The Healthy Project Manager

Matching up wellness coaching and motivational interviewing techniques with project management—along with inclusion and inspiration—is my goal.

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Cheap and easy ways to reduce your stress

Have you stepped back and looked at yourself?


As Project Managers, do we have a spring in our step?


Cheap and easy ways to reduce your stress

I know someone will say they don’t feel or accept stress, but for some of us (even if we love our jobs) being a project manager can be stressful.  As PM’s we are responsible for project success and team spirit, we are constantly checking the horizon for risks, are juggling stakeholder management and much more.  Daily we are bombarded by e-mails, voicemails, texts, calls, the person stepping in asking for an unscheduled and urgent report, a new risk, virtual team complications and you know what I’m talking about.  Sometimes we do what I refer to as……”tap dancing as fast and as hard as I can on a moving floor”! 

For balance, these are 10 simple and cost effective ways I manage stress.  Consider trying one or more:

  1. Incorporate extra steps into your day:  I do this by taking at least one walk around the block during business hours.  I work on a hospital campus, and purposely use the restroom in another building which forces me to step away from desk to walk for a few minutes each day.  I avoid the elevator and take the stairs when possible.  If appropriate, I walk to a co-workers office or desk to talk vs. creating another e-mail.
  2. Take mini vacations:  This means I have pictures of my grandkids around me to make me smile and bring me a sense of calm when I gaze at them.  It is only a second or two, but having a photo that recalls a pleasant memory or inspires in some way sparks joy and reduces stress.
  3. Thanks:  Spend a minute or two saying thank you every day by penning an e-mail or handwritten note to someone deserving of genuine appreciation.  This has many benefits and I’ve realized writing these notes, there is a physical smile on my face washing away stress.
  4. Stop and breathe.  Try this one:  Breathe in for the count of 6, hold your breath for the count of 6, then exhale for the count of 6.  I use this technique-right before an important outbound call, the start of a meeting or when switching between projects and find it very helpful.
  5. Alive and Green:  Studies indicate indoor plants can reduce your stress and improve productivity!  Simple and easy with most plants only needing a little water once a week.  You can find a small plant for very little cost.  Some examples are ivy, an African Violet or even a bamboo plant.  They improve the quality of the air around you and can offer you a measure of peace.  I enjoy Gerber Daisies in my office.
  6. Snacks:  Nutritional snacks can help you keep a sustained energy level.  I try avoiding caffeine as much as possible because it can lower your mood and energy once the initial boost ends.  Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I love everything about a good cup of coffee – but I’ve realized too much caffeine is not helpful.  Some snacks I enjoy are trail mix, banana chips, string cheese or huckleberry licorice.  My choices might not be yours, but make sure you have enough water and snacks available in case you need a lift. 
  7. Ha-Ha-Ha:  Find ways to laugh.  You know that funny coworker – go hang out with them by the water cooler and laugh.  My daughter sends me funny sayings she finds on Pinterest every day.  It takes just a moment to read them for a good giggle, but this not only helps me relax but often I can share the funny with others to brighten their day too.  Sometimes I share one or two at the beginning a meeting, it just brings a lightness to the moment and calms others.  Laughter is like medicine.
  8. Call Me:  Phone a friend or have lunch with your friend in person.  You know, your soulmate kind of friend.  My best friend of 27 years lives far away, but we schedule a lunch call twice a month.  We eat our lunch and connect heart to heart – different than the other days when we communicate via text.  During these calls, a sign is posted on my door reading “If you hear laughing or even crying – everything is OK.  I’m on the phone from 12-1 with my best friend”.  Several of my coworkers saw the sign and decided to try it with their friends – we all agree it reduces stress!
  9. Melody:  Music is another stress reliever.  Studies indicate music improves your mood and even reduces stress.  Music is often used for therapy.  Now music is so easy readily available – I use my cell phone with earbuds and if no one minds I use the computer speakers making this pretty simple to incorporate into the business day.  I listen to my favorite songs near the end of my day to help me transition from work to my family at home.
  10. Quote of the day:  Find inspirational words from someone you respect and admire.  This could be spiritual, a note from your child, an online quote or a passage from a book.  Find something worth reflecting upon and read it before starting your day – maybe post it nearby your desk for a stress reliever. 

I’m hoping one or more of these things will be something you can try.  If you have other cost-effective stress reducers, please consider posting them below.  I can’t be the only PM with a stressful workload!

Posted on: August 05, 2019 06:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Have you stepped back and looked at yourself?

Have you ever asked someone to shadow you while facilitating meetings to provide feedback - with the goal to measure and improve your PM performance?  It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is an excellent way to grow.  Some ideas:

Self-improvement:  Several years ago I created a Meeting Mentoring Observation Worksheet and asked several people to score me during a meeting.  I try to do this at least 1x year.  The scoring is charted on a scale: 1 (poor) – 5 (exceptional) and I asked mentors to score me on some interesting things like:

  • My overall communication skills
  • How prepared I was for the meeting (agenda, documentation, knowledge of subject etc.)
  • My understanding/comprehension of the conversations during the meeting
  • How important it was to hold the meeting – could the information presented in the meeting have been shared more effectively in any other format (report, graph, e-mail, etc.)
  • How the meeting flow and organization of thoughts came across to others
  • My speaking tone – professionalism/respectfulness to others
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Recognition of others
  • Skill at asking open-ended questions
  • Active listening skills 
  • And more….Asking for feedback allows one to explore the perceptions of others.  It’s a great way to double check my personal style and look for opportunities for self-improvement beyond some typical things like taking a class or increasing my knowledge in some way.

Self-development:  Grow, grow, grow – I try to stretch myself.  For example – volunteering to speak at PMI chapter meetings or seminars.  It’s a great way to grow and develop personally while sharing insights with others.  Volunteering is a wonderful way to increase self-development.  In November, I will be speaking at the PMO Symposium 2019 in Denver, Colorado.  Scary, but an excellent self-development opportunity!

Self-control:  Ever get hot under the collar during a meeting or take something said in a meeting personally?  I’m trying to learn to subdue my emotions in meetings – not easy for a “Type-A” personality, but there is actually power and strength in this.  It’s allows one to step back, enabling longer pauses, waiting for responses, not spitting out the answers so quickly but allowing others to find the right answer before stepping back into the conversation.  Listening more.  Instead of sharing my perspective, I’ve been trying to spend more time asking others about their thoughts and viewpoints.  If someone uses a statement that bubbles up an emotion, I try to spend an extra moment pondering it from their vantage point before responding.  This takes self-control and is another excellent aspect of growth and development.

How do you encourage self-improvement, self-development and self-control?  I’m anxious to hear what works for you!

Posted on: July 01, 2019 05:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


Categories: Leadership, Leadership

  • SHOCKING - The numbers are staggering - according to the Balance Careers 60-million Americans are affected by workplace bullying.  60-MILLION AMERICANS!  Bullying doesn’t just occur in America – it is a global issue.  In January, I posted a PMI poll question on this site asking if others have experienced bullying in the workplace and 77% of responders said YES, they have encountered bullying. 
  • CONFLICT IS NOT BULLYING - Conflict is important for project success – as project managers we strive to create an environment where differences of opinion and perspectives are encouraged. 
  • BULLYING IS - Unwanted, aggressive and disrespectful behavior used to control or harm others and this negative behavior is repeated over time.  It often escalates and corporations can brush it off as a “leadership style”.   Clive Boddy presented a TED Talk about these bullies he calls “corporate psychopaths” working in all industries creating chaos and confusion to forge their own careers and agendas by bullying. 
  • VICTIMS - When we were kids, the bully on the playground often picked on the smallest, weakest, or the child who was different in some way.  As adults in the workplace, however, the bully often targets someone skilled, popular, kind, ethical and honest.  The workplace bully thrives on watching victims squirm. 
  • WHAT IT FEELS LIKE - The pain of bullying is the worst part with victims reporting very real health issues ranging from dread and worry, shame and exhaustion to disrupted sleep, PTSD, migraines and even suicidal ideations.  Victims feel powerless and are suffering.  This is unacceptable.
  • HIGHER ED – Research by Routledge Taylor & Francis Group indicate higher education organizations are at risk for fostering workplace bullying.  We hear of military hazing, in healthcare there is a known phrase about “nurses eating their young” and bullying even occurs in the legal profession.  In many industries, hostile behaviors are well known and surprisingly these industries are often in fields of higher education.
  • SUBTLE BULLYING – PM BULLYING? – Do we ever assign work before knowing if the timelines are reasonable?  Do we only discuss problems, errors or issues without celebrating milestones or acknowledging the efforts of others?  Do we understand harsh teasing, spreading rumors/ gossiping, ignoring individuals or even getting in the personal space of others can be lesser forms of bullying?
  • COST OF BULLYING – Bullying isn’t just hurting the individual.  Bullying tears down company culture by increasing absenteeism and decreasing presenteeism.  It influences healthcare costs.  Beyond this, it affects employee turnover, can lead to litigation……and for us project managers, bullying can directly lead to project failure. 
  • WHAT CAN YOU DO?  - Lead by example.  As a project manager, help your company create zero tolerance policies around bullying.  Enable conversations about bullying – create awareness.  Do not tolerate bullying in your meetings and quickly confront bullying when witnessing it by standing your ground without emotion – use the facts and document every time witnessing or encountering bullying behavior.  Hold bullies accountable for their behavior with disciplinary consequences and make this part of your organization’s cultural values and norms.  Make a stand!
Posted on: June 05, 2019 06:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

As Project Managers, do we have a spring in our step?

Categories: Leadership

Here in North America, spring is in full bloom – it is beautiful!  The season is abundant with new life and renewed energy.  It made me wonder if I have a spring in my step?  The Cambridge English dictionary describes a spring in our step as walking energetically in a way that shows happiness or confidence. 

As a project manager – is that what I portray? 

The most effective project managers are the ones who use a spring in their step to inspire others and create cohesive team environments where ideas and differing perspectives can flourish.  Some report one of the top qualities in an excellent employee is to have a positive and cheerful attitude.  Portraying confidence and a positive, contagious energy when communicating with teams, stakeholders and leaders is important to success.  These attributes create influencers.   Often people we come into contact with, are struggling under various kinds of personal and professional stressors – when we step into their day will our interactions wash over them like how a spring day feels?

Making personal choices to be healthier is another way to enhance the spring in our step.  Getting enough sleep, making healthy food choices, drinking plenty of water each day, finding ways to fit in exercise and controlling stress can up our game.  When we have a spring in our step, we are approachable, inspired, energetic and action-oriented and all these things can spring our careers to new heights.

Please share something you do to create a spring in your step.  Your ideas or suggestions can be helpful for us all!

Posted on: May 02, 2019 05:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)


As my grandmother was losing her battle with cancer, I took her hand and asked her what I needed to know about life before she left me.  We were close and I felt afraid about stepping into the future without her.  Nearly daily I hear her response in my thoughts.  She replied “life is all about how you handle change, Lori.  Handle it well, handle it with grace”.  She modeled a long full life of gracefully embracing changes like moving from Russia to America, learning a new language, starting new jobs, rearing two active boys and more.  During her lifetime she witnessed incredible advances in travel, technology and even learned to embrace her terminal condition with grace.

I consider her advice in my professional life whenever a trusted coworker leaves, corporate announces a new merger or restructuring, my boss asks me to lead a new technology or upgrade I am unfamiliar with or a million other changes come my way.  Being willing to gracefully embrace change can be a challenge – especially in these times when change comes at us with such ferocity. 

As project managers, we each face enormous change – sometimes it can feel like we are living in a pressure cooker!  Below are some change management tips I use in both my personal and professional life:

  • Accept my honest feelings about change – It helps to take a moment to wallow in the idea of this change, thinking about it and considering what this change really means.  Not trying to solve or manage it just yet, instead simply considering what the change feels like – but the key here is not to linger in this stage too long.
  • Look for any positive – Is there any positive for me or others in making this change?  Can I alter how I am looking at this change by considering the perspectives of others?  Will this change help anyone or do good in some way?
  • Recount past strengths – Is there something I faced in the past when I handled change well?  Reminding myself of these successes, can help boost my confidence about facing what is ahead.
  • Reach out – Finding others to talk with who have already traveled this path to see if there is anything I can learn from their experiences can be invaluable.  This website is a great place to reach out to peers for their thoughts.  The support of others can make all the difference.
  • Make my health a priority – Even experiencing good change can be hard and stressful.  Success rates can be improved by making healthy food choices, exercising and getting a good night of sleep which will help keep stress in check while managing change.  When I am physically stronger I am better prepared to handle change.
  • Believe in yourself and move forward – Project managers model this by setting small, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-framed goals.  This works for personal changes too.  Sometimes it is baby steps, but even baby steps add up to progress.

Consider embracing and handling change well because as my grandmother so wisely offered – life is all about HOW you handle change – do it with grace.  On a final note my grandmother’s name was Grace.

Posted on: April 02, 2019 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

"A statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote. A journalist invents his lies and rams them down your throat. So stay at home and drink your beer and let the neighbors vote!"

- W.B. Yeats