Project Management

What Do You Do When You Feel Out of Your Depth on a Project?

Feeling overwhelmed is like drowning in an ocean with no lifeboat to save you. This all too common feeling is something that everyone experiences at one point or another in their career. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, project leadership coach Susanne Madsen shares some simple ways to conquer the feeling of being in over your head on a project depth.

Grow Some Gills

When things seem to be spiraling out of control, the first thing to do is take a step back and breathe. Panicking is a normal human response under moments of stress, but it is one that comes from the emotional side of your brain. Unfortunately, when you are in an emotional state you do not think clearly, which can affect your ability to see the true nature of the problem.

In your calm, reflective moments, you should try to analyze the situation and identify the root causes of your distress. Most of the time, your inner compass knows how to guide you and uncover the real problem. Essentially, you will have to decide if a real, tangible problem exists in in your project, or if you are simply anxious about the project because you are uncertain of your abilities. It may help to outright ask your team how they think the project is going and where they might perceive problems growing. You can in turn take this feedback to a trusted colleague to ask that person what he or she would make of it, if you are still worried that you are too close to the project to view it objectively.

If there is a true, tangible problem, it is important that you establish some fundamental controls. The best way to establish these controls is to talk to others and create shared ownership. A few basic controls may include: having a clear definition of the project, communicating well with the stakeholders, having solid risk management, and establishing a clear way to track the budget.

On the other hand, if you are feeling overwhelmed but there is no real problem, that is indicative that you need a confidence boost. Life is a learning process, and it is through new experiences that people can grow and thrive. Believe in yourself and your abilities, because you would not be in the position you are in if you were incapable of handling it.

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