Until now, I’ve had two major jobs as a project manager: one in the branding department of a food retailer and the second one (also my current one) in the HR department of a medical, pharmaceuticals and consumer product multinational. Don’t get me wrong: I’m wouldn’t say I’m an expert at it (yet! ;)), but I do find myself I’m on the right path getting there (modesty was never my virtue ;)).
From my experience of accumulated 3 years of project management – and let’s not forget the personal life project management, which can also be very demanding ;)) – these are the lessons I’ve learned:
- To Do lists are essential
I was never big on To Do lists, until I realized they do function. On some occasions I write them in Wunderlist, but I still prefer the old-fashioned way of I writing them on a piece of paper. The thrill of tearing that paper apart at the end of the day is exactly what I need to ‘complete’ my workday.
- Routines work wonders
Routines are a great way to take repetitive work from your shoulders and let you focus on what is really important. By integrating routines in your work or personal life schedule, you can actually free up a mental space to concentrate on something new. Through routines you also save time from thinking about these actions and do them on autopilot. So, during the ‘routine time’ you can actually mentally plan other things that are of far greater importance.
For even more details about the benefits of integrating routines in your weekly schedule, check out our article on “Routines can make your life better”.
- Polychronic vs. monochronic
Getting to know how you are and how you function, is one of the best assets you can posses. And one vital self-knowledge feature to know is if you are a polychronic or a monochronic person. In short, a monochronic person enjoys doing one thing at a time, while a polychronic one enjoys being engaged in two or more tasks simultaneously (for more details, consult Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and Hall’s time orientations). I’m delighted to know my Bachelor’s thesis in Cultural Differences and Management Styles is helpful for this article ;)) Knowing how you function from the time orientation point of view is a great foundation already to help you develop a set of personal project management tools that work for you. To be continued on a separate future article…
- Learn to prioritize
A few years back I was having a job that involved quite a bit of conflict resolution. Emails and phone calls would pile up and often I would find myself overwhelmed, not knowing whom to ‘answer’ first. My manager (hint! hint! Camiel) said: “Manu, it’s not the client who screams the loudest who’s the most important”. Then I realized that what I was doing was to prioritize the calls or emails that were more hostile (nicely put) than the ones that were calm and polite, even if their situations were the other way around. That’s when I decided I should be objectively judging the facts and not the emotions or approaches when prioritizing tasks.
- First comes work, then comes play
Rewards are great! If you’ve done a good job going through your weekly to-do lists, then give yourself a small treat. If it’s going out for dinner, going for a massage, allowing yourself something to eat that you always crave for (even if you know it’s ‘bad’ ;)) doesn’t matter! But don’t overdo it! One pizza is enough ;)) What is important is that you don’t forget to reward yourself for a job well done. Rewarding yourself at the end of a productive week or a successful project will only make you more excited with your work and proud of yourself.
- Know when to say No
In project management, learning not to take up more than you can deliver is essential: focus on the things you are currently working on and if you feel it’s getting too much to handle, don’t take additional projects for a while. If you need to tell your manager to give you a little break before taking new projects, he or she will definitely understand (unless he’s totally unreasonable). Your main goal is to deliver good results for the projects you’re working on. If you take one too many projects, you risk not being able to even successfully finalize the ones you have currently in the developing stage.
Control freaks, take it easy!! It’s not as hard as it sounds! ;) I am a bit of a control freak myself, but with time (and advice from parents) I’ve started realizing that delegating some tasks to other people truly helps. Then you can focus more on your core responsibilities and have other people do what is becoming too time-consuming for you and not rewarding enough (personally or financially). I also noticed that team members, friends or family are most times happy with it either because they feel you trust them or because they get more responsibility (an intern for example). It’s a gain-gain situation!
- Look back: cut and cherish
Once you’ve finalized a project, it’s usually useful to think of what went well and what went less well. This process is useful to determine what to ‘cut’ next time and what to ‘cherish’. It’s more of a learning process in order to become better at what you do and remove redundant activities or decisions. This also goes hand in hand with the book I keep on mentioning and which I feel has had a great impact on my life so far – Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. He says: “An Essentialist produces more – brings forth more – by removing more instead of doing more.” I truly believe this and, in all honesty, I want to become as ‘essentialist’ as possible ;)
That’s all, folks! 8 tips I’ve promised, 8 tips I’ve delivered! I hope they are helpful and, just in case you have more to share or something to comment, please do so here or on our Facebook page!
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