As managers we often face long-term projects and initiatives that test our metal. Our IT department is near the end of an initiative that has evolved over a seven-year period. It has encompassed many projects, many departments and a lot of my time.
Now with less than 10 weeks left until the end of this initiative the end is finally in sight. Over the next few months I plan on sharing some of the ways our department, our team and myself personally were able to survive a long-term project.
There is no doubt my role in this project has made me a better manager. I have learned a lot of lessons, some of them the hard way. The personal lessons I have learned about are time, limitations and priorities.
I am sure any manager who has faced long-term projects knows that one word TIME is the biggest challenge you face. The demands on your time can be overwhelming. Trying to maintain a work/life balance can be a huge challenge.
As I sit here at home writing this I know in the back of my mind I should be working on my report or any number of other tasks I need to take care of this weekend. One thing I quickly learned was to bring home the work that I could and not stay late in the office. It is Saturday, the weekend before Christmas, I have work that must be done, but at least I am at home.
Learning to prioritize my time has been essential during this project. If I let it work could consume every waking moment of my life. Learning to sit aside time for my family and my escapes such as blogging was essential to maintaining my balance.
One method I have used that has benefited myself and my team is to stay ahead of deadlines. When you have a known deadline to get something done, get it done, get it out-of-the-way as soon as possible. You will have less stress and more time to deal with those “must do now” issues that always arise.
You Must Know Your Limitations
Projects or work in general can not only demand a lot of your time, but can also take their toll on your health. Most of my lunches are at my desk, but I make myself go out for lunch at least once a week. I don’t skip meals and I make sure to take the time and measures to keep myself healthy.
Mentally the demands of work and in particular long-term projects can increase your stress level. I quickly learned stress is an enemy best dealt with or it will wear you down. Learning to take time for myself, even if it is a few moments at work was important. The mental breaks go a long way to relieving the level of stress.
It is important to know your physical and mental limitations. The phrase “work yourself to death” can become a reality if you let it. Structure your time at work and at home to make sure both your physical and mental health do not suffer. It is hard to give 100% at work when you are worn down and stressed out.
Family comes first plain and simple. Don’t ever let the demands of work come between you and your family. Hopefully you are blessed as I am with an understanding family. While I am no longer faced with 60 hour/6 day work weeks for months on end, by the time you add in work from home my job still consumes a lot of my time.
I leave work as close to “on time” as I can and come home and finish what I must. I set limits on how long I work at home, and my wife helps me stick to them. “Just a few more minutes” is a common phrase for me, but one I have to use less often now.
Knowing how to prioritize has been essential. It all comes back to time. You only have so much of it and you need to make the most out of what you have.
- Myself – don’t think it is selfish to put yourself first. If you do not take care of yourself you are no good for any of your other priorities.
- My Family – as I said, family always comes first.
- My Job – I will admit sometimes this priority jumps to the top, but I try my best to keep it at this level.
- Everything Else – This is where blogging falls. If you have followed this blog for long you know my posts have fallen off. Even though the end of this project is near, it was accelerated over the past few months and consumed more of my time. As much as I love blogging other priorities have demanded my time and attention.
I love writing and sharing with others, but the demands of work have left me with little time for it. Even though there are more project and initiatives on the horizon, at least with this long-term project I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to sharing with you things I have learned along the way.