I am a Project manager coming up to the two year mark and I have found that in comparison to my last role as a developer this job is a lot more stressful. With every new project there is always that expectation to deliver on time and at high quality leading to immense pressure and angry clients/stakeholders if it's not met.

How do you fellow PMs deal with this?

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    Not the answer you are looking for: I didn't. I went back to my happy life as a dev. – nvoigt Feb 22 '17 at 14:01

You are not alone when it comes to dealing with work stress and pressure. I have put together a few tips to help keep stress minimal, or at least how to deal with the high stress situations you may find yourself in as a PM:

  • Don't be reactive; Take the time to sort out what you can do about that particular situation. Identify the aspects of the job issue that you can control and directly influence.
  • Stop trying to do it all. There would always be more work, and I was never going to finish it in a single day – so stop trying.
  • Delegate tasks to others- it shows strength and intelligence rather than weakness.
  • Use resources to make process management smooth like business process automation tools.
  • Take regular breaks. Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project has shown that if we have intense concentration for about 90 minutes, followed by a brief period of recover, we can clear the buildup of stress. It doesn’t take much, just a brief 10-15 minutes can greatly reduce mental fatigue and help you avoid feeling stressed at work.
  • Improve eating and sleeping habits.
  • Breathe.

Good luck!


There are two parts to your question

How to deal with stress

This is largely out scope for this forum. However, you can find various answers on other stack exchange sites including

there is always that expectation to deliver on time and at high quality leading to immense pressure and angry clients/stakeholders if it's not met

This is the crux of your issue - you are asking for techniques to alleviate stakeholder concerns and also to generate flexibility in planning.

I am going to purposefully refrain from taking this into an Agile versus Waterfall direction which is where it will inevitably end up.

For now; let's break down your points logically.

As the Project Manager you have a responsibility to communicate a realistic and sustainable delivery mechanism for the project. If you are not well versed in the Iron Triangle then start here as your baseline.

Essentially it can be summarized that if at anytime either scope or time or cost is fixed then the other parts of the triangle must flex.

Agile achieves this through flexing on scope and waterfall project management traditionally flexes on time at the end of the project through extension and inevitably flexing on cost.

To cope with this you have several tools at your disposal

Your key message should be that you are communicating a range of estimates and ensuring that stakeholders fully understand the results of their decision making.

Most managers and sponsors can cope with bad news if they are presented with range of responses.

In addition, your key ally in dealing with stress as a project manager is your

It is almost impossible to become stressed about a project if you have correctly identified the risks surrounding the delivery and communicated those effectively.

I would also ensure that your communications structure is fully understood and that all meetings are effective and relevant.

I have designed the following images for you as a prompt to put that rigour around your project.

Communicating Effectively as a Project Manager

Six C's to Effective Comms

Effective meetings for a Project Manager

Six Types of Meeting

My last piece of advice is simply;

You are not alone as a PM. It may feel that way but you have a whole community of people in exactly the same lonely boat doing the same job under the same constraints. Reach out - you can blog, write, make SlideShares, capture lessons learned and work with peers. Don't keep your stress to yourself.

One of the key reasons for being a PM is to exert a level of control of your career and that means achieving a healthy work-life balance. No matter how stressed a project gets I never forget that my kids need taken to the cinema at the weekend and I am having dinner with my wife.

It's just a project, simply a big to-do list.

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