Category Archives: Organization Tips

Project Management Development

I was contacted by Robert Kelly from Kelly Project Solutions a few weeks to see if I would be interested in being a guest on his show called KPS Chatter.  I was quite honored by his invitation, as I first met Robert on Twitter after we were both featured on The Project Box’s Top 10 Project Managers on Twitter earlier this year and have enjoyed reading his blogs and content he posts on Twitter.

Below, you will find a few of the questions I was asked, but please feel free to listen to the entire 15-Minute KPS Chatter Show. I love his KPS Chatter shows, as they are quick 15-minute interviews full of great content and starts off any day on a great note, so I encourage you to listen to others too! Thank you Robert for the honor & opportunity to be a guest on your show, as I really appreciate it!

Question: In speaking with fellow practitioners, how do you feel organizations are doing with regards to formal development of their project management resources?  

I find project management is a unique field to be in whereas most people don’t tell their parents they want to be a project manager when they grow up (Correction: if we have grown up yet!), but more that their employer might find traits in an employee, such as: strong organizational or communication skills, highly motivated individual, and have the ability to be assigned a task, pull together a group of people to get the job done, and execute a project on time and within budget, and make them a project manager.

Therefore, most of us in the field do not receive formal education, but undergo possibly a mentorship program with an experienced project manager or learning by fire per say.  I feel formal education does provide you with a great foundation, but you have to have the ability to take those tools that you learned and test them out in the real world.  I am the type of person that if I don’t know something, I am very curious to read content on the web or pick up a book and talk to others in the field to find out more, but I also am the type of person that I like to attend a class, as such by taking a project management course at my local university this semester.  Self-learning does take motivation to do, but also formal education it’s not a cookie-cutter approach where you’re provided a complete toolbox that will always work in all occasions, so you’re constantly polishing your skills with on-the-job training or by attending formal classes at a university or seminars.

Question: Why is important to move from the accidental manager and invest in PM development?

I think if you want to become an even better, more efficient project manager that can reduce the time to execute a project, keep a project within budget and in scope, and know what others have tired in the past, it comes down to learning and investing in Project Management development, as further education can make a Project Manager’s life so much easier by knowing some tips and steps that can help increase their day-to-day skill-set.

Question: What would you say is a good development portfolio? 

I feel a good development portfolio is one that includes:

  • Read books
  • Join a local PMI chapter
  • Join twitter & read other PM’s blogs, increase your PM network & relationships, join PMChat
  • Attend a college class, whether it is a project management, communications, or leadership or a management course
  • Attend seminars
  • Learn from other Project Managers’s in your local community, as most are more than happy to help you throughout your journey as a project manager
Please comment below with your thoughts and comments, as I would love to hear them!

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Organizational Tips for the Project Manager

Organizational skills are essential for not only a project manager, but anyone working in any business environment, as when done correctly, it maximizes your productivity and allows you to complete tasks in a timely manner.  Below are some helpful organizational skills I use to help keep myself organized and on top of projects:

1)      Plan Each Day’s Projects:  Every morning, the first thing I do is review my calendar for that day, so I can set a game plan on what all I need to complete.  On Monday mornings, I always look at the entire week’s schedule, so I have an idea what the week’s schedule will look like, what meetings I need to prepare for, and allocate the appropriate time to complete my tasks.

2)      Create a Daily To-Do List: I use one notebook binder and write down my daily to-do list at the beginning of each day and my plan of action.  This helps me during the day, as I receive calls/e-mails that need my attention and may not have been on my daily list, so this helps me to get back on track. I also keep this notebook with me all day, so as something may come to mind in a meeting or just pop into my head, I can quickly write it down. 

3)       Have a Master Project List: I like keep a list of all of the projects I am managing, then breakdown down each one with the action items (to-do) list of what you want or need to do, so I have a one-stop information packet resource.

4)      Block Time in your Calendar for Projects: Many of us could be booked all day in meetings, so exercising time-boxing techniques by blocking out time in your calendar, this helps to make sure you allocate time to get stuff done

5)      Make a Folder/Binder for your Projects: I create either a folder or binder for each of my projects that contain the project plan, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, calendar, and to-do list This is extremely helpful when you receive a call or have to attend a last-minute meeting, to grab the one folder or binder and be able to have all documents at your finger-tips in minutes.  I do have these documents also on my network drive, so I can bring my laptop and have the electronic version also ready to search from.

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What Organizational Tips Do You Use To Help You As A Project Manager?


Time Boxing Strategies to Help You Get Things Done in Your Project

Have you ever heard of time boxing?  Time Boxing is setting aside a fixed time period to work on a particular task or group of tasks.   Basically, instead of working on a task until it’s done, you commit to work on it for a specific amount of time. 

What you need: The only gadget you will need is a timer (cell phone timer, computer timer or kitchen timer).

Basic Steps to Time Boxing:

  1. Decide on a task or group of tasks
  2. Get a timer and set it to the time you assign to the task
  3. Begin the timer and focus on completing the task and try to avoid any distractions as much as possible
  4. Once the timer goes off, you are to stop working.  You should trust the device to tell you that the time’s up, instead of interrupting yourself by checking the time occasionally.
  5. Reward yourself with a treat, pleasurable activity or well-deserved rest (Your reward can also be time boxed)
  6. Repeat as often as you wish.

Time Boxing Can Help You:

  1. Overcome Procrastination: To help overcome your resistance towards procrastinating on a task, put those tasks in a time box
  2. Keep Perfectionism In Check: Set SMART goals to accomplish before your time is up, which makes you prioritize the essentials, avoid stressing on the details, and settle for good enough approach to avoid the effects of diminishing returns.
  3. Increase Efficiency:  It seems that our most efficient work is normally done at the end of a time period when there is a well-defined cut-off point.  By using time boxes, this gives you just enough healthy time pressure, which allows you to take full advantage of the end effect.
  4. Complete Mosquito Tasks First: Time boxes is a great tool to help tackle those tiny tasks that keep bugging you.  The little tasks may seem insignificant, however, when added together they drain a significant amount of your mental energy.  A good strategy is to claim back that energy and create a time box and tackle all of them in one sitting.
  5. Focused Efforts: Time boxing is a great tool that can help you exclude other tasks and unrelated thoughts from your radar during that particular time window.  It is important to organize your work in time boxes so you have the structure needed to properly prepare for your tasks.
  6. Enhance Motivation: When you have several big tasks, no matter how important, it can be de-motivating, as you simply need to work for too long to see an outcome.  Simple things, such as crossing off items from your to-do list can be motivating, similar to completing a time box.
  7. Balance in Your Life: We often become too focused in a specific area of our lives at the expense of others.  It’s important to know you don’t need to use time boxing for work-related tasks only. You can block time for anything that matters to you, such as leisure, family, hobbies, etc. This is an excellent strategy to help you live a balanced live.
  8. Help Plug Time Sinks: Each of us tend to spend a lot of time on computers and searching the internet to catch up with friends, read about the news, play games, watch shows, etc. If you place this time in a time box, you can reclaim the time back to make sure you can still enjoy some downtime, but not allow it to overcome your entire day.
  9. Reward Yourself: It’s important to tie your rewards to the completion of tasks, as you may find yourself doing quick and easy tasks and avoid the important ones.  Try gearing your little rewards after you complete a time box instead.  For example, getting up to get a glass of water, talking to a co-worker, or taking a short walk.
What Tips or Experiences Do You Have Using Time Boxing?

E-mail Organization Tip

As many project managers and also non-project managers we are often flooded with lots of e-mails during the day and go through the following process: you tend to read e-mail, flag them if something needed to be done, come back to them, and generally have an overfilled inbox.  This sure makes your e-mail to-do list look overwhelming.  One way to help organize your e-mails is to create some e-mail inbox folders like:

  1. Do – Immediate Action
  2. Defer – Time Permitting
  3. Delegate – Send to whomever is being assigned to cover those e-mails
  4. Read – Informational e-mails, like newsletters
  5. Archive – Place on your network drive for backup

You can also break down the folders into to sub-folders for each of your several projects or start with the project name and have these five categories as sub-folders.  The key thing is you are not multitasking and you still devote a chuck of time to address particular actions items, which makes you more efficient and ensures the most important tasks get addressed first.

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