Seven Helpful Tips

Let’s face it, we all want to be the best that we can be. But, sometimes we need to take a breath and make sure we are doing the things we need to do to help us be at our best.  Here are seven helpful tips as you strive to be a better project manager.

Take Care of Yourself Physically and Emotionally

Tom Peters says that every project deserves to be a “Wow” project. So if you don’t start each new project thinking, “I can’t wait to get going on this project!” you are doing your project a disservice, and you probably need to recharge your batteries. Your lack of enthusiasm will directly affect your project team. Your energy will be very noticeable.  Favorite ways to recharge include exercising, doing something to pamper yourself, taking sabbaticals, traveling, and finding things to do away from work that you truly enjoy. Project management is a high burn-out field. You are human and you are going to need breaks. Either you schedule them informally, or your mind and body will take them without your permission (cost on the job).

Take Advantage of International Project Management Day (IPM Day)

Consider taking part in IPM Day.  IPM Day founder, Frank Saladis, who said, “IPM Day is intended to encourage project-based organizations worldwide to schedule some type of recognition event within their organizations or coordinated locally with others to truly demonstrate appreciation for the achievements of project managers and their teams.” And since he started it in 2004, IPM Day is now celebrated with high-level and local
governmental proclamations, hundreds of events, and thousands of actions of personal recognition. The first Thursday of every November is IPM Day.  Why not take advantage of this day and help honor the project managers that you work with and for?  IIL has a great IPM Day Event that you could take part of, or organize an event at your office to celebrate the profession and have some fun.

Join Your local PMI Chapter and Show up Early at Chapter Meetings

Your local PMI Chapter is a great way to network with others in your profession.  If you arrive early, you have time to mingle and to get to know other attendees.  Building your network and establishing business relationships outside of your employer provides you with connections that will enrich your life in many ways. Many of the people you will meet at PMI can mentor and coach you. All you need to do is get to know them and ask their advice. Some may connect you to career opportunities. Listening to some will help warn you away from working with certain vendors or organizations. All the information is helpful in one way or another. If you are only attending for the PDUs, the meetings will help you fulfill that goal, but you might as well maximize your time investment and get the much more valuable relationship benefits while you are there.

Locate a PM Chapter Near You

Use Mind Maps for Project Management Plans

When you use mind mapping techniques it causes you to actually think broader and better. The process of mind mapping seems to harness creativity.  The ability to illustrate through drawings and association adds a flexible structure. It gives you the ability to easily add ideas, emphasize points, and add connections between ideas. Due to the visual interest, it communicates much more powerfully than typed lines of text. A mind map can be as graphical as well as text-based.  In project management, mind mapping is especially helpful when developing your stakeholder identification, requirements gathering, WBS, risk identification, and quality planning. There are many mind mapping software programs to choose from.  But I even create mine on white erase boards or paper. Given a choice between documenting the “old fashioned way” or as a mind map – not only would I choose to capture documentation in a mind map, I would also much prefer to review and reread a mind map for long-term memory and retention benefits.

Validate Critical Data

Often a project manager will inherit much of their project information. This second-hand information can be highly suspect, as illustrated in the old children’s game where the story changes a little bit each time it is retold until it is far from the truth. The information you inherit is always worthy of validating. Even if the information was correct initially, as time passes the project environment or facts may change. The added benefit of this practice is to cause the sponsor to think a bit deeper about the issue than they did initially, and have the opportunity to change their answers.

Practice Better Time Managment Techniques

Our brains need to focus and remember in order to be productive in our work. With today’s technology, having the discipline to force ourselves to focus until we complete a task is harder to come by. Start with understanding your projects and your own priorities.  Try separating the projects from the tasks on your to-do list.  Projects will have surprises and need to be broken down into tasks to be worked (which do go on the task list).  Tasks take less than a few hours and can be completed alone in one sitting.  If possible, try to have a consistent approach to your daily activities.  This rhythm will help reduce negative stress which can show itself as a constant hurry pattern, schedule addiction, complaining, poor sleep and alertness issues.  Also, try scheduling your hardest work that requires focus to be done at your highest energy time of the day and remove distractions (such as putting your phone on forward and shutting down your e-mail) while you are doing this work.  And, finally, don’t over schedule, because unexpected things always happen.  Here are links to some great blogs to help you become a better master of your time.

Don’t Wait for Somebody to “Pass You the Ball”

A PMI chapter member who was job hunting once vented to me that “I have been waiting for someone to pass me the ball for a very long time now. Once someone does that, I will run with it.” My comment back was “you have always had the ball, but you don’t seem to see it.” I can understand how job hunting, and waiting for the next great project to start, and even things like submitting your name for a board position or for special recognition can all feel like somebody else has your ball. There you are waving your arms, but they don’t seem to “get it”.  But, you should not spend more than a fleeting moment putting your life on hold for a decision that, may or may not, be made in your favor. You need to have so many initiatives, interests, opportunities in the works, education programs you are learning from, and projects happening, that you are always moving your own ball forward regardless of any one decision or person.  Shortly after the ball conversation, the PMI chapter member went on to form her own consulting business.  And, after she starting making her own things happen, the job opportunities starting coming in and she took one of them. I think the action of starting a consulting company and landing a client, proved what these employers needed to see – that she could make things happen.

What ways do you use to be a better project manager?

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Todd provides the right guidance on how to establish an effective change management organization. This is a must read before undertaking of your next organizational project, as it will help you avoid many pitfalls which drive delays or project failures.
John T. Lenga, Jr.CEO, Head Business Group North AmericaAutoneum North America, Inc.