is vital that you get enough rest. Without enough sleep, our concentration and performance are seriously affected. Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s most successful men, ensures he always gets 8 hours of sleep. If he can manage it, then so can you.
5. Differentiate between work and home life
Try not to take work home with you, it’s important to switch off and have a separation of work and home life. This can be difficult to accomplish if you are working long hours and want to be available for your team and clients. However, the project is not going to fall flat because you didn’t send an email at 11 pm.
Technology today means that we are increasingly available at all times. Nevertheless, this isn’t healthy for you. Try to resist the temptation to check your emails in the evening and leave work at the office. If you are working from home, try to schedule an activity for after work like going for a run or to the gym. This then creates a barrier between work and home.
6. Work from home once a week
Working from home will allow you to focus better without the distractions of colleagues so you are more likely to get tasks completed. You can use the time you would normally spend commuting to catch up on household tasks too. The break from the office will refresh you.
MD of exhibition stand contractor Black Robin Exhibits, Alan Jenkins, has continued to allow his staff to work from home for some of the weeks, he said ‘We found, during the pandemic, that productivity didn’t fall and the staff preferred to work from home some of the time, so we have allowed it to continue, it seems to be good for morale and happy staff is more productive.’
7. Take holidays
According to one study 2 out of 3 employees report working while on holiday and the average employee (of those who receive vacation/paid time off) has only taken about half (54 percent) of his or her eligible vacation time/paid time off in the past 12 months. Holidays are essential to rejuvenate you and give you a needed break from work.
8. Look after your health
Eating well and making sure you get enough exercise is important to avoid burnout. Schedule specific times to exercise into your week and make sure you stick to them. If work is stressful, practicing yoga or meditation/mindfulness can really help to clear your mind and leave you refreshed. If you get ill, make sure you take time off, going to work sick will not help you achieve anything and you won’t be popular with your colleagues.
Being a project manager is a stressful job which if you’re not careful can lead to burnout. In order to prevent this from happening it’s important to take steps to stay balanced. Following these tips should help you achieve that balance and avoid burnout taking hold.