Project Stress Management Using The Work

The original builders of this abandoned cement structure might have benefited from some project stress management.
Construction on the Grand Hotel in Kaleden, BC, began in 1912, but never was completed. Today, the structure is a central monument for the small town.

Do You Have a Project That’s Stressing You Out?

Projects require a lot of patience, and they can take months, years, or even decades to complete. Sometimes they never do get completed. And often, especially in the beginning, there is little reward for all of the time, energy, and money spent.

If you’re not in a really balanced place internally, a project can easily become a source of stress. Project stress can come from time pressure, pressure from a boss or client, money pressure, as well as internal pressure to succeed.

How Do You Deal with Project Stress?

One of my favorite ways to deal with stress of any kind is The Work of Byron Katie, a simple way of questioning your stressful thoughts. This can work as well for project stress management as it can for relationship stress management, or any other kind of stress.

The first step is to identify what you’re thinking about the stressful project. I often start by writing my stressful thoughts free-form: “This project is too much. I don’t like it. I want it to be over. I’m not sure I can really do it. I need to do a good job. I’m a failure.”

Then I may use the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet to go in a little more closely. To use this worksheet, I need to think about who or what is causing me to feel like a victim. Maybe it’s my boss, or a demanding client, or a parent or coach silently witnessing the whole thing, or maybe it’s an obstacle that I’m unable to remove.

Once I identify who or what is making me feel stressed, then I can write a worksheet about it.

A Client Recently Wrote About Her Project as a Whole

I love what she wrote and, with her permission, I share it here.

Before she began writing her Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, she started by making a list of “offenses” that the project was doing to her. In other words, she brainstormed about how exactly the project was making her feel like a victim. Here’s what she wrote:

The project is complicating my life.
It is making me question my abilities.
It is not making itself fully available to me.
It is confusing me.
It is bringing me down.
It’s tying my self-worth to it.
It’s slow and unmanageable.
It’s too good to be true.
It will take forever to do.
It’s keeping me stuck.
It takes over my life.
It doesn’t give anything back.
It doesn’t do anything.
It puts all the burden of responsibility on me.
It makes me feel like everything I care about in life is in it and it’s not giving it back.
It’s not ready, great, beautiful, and done yet.
It’s out of control.
It’s controlling me.

She then went over this list and identified which statement best described what the project was doing to make her feel victimized by it. This was the main cause of project stress for her. And she picked that statement to be her Line 1 statement for her worksheet.

Here’s Her Worksheet

1. I feel exhausted with the project because it puts all the burden of responsibility on me.

2. I want this project to be done.
I want it to be easy to manage.
I want it to tell me how to do it.
I want it to be successful.
I want it to be beautiful and good.

3. It should organize itself.
It should spell out clearly how it needs to be done.
It should clarify the time scale and what is attainable.
It should tell me which part it wants me to do and which part is just inspiration.
It should make perfectly clear how to make money from it.
It should make perfectly clear what my precise role is.
It should tell me how many people need to work on it.
It should tell it’s scale.
It should spell out all of its demands.
It should be planned and diagrammed.

4. I need it to apologize to me.
I need it to apologize for taking so long to come out.
I need it to realized that it hurt me.
I need it to respect and reward all the work I’ve done on it.
I need it to start bearing some fruits as a gesture of good will.
I need it to become a little easier.
I need it to say it wants to support me.
I need it to say it wants to help.
I need it to say it will be doing things now to help make things easier on me.
I need it to say it wants to come out.
I need it to thank me.
I need it to want to thank me.
I need it to tell me that it’s here for me to help it grow.
I need it to tell me that I’m the right person for the job.
I need it to tell me that it wants to work with me.

5. It is messy, demanding, unreal, embarrassing, deceitful, messing with me, way too long, dragging, not ready, too ambitious, part-fantasy, too abstract, slowing me down.

6. I don’t ever want to experience the feeling that I’m almost done with it and then discover that I’m not again.
I don’t ever want to feel completely stuck with or by it again.
I don’t ever want to feel like my life and self-worth depends on it again.

Just Getting this out is Project Stress Management

There is something therapeutic about just writing all these stressful thoughts—getting them out of the mind and onto paper. I especially love how she personified her project which was “holding her hostage.”

Of course, she knows rationally that the project can’t do that, but she allows herself to write from the emotional, stuck place inside that believes it. That’s how she uncovered the irrational beliefs that make the project stressful.

Now She Can Use the Four Questions of The Work of Byron Katie

She can now go through each line of her worksheet, question it, and turn it around. When she does this, she will discover very specific things she can do. This will reveal her own personalized project stress management plan.

For example, she may start to “do things now to help make things easier on herself.” She may “apologize to herself.” She can “spell out which part she wants to do and which part is just inspiration.” She can “plan and diagram it.”

The stressful thoughts about the project, when turned around, become her directions for how to do the project in a more peaceful way.

You Can Do This Kind of “Project Stress Management” Too

Follow the example of my client above and write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on your project, or on your boss, or client, or on any aspect related to your project. When you do, you’ll find an amazing list of statements that can be questioned and turned around.

And when you do The Work on them, you’ll find ways to make it manageable. For me, it is always my thinking that makes anything stressful. When I question my thinking, my stress starts to shift.

If you want to listen to other people doing this process of The Work, download my Open Session recordings from 2019 (23.5 hours total).

Have a great week
Todd

“Being present means living without control and always having your needs met.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

Further reading: What’s Really Bothering You?

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