The month of September is the second important month of the year (the first being January) as it is an important moment in the year for everyone because it represents both the end of the holiday season and the beginning of something new. In project management terms, it is the end of one milestone and the beginning of a new phase… Even though it is not the beginning of a new year it is still the beginning of something new. So, September is synonymous to taking of new functions, new responsibilities, new project teams, new projects and therefore new challenges…And this can become a source of stress and anxiety. So how can project managers get back on track and tackle this new phase of the year? Here are a few tips:
Take it easy and connect with everyone
Every colleague might have gone on vacation for a different time period. So, everyone is not aware of the progress or things that might have happened in their absence. Therefore, it is wise and also polite to catch up with everyone around tea, coffee or after work in a bar. Or spend a lot of time around the coffee machine or the company cafeteria to chat. Don’t underestimate the power of chitchat and gossip as it is an informal way of getting status reports for your projects.
Avoid the inbox
Off course you may switch off the autoresponder and reply to one or two emails, but don’t get confused “responding emails” with productive work. It is normal that your inbox is full of unattended email when you were away enjoying your vacation. But the first day, first week or the first few days should be spent catching up with colleagues, customers or stakeholders and informally seeking status updates for ongoing projects. Hence the need to connect with everyone in the office.
Catch-up with your boss, team, customers, and stakeholders
Schedule a meeting or informally reach out to your boss and team to catch up, boast about your vacation and discuss future priorities. Although, if you are managing a team you may want to schedule a real meeting some time later. It is also a good idea to touch base with customers and stakeholders by a lunch or dinner. If distance, budget and time is an issue then schedule a phone call with them to let them know they are on top of your mind and you are back in case they need something. This is common curtesy and will improve your professional image.
Create a to do list and plan ahead
Going back to office after the vacations means attending meetings, managing ongoing projects and studying files, responding to requests for which you don’t have information and all this can be a source of stress. So, it is imperative to establish a simple to do list or some sort of retro-planning and to prioritize and execute the tasks.
Beware of procrastination. It is not recommended to postpone things or tasks because otherwise they will soon become urgent and will therefore be a source of additional stress.
Be reasonable with yourself and be objective as well
When you get back to work, ideally an achievable, measurable goal should be defined and adhered to. For a project manager, it is absolutely worthless to set goals out of reach which he/she knows in advance that they will not be respected. Again, this would be a source of additional stress.
So be sure to stick to what you know how to do in a pre-determined time frame. Also, focus on really important projects, even if it takes more time than a simple project, rather than trying to juggle with many projects and not progressing properly. In other words, know how to prioritize your tasks and arbitrate projects.
Prepare for the D Day
To do this, you must establish a list of things to do, in other words plan your return so that it happens in the best conditions. some people find it reassuring if they have the opportunity to prepare, read their mails or call a colleague a day or two before to get back into the office even though technically they are on vacation. If during your absence you have entrusted one or more projects in progress to a colleague, it would be wise to arrange a meeting in advance with him in order to discuss and understand the progress. Remember: Don’t schedule a ton of meetings and deadlines on your first day after the vacation and also don’t just rush to handle the priorities. That will just leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Seek the status for the projects
It is important to get a broad idea of the progress of the projects while you were away on vacation. It is important to figure out if there were any accomplishments, glitches or changes that happened while you were out of office. In the first week, it is enough to get a global 360°-degree view of the projects without diving into the details (You will have time for the details in the subsequent weeks). Hence, the importance of catching up and networking with colleagues and stakeholders. Another way, to find the progress of projects is to quickly go through the collaboration or project management software.
Bring and share something from your vacation
Last, but not the least, it is polite and fun to share with your colleagues something from your vacation such as sweets, cookies or chocolates. It is just fun and will make you popular. For example, if you went to vacation to Switzerland and brought some swiss chocolates for your colleagues, then you increase their engagement with the projects you manage!