July 15

3 Tips to Conquer a Work Project

While I realize that not everyone’s job is necessarily deadline or event based, mine certainly is. Over the past six years, I’ve worked on countless awards shows, commercial campaigns, and large scale events. My job can be very high stress, and high pressure – and when dealing with talent as I do, it’s often very unpredictable.

Have you ever had a huge project that just seems impossible? Maybe you feel like you’ll never get it done in time. Or maybe you feel like your pitch will fail. You’re nervous to give a big speech. You’re working on an event and it seems like nobody is going to attend. The press you’ve gotten isn’t favorable. Etc.

I feel you Mr. Shark!

I feel you Mr. Shark!

I used to let work projects like this run my life. When it was high stress time, I disappeared into a dark pit of nausea, nervousness, anxiety – you name it, I felt it. I was often hard to live with at during those times because I would feel irritable, stressed, and like nobody understood the pressure I was under.

Totally not worth it. The truth of the matter is, most things wind up working out fine, and life goes on. The only thing that’s happened is YOU’VE lost and wasted days feeling stressed and upset.

Sad Dawson is the worst Dawson.

Sad Dawson is the worst Dawson.

But of course, that’s easier said than done – so over the past few years, here’s my top 3 tips to use when you’re staring down the barrel of the impossible work project.


1. Keep Perspective. When I was in high school and would get upset over *seemingly* the most important life or death situations, my mom would always say “This is just a blip on your radar screen.” This is a phrase that has really stuck with me. It’s easy to say keep perspective, but harder to put that into action. Visualize your entire professional career from an ariel viewpoint. Remind yourself of how many other projects you’ve worked on, speeches you’ve given, long campaigns you’ve had to endure. In 5 days, 5 weeks, or 5 months – whatever – this project too is just going to be a blip on your professional radar screen. No one project makes or breaks us. Of course you should always try your hardest and care about the results – but just remember at the end of the day, ONE project isn’t going to alter what you’ve worked over years to build.

2. Keep a Routine and Prepare for Battle. Part of my problem managing work situations in the past was that I would completely abandon my normal routine during a stressful project. I wouldn’t exercise, I would eat horribly, I would drink a lot, and I would sleep poorly.  This would in turn make me feel like crap and make me even MORE irritable and stressed. Now sometimes with a work project, it’s hard to catch good sleep – but when everything around you is in chaos, I encourage you to create your own peaceful sanctuary with the things you CAN control. Stabilize your life as much as possible. Maybe you have to change your workout time to 7AM to fit it in, or just settle for a quick run late at night when you get home. I invite you to make a plan when your work project starts. Promise and commit to a few workouts. Or maybe it’s promising to give yourself a break to see a friend mid-week to stay social and sane. Make a few pre-made salads, stock up on apples, nuts & quest bars & grill 5-6 chicken breasts before the chaos so you know you’ll have some healthy things to grab. Getting your exercise, food & sleep right gets your MIND RIGHT. If you’re mind ain’t right….you gone be miserable.

Wine is a separate bullet point.

Wine is a separate bullet point.

3. Schedule an End. This is one of my favorite tips for life in general, but especially as it applies to a big work project. Last year, I worked on an awards show that was incredibly challenging. The morning after, Tyler and I were heading to Oklahoma for a whole week’s worth of vacation. The feeling I felt when leaving the area of the awards show, packing a bag, and getting on the plane’s jetway that next morning was of SUCH relief. Scheduling an end can be used on a small scale. Maybe you’re at a point professionally where every day is a struggle. Schedule a glass of wine, a special workout class with a friend, a dinner out, whatever and let that goal get you through the day. On a grander scale – plan a vacation, a spa day, a shopping trip – something that you can look forward to when it seems like your work project is never going to end.

You don't feel like a diamond at the time. That's for sure.

You don’t feel like a diamond at the time. That’s for sure.

I feel like I could expand on each three of those points for an entire SERIES of blog posts – but that overall view I hope will help you next time you encounter a stressful time at work. Just remember: keep it in perspective, keep your routine going, and schedule an end. And I promise that it will be over at some point!

The last thought I’ll leave you with was my and my college roommate’s mantra when it came for studying for big tests. Let’s say a test was Thursday at 4PM. We would always hit a point where we would say “Well, come 4PM, this test is going to happen. So either way, after 4PM, no matter how we do or how much we study, at least it will be OVER.” I’ve come to realize that you never really grow out of this philosophy. The underlying tone is that every project is just a season that will pass. Get through it, get up in it, and get it done.