Are you feeling a sense of exhaustion, low-grade anxiety, and burnout? You’re not alone. We’re living through tough times right now with the coronavirus pandemic—our lives and work projects have been upended, and it takes everything we’ve got to keep things afloat. Keeping a positive attitude with all of the challenges and uncertainties can be difficult.
Even in the best of times, maintaining positivity in a challenging work environment can be tough. When you’re a project manager, juggling deadlines, budgets, and human resources, it’s easy to get swept away by worry, but keeping a positive attitude can go a long way in boosting, not only your mood, but your productivity.
No matter what your situation is at this moment, it’s important to stay positive and keep your chin up. Whether you’re in the middle of a big project trying to keep things afloat or networking via the internet for your next gig, it’s tough to feel in control and happy when almost everything is out of your control. Fortunately, there are small things you can do that can lead to some big shifts in attitude. Here are some ways to improve your mood and boost your attitude throughout any crisis or hardship that comes your way.
Get Organized and Create a Workspace
We’re all going to be in this difficult situation for a while, so now’s a good time to develop some new habits that help you live your best life. Rather than keeping a running mental list of all you have to manage and do, consider using software and tools instead to help you keep track of the details. The less you’re having to track your responsibilities and tasks in your mind, the more space you’ll have in your brain for dealing with the unexpected and challenging times that inevitably pop up in your work.
Find a designated space in your home to create a workspace, and set it up to help you work as efficiently as possible. All of the items you need to get the job or jobs done should be within reach of that space. Items scattered all over will interfere with your focus. Prioritize your mental health by spending time at your workspace only during the work hours.
Develop a Routine and Schedules
As a project manager, you’re used to rolling with the punches. A “routine” for a PM can look different every day, depending on the size and stage of your project, but schedules and routines are hugely beneficial, particularly now. Create a flow that helps you get your most important work done during the time of day that you’re most alert and productive. Take breaks every hour, and end each day preparing for the next. It’s often challenging to know what the next day will bring, particularly if you’re also parenting while working right now, but developing (and sticking to!) a schedule eliminates ambiguity. When creating your daily schedule, think about what it takes to “move the needle,” or what you will be able to look back at the end of the day that demonstrates your forward progress. Break big challenges into smaller tasks that have an obvious done/not done status to help yourself stick with the plan and avoid overwhelm.
Prioritize Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is hard to come by, especially when you’re the project manager and everything seems to rest on your shoulders. Spending too much time either working or thinking about work is a sure-fire way to end up feeling burnt-out. With most of us working from home these days, it’s even harder to separate work life vs. home life, but this time is presenting us with a chance to gain control of our work-life balance, and define a new way of living. Think about what an ideal day would look like for you, and then get to work developing a plan—and schedule—that feels good and doesn’t have you feeling stretched and over-worked every moment of the day.
Carve Out Time for Self-Care
Self-care in the middle of a project? A pandemic? When you’re possibly homeschooling your kids, too? Self-care may sound like a pipe dream to some of us, but it is more important than ever to carve out time to do something that helps spark your inner joy—even for just 30 minutes a day. Whether you go for a run, get lost in a good book, or sit outside in the sun for a while, find something that helps you improve your mental and physical health, and make it a daily habit. It’ll help you feel more grounded and steady when dealing with life and work stresses.
Stay Focused on the Big Picture
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the uncertainty of the current times we’re living through, and suddenly find that we’re sweating the “small stuff” in ways we wouldn’t have before. Avoid catastrophizing, and instead, focus in on the big picture. The truth is, the “small stuff” is going to feel much larger than it really is when we’re already struggling with overwhelm or feeling tapped out. Instead of letting the little mistakes and setbacks derail you or your productivity, look at things from a broader perspective. Ask yourself, “Will this really matter a week from now, or five months from now?” This will help you more accurately assess the significance of what’s happened, and realize that most of the things we’re fretting about can be handled one thing at a time (and likely won’t affect your project too much).
Do Something Kind for Others
As a project manager, your team members will be looking to you to set the tone, mood, and expectations for the project and for productivity especially during times of hardship and crisis. Useful, practical acts of kindness are good, not only for the person you’re extending kindness to, but they’ll also benefit you. Researchers have found that people who do random acts of kindness each week report feeling happier overall. The more tangible the act, the better. Think of who you can extend kindness to. You may think of this individually or consider pooling together resources with your team and doing something as a group to help your community in some way.
No matter what, don’t add more stress or demands on yourself than necessary. We’re all going through so much, and it’s important to acknowledge that we likely won’t be working at peak performance for a while until we adapt to this ‘new normal.’ A positive attitude is more than just plastering a smile on your face. It’s about prioritizing your mental health and self-care. The ability to stay positive during challenging times will not only help you get through with solutions that work, but can help you bounce back stronger and more resilient than ever before.