You want to live like a project management superstar.
You want to respond to emails before the sender has even hit the send button. You want your project to not only stay under budget, but somehow end up with more money than you started with. You want to be so agile that your team starts calling you “The Mongoose.”
You may not always feel like it, but I bet you already know the skills for project management success. So let’s see how you can plan your day like a project management superstar.
Plan your day with skills for project management success
As a project manager, you already know the value of time. So with that in mind, here is the TL;DR version of this article: eat frogs in the morning, squash meetings in the afternoon, and make a to-do list in the evening.
Hopefully, that brief but cryptic summary is intriguing enough to get you to read the rest of this article.
Great, let’s go!
Morning: Eat the frogs
You slept well, you got up early, you ate Greek yogurt with chia and flax seeds before running six miles. Good for you, project management superstar, but what’s next?
Now you’re at work before anyone else has arrived, and it’s tempting to spend an hour clearing out your inbox, or managing your fantasy baseball team, or reading Game of Thrones recaps.
But you have the willpower to resist the temptation, because you are a project management superstar, and you know that this is the best time of day to eat the frogs.
Eating frogs—as you may have guessed or, more likely, already knew—means finding the thing that you are least motivated to do but will feel the best when it is over with, and then doing it.
That could be rescheduling a meeting, reigning the project in to prevent scope creep, or sending an email explaining that a crucial piece of your project will not be finished on time.
In her TedxSF presentation, “How to stop screwing yourself over,” motivational speaker Mel Robbins said, “it’s your job to make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do, so you can be everything that you’re supposed to be.”
In other words, if you eat your frogs every morning, you can eat dessert the rest of the day.
Other things to do in the morning: Smile, ask your coworkers how they’re doing, sip coffee.
Afternoon: Squash meetings
“Squashing meetings” doesn’t mean hosting meetings during a game of squash, or to eliminate your meetings altogether. Meetings are an important opportunity to collaborate with teammates and plan together, but they also have the potential to completely derail your project’s schedule.
As a project management superstar, it’s your job to have meetings only when necessary, and keep them on track and as brief as possible when they are necessary.
A 2014 Robert Half survey found that professionals believed that 25% of all time spent in meetings was wasted.
Robert Half survey
In response to those findings, Robert Half recommends that project managers:
- Require only stakeholders with a direct impact on the outcome of the items on the agenda to attend.
- Replace meetings altogether when an email can achieve the same objectives.
- Keep meetings as short as possible while staying on track, and cut off unrelated discussion.
- End meetings with clear directives and follow-up actions for everyone involved.
The bottom line is that when your team is in a meeting, they aren’t making progress on their individual tasks. That’s why your job as a project manager is to make sure that everyone is on track in as little time as possible, then let them go to work.
In his TedxAix presentation, “The art of doing twice as much in half the time,” Scrum co-creator Jeff Sutherland shared a project management lesson that he learned from a progressive school in the Netherlands. He said,
The team executes self discipline. If they need a little help from the teacher they might ask for it, but generally they don’t need it. If you go back into the world that most of us live in, we’re not operating that way.
In other words, a project management superstar not only knows when to call a meeting, but—more importantly—when to step back and let the team run free.
Other things to do in the afternoon: Eat a sensible lunch, go for a walk, have a laugh with coworkers about something clumsy that someone did.
Evening: Make a to-do list
It may seem counter-intuitive to make a list at the end of the day when everything is wrapping up. But if you take a moment at the end of the day to organize all the tasks that you have accomplished and added throughout the day, you’ll know exactly which frog to eat first when you come into the office tomorrow morning.
Organizing your to-dos is where task management tools and project management software can really help. Plenty of tools give their users a dashboard look at the overall status of their projects, allowing them to quickly put together the best plan for tomorrow after your bowl of steel-cut oats. If you’re in the market, I’d check out:
- The Top 9 Free Task Management Software
- The Top 6 Free Getting Things Done Software
- The 6 Best To-Do Apps For Busy Entrepreneurs and Freelancers
This also allows you to spend the morning and afternoon being as productive as possible, without the distraction of putting together your task list, and making yourself available to your team if and when the inevitable project setback comes up.
In her TedxStuttgart presentation, “The Secret to Life from a PMP,” project management professional Amy Hamilton said “sometimes life is crazy. You need to stop, take a deep breath, and regain control.”
In other words, your life is one big project. You can never prepare for everything, so the best way to stay on top of things is to build in time to reflect and adapt.
Other things to do in the evening: Watch the ball game, have a glass of iced tea on your porch, or read your child or cat a bedtime story.
Your secrets to mastering your day as a project manager?
Are you a project management superstar? How do you approach your day? Please, do everyone a favor and share your own experiences and tips in the comments!
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