Finding Balance in Managing Projects, Programmes and Life

Insights | 09 April 2019

Quick riddle: What is something that everyone wants, yet few of us manage to achieve?

There are probably many great answers to this question, but a top candidate is definitely work-life balance.

A poll[1] of 3,000 Australians by SEEK (which runs a portfolio of employment, education and volunteer companies) found work-life balance was the number one consideration for those looking for work – ahead of salary and job security.

Striking this balance isn’t solely about greater individual satisfaction. Companies can see the impact when their workforce is more holistically engaged. Work-life balance also extends beyond flexibility and office perks. It’s the why behind our work. It’s how we show up mentally and emotionally. All of this becomes ever-more critical as we shift from manual work to knowledge work as a whole.

Project and programme managers often labour within highly matrixed, knowledge worker environments that require exceptional leadership and communication skills. That’s difficult enough to balance on its own, without the pressures of modern life.

So, to help, here are five essential insights to support achieving a better work-life balance:

  1. Know your strengths

No one person is perfect at everything. We’ve all heard this many times, yet we still hold ourselves to unreasonable standards in the workplace. The new science behind work performance completely discards this “superwoman” ethos. Instead, it’s about finding that unique point of view or blend of skills that only you possess and leaning into that. According to the Via Institute on Character (a think tank dedicated to the science of character strengths), employees who use four or more of their signature strengths are more engaged at work.[2]

  1. Motivation

As a project manager, you need to motivate others. To do this effectively, you must motivate yourself first. The book, “Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strength-based Project Management”[3] by Ruth Pearce, has found that “the secret to running spectacular projects is engaging and inspiring every person whose part of your project, so they feel responsible for the outcome. And that engagement starts with you – you have to feel engaged and inspired yourself before you can inspire others.”

  1. Get smart on true motivation

Conventional wisdom suggests we may be motivated by money or titles at work, eager to climb a career ladder straight to the top. Yet, according to the Global Talent Monitor, data[4] of more than 1,000 Australians shows that work-life balance is the top motivator toward a job – while disengaged managers are a key driver of attrition.

  1. When off, really be off

Who doesn’t love a holiday? Working during one is far less beloved, but so many people do it. The truth is, unless the project is incredibly sensitive, work should be delegated appropriately. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries. By working with your managers and colleagues on a structured out-of-office plan, you will truly be able to disconnect. Also consider, by acting like a role model here, you give others the implicit permission to be ‘off’ too – and that’s a great gift in the workplace.

  1. Forge a path that works for you

All workers have things they need to keep in balance in order to thrive. For example, do you love when the pressure is high but struggle with managing day-to-day work, keeping you at the office late as the norm? Figure out what can be automated or delegated and set boundaries to leave at a predetermined time on the days you can—and stick to it. Likewise, are you great with the day-to-day work but then struggle with the final days of a major project? Prioritise “recovery” days after huge deadlines pass to get you back to equilibrium quicker.

Work-life balance is achievable for everyone. By implementing some of this advice, you can go from frazzled to focused. The key is giving yourself permission to find a more sustainable path forward that works for you.

PM-Partners can help you relax – let us check the health of your projects so you have the insight to act, or peace of mind that the right action is in place. Contact us today on 1300 70 13 14.


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