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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 May 21, 2019

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

“Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

Creativity also emphasizes values.

“The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

1. Cultivate Focus

In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

How to cultivate focus?

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Take a 20 Minute Walk

Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

2. Build a Structure

When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

How to build a structure?

Create a Morning Routine

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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3. Find Motivation

There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

How to find motivation?

Connect to Your “Why”

Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

How to become an expert?

Make a Mastery Training Plan

Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

3. Review your progress

Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

5. Create a Conducive Environment

A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

“a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

How to create a conducive environment?

Add or Subtract Stimuli

Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

The Bottom Line

Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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