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10 Tips for New Project Managers

10 Tips for New Project Managers

Organization and routine are two crucial aspects for increasing efficiency, so if you want to be a project manager, you should focus on improving those two. Being a project manager is so much more than stamping deadlines and assigning tasks to your co-workers.

It’s all about puzzling out the most favourable approach to handling the project with maximum efficiency. In a way, you should be more of a tactician than a task master. Here are some suggestions you might find useful if you intend on being a successful project manager.

Find a good approach to tasks

Finding the right approach to a certain task is all about good segmentation; how to divide the project into a smaller wholes so that you can track your progression on a daily basis, and also how to tackle the task so that the workload is evenly distributed. It’s impossible to get a handle on this on your first try, but, gradually, you’ll find a good way to divide copious tasks.

Learn how to lead

Even though you are not the boss, you still need to be a leader. In other words, you might not have the necessary authority, but you still need to guide projects. This is why working as a project manager can be difficult; people might regard you as someone who is trying to be an employer’s pet.

Furthermore, you need to figure out how to put people in a productive mood. This is where a lot of managers tend to make a mistake. They force themselves to appear vibrant, hoping the enthusiasm will pass on to their co-workers. This is something that teachers and professors try to do in order to animate students during morning lectures.

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Big mistake! People will think you are treating them as children and they will find it really annoying. Probably the best thing you can do to start off on right terms in the morning is to offer to make coffee for everyone.

The important thing to remember here is to allow your co-workers to see that you know what you are doing. So, ooze confidence and experience like a true leader should and, in spite of your actual rank, people will see you as someone trustworthy.

Communicate

This is one of the most important traits, because in order to be good at planning, you need to know the capabilities of your workforce, or co-workers. It is also a nice way to show that you are still their co-worker, not someone who is trying to act above them.

The main objective is to ascertain just how someone goes about their tasks, and the time necessary for their completion. This gives you a better grip on reality when you need to come up with a deadline, and when you need to segment the task, as it was discussed in the paragraph above.

Learn the basics

In order to be good at management, you need to know the basics of the production process, this way, you’ll have a better sense of what is possible and what isn’t. Besides, you need to have a clear insight into what you are managing.

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So, being well informed should be one of the requirements for becoming a manger. Furthermore, it will give you a better idea on how to enhance the production process and increase productivity.

Work on your empathy

One way not to appear bossy to your co-workers is by practicing empathy. Empathy plays a great role in developing social intelligence. So it’s always good to work on your people skills if you want to be a good manager. Being more empathetic can help you figure out how someone is feeling at a given moment.

Of course, this does not imply it is your duty to solve their problems, but as a project manager you are managing more than projects, you are managing people as well. So, for the purpose of good planning it’s good to know someone’s working capacity, at a particular period. It’s good to know if you might have to implement contingency plan, or to ask for deadline to be moved a bit, just in case there is a possible delay.

Plan ahead

Panic, pressure and deadline rush are all very potent tools for surge of productivity, yet working in these stressful conditions is extremely harmful. As a project manager, you should steer clear from telling your co-workers the accurate deadline, always leave some space in case things go south.

When you segment the task, as mentioned at the beginning, do it in such a way that you have a few days to spare, in case you need to do some additional work. This is the most optimal way to reduce scope creeps, which will be elaborated on further in a different section.

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Be a team player

In spite of the fact that you are in charge of the project, you and your co-workers need to function as a unit, in order to achieve positive results. This implies that you are equal as teammates, and if they need to be open to your suggestions and criticism, you should return the favour.

Therefore, if a co-worker makes a valid point when he or she corrects you, do not be too proud to acknowledge their opinion. It is within your interest that projects are successfully delivered, so everyone should work on self-improvement. Besides, everyone can benefit from some healthy criticism.

Embrace your responsibilities

One thing that every successful project manager should realize is that there is no room for excuses. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to regard the projects as your own, not as work you do for someone else. With that in mind, whenever a failure occurs, it is your personal failure; shifting the blame to others is no way to go about this issue.

Sure, you might know who is to blame for failure, but taking responsibility means taking the blame as well; you were in charge, so you need to take the heat as well. Pointing fingers just makes you look incompetent. You need to be a mediator between your boss and your co-workers, and if you want your team to trust you, then you need to stand up for them.

Don’t shy away from learning new things

Another thing you should know is that delivering a product on time won’t be enough, you need to aim higher and improve in your main field of interest. This makes you a better leader and a better coordinator. Furthermore, as you advance it motivates those around you not to fall behind, so they will follow this example.

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Once you know the basics of every aspect of the production process, make some time to expand your knowledge base. If you truly love what you are doing, then you should always strive to be better at it, and as project manager, you need a wide range of interests.

Minimize scope creeps

Scope creeps are unforeseen circumstances that tend to hinder project delivery. They usually occur if project instructions lack sufficient details, due to poor requirements analysis or, to put it bluntly, if you underestimate the complexity of the project.

We have already mentioned how good task segmentation and deadline management can minimize these risks, but you also need a thorough analysis of the project, you need to set your priorities accurately, and you need to adequately distribute resources.

I hope you found these suggestions useful, and I wish you the best of luck in your future adventures in project management. Remember that quality tactics are essential for impeccable execution. Just follow these tips and I am sure you’ll do fine.

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Djordje Todorovic

Blogger, Gamer Extraordinaire

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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