Managing Software projects is a critical job. Apart from being the face of the project, you may be the only person without a backup. It becomes challenging to plan some time off work when you don’t have a backup, isn’t it?
Many times, inexperienced project managers find it difficult planning their vacations or even if they have planned, they often cancel it at the last moment. Same is true with their normal working hours. They work for 10-14 hours a day and afraid to take some time off even on Saturdays.
By suppressing their need of some time off, they generate (and nurture) a lot of stress for themselves, their team and their families. Unhappy spouses, unhappy children, ruined friendships, health-related issues such as high blood-pressure are found common in such project manager’s lives.
I’m not advocating that you plan your next vacation with zero regards to your project schedule or delivery commitments. If it’s a month long project, of course, you should wait. Taking a vacation a week before a major release is a definite act of irresponsibility. But if it’s a year long project and still you’re not able to take a week or two off then you might want to reconsider how you are managing the project.
To handle this situation, the first step is to create your backups. That is to identify and develop leaders from within your team and enable them to take over your routine tasks. You mentor them, coach them and inspire them to lead beyond their title. For example, Technology Architect or Business Analyst from your team might fit your role with lesser efforts and they might feel good about being called as ‘Acting Project Manager’.
The second step is to manage the expectation of the stakeholders. Proactively plan your days off in advance at the time of creating or progressively elaborating your project plan and then let the stakeholders make aware about it, well in advance. Timely communication becomes very important here.
Take some inspiration from Agile Scrum projects wherein there is no project manager. Team itself is self-organizing and everyone does their own part of project management. It doesn’t matter if your project is being executed using other methods, applying scrum principles such as “Inspect and adapt” can enable your team members to find more meaning out of everything they do. Such team members would treat taking over your role as an opportunity to learn new things when you’re off for the few days.
In fact, you help the project when you take some days off. This becomes an opportunity for the team members to contribute beyond their job titles and make you pause and think about other things that are important to your life and help you make your life balanced. At a result, when you’re back on the project, you’re more energized and rejuvenated.
And, which project does not get benefited from an energized project manager?