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Lifehack Interview: Scott Berkun on Project Management

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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Scott Berkun is the bestselling author on design, innovation, remote work. His books include How Design Makes The World, Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds, Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management, The Myths of Innovation and more.

He was a program manager at Microsoft, leading some major projects on design and development. Through his experience on the previous job, he is able to venture his own project management and product design consulting business, wrote a book on project management, and continue to write articles for his web site.

An Interview With Scott Berkun

Getting to know Scott will be quite interesting for me and also for Lifehack’s readers. So with a bold heart, I asked him to spare a time for interview.

Q: Would you tell me more about yourself? You were a program manager at Microsoft Corporation for quite a long time, and you have been successful on leading your team. Does it set an expectation for you on how you pursuit your life?

I’m the kind of guy that wants to do great things. I try to never do anything by half – either do it, and do it well, or don’t.

think many of the skills I learned as a program manager apply well to anything: being clear on goals, being honest and open, and working hard to get what you’re going for. My success so far with writing and consulting have definitely come about with help from those skills.


Q: What makes you set a life goal on writing books?

I love books. They represent many of the best things about our species: sharing knowledge, expression, creativity and commitment.

Books have changed my life many times and I wanted to find out if I could do the same for someone else. Or at least write my thoughts down so I don’t have to remember quite as many things.

Q: Why would you choose project management as the topic for your first book?

I wanted to capture what I thought I’d learned from being at the right place at the right time during the dawn of the Internet age.

If I’d waited 5 years to write a book like this I doubt it would have been as straightforward, practical and useful – it was all still fresh in my mind enough to tell it all honestly and give advice pulled from experience.

Q: Are they the exact challenges and experience you had faced during your work at Microsoft?

Many of them are in the book – all the stories in the book are true (though some names have been changed here and there).

I certainly made lots of mistakes. But what’s funny is that as you get older it’s the mistakes that have the most value and make for the best stories. Making mistakes is good for you!

Q: What is the most important thing to be a leader in your work or personal life?

I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do.

I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.


Q: On top of writing books, you also have written some short articles which are freely available for online readers. Articles such as “Why smart people defend bad ideas” and “How to learn from your mistakes” are some of the most popular articles around blogs and web sites. Would you tell me your thinking process on how to come up with a topic to write?

I think about things i wish someone else would write, but that doesn’t exist. Or I’ll find it and see another way to attack the same question. Then I get going.

Essays take lots of time to write and many of them don’t work out well enough to publish, but that’s the basic process. I’m a curious person and I try to follow that curiosity when I sit down to write. If I’m being open, I never know where the essay is going to go.

Q: How do you manage your time with many responsibilities from days to nights?

Everyone gets 24 hours a day. I try to make each day represent my priorities. So I write every day (even weekends), work on my consulting business every day, and exercise and do silly things every day.

I figure if I can manage each day well, the weeks, months and years will take care of themselves.

Scott, it is my pleasure to talk to you. Looking forward to read your book very soon. I am sure the book will help me a lot on my daily job. All the best on your consultant work and book writings!

Bottom Line

I’m inspired by Scott’s vision on team and project management. We all have limited time with 24 hours a day, 12 months a year. If we want to achieve more in less time, it really is about how we prioritize stuff. When we’re clear about what matters to us most, we can distribute our time and energy accordingly to actually get things done.


If you want to learn how to prioritize effectively, check out How to Prioritize Work When Everything Seems Important

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