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10 Tips for New Project Managers

10 Tips for New Project Managers
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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