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A Manager’s 7 Tips for a Successful Project

A Manager’s 7 Tips for a Successful Project

I’m Simon and I’m an Account Executive at Higher Click. Previously, I worked for one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. My current position is between a purely managerial role and that of an executive, so I’m involved in quite a lot of project management. This article will summarize all that I’ve learned over the years.

A project manager’s main job is to bring a particular project to completion, both on time and within budget. There are all kinds of factors that can cause a project to veer off its tracks, both internal and external, but steps can be taken to ensure that your project experiences as little disruption as possible.

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With planning and preparation, you can put your project into the best shape even before you begin, and hopefully minimize the types of interruptions that can derail the best-laid plans. Proper work before beginning a project can also ensure that any unexpected occurrences can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

1. Ensure that you have full project detail up front

A completely detailed project scope, with approval from all stakeholders, is a necessity. Be sure the scope includes interim milestones, a detailed timeline, and a budget that is sufficient to cover all required work.
If you get everything in writing at the beginning of the project, you have an excellent foundation to build upon. Change is inevitable, but you have to maintain control and point out when the project begins to resemble something completely different from what was originally outlined. This is critical to avert disaster if your client tends toward “scope creep,” which is when someone asks for “just one more little thing” repeatedly, until the endeavor has become a lot more or different from when it began.

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2. Set realistic expectations

A PM I once knew was fond of saying, “You can have two of the three: good, fast, cheap. You CANNOT have all three.”
Make sure everyone on the team, including the client, understands the limitations of the project. You can finish a task successfully on time and within budget, as long as expectations are reasonable. You most likely cannot work miracles if expectations are not reasonable, and would only setting yourself up for project failure. Don’t begin your project with failure nearly predestined.

3. Establish measurable and reportable criteria for success

How can you know if your project is going to be successful if you don’t have any way of measuring success?  You will need interim milestones, especially for an endeavor that will span a long time, so that you can determine if you are staying on track or straying from the project’s goals.
You must have both internal checkpoints and client checkpoints. Never leave incorporating a client’s feedback until the very end of the project, unless you want to risk having to re-work substantial components if the client is not happy.

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4. Select team members, and assign responsibilities carefully

Gather your human resources, and make sure that skill-sets align with required roles. This is an important first step: If you assign the wrong person to a task, you are reducing your chances of success before the project even begins.
Make sure each team member is clear on what is expected from them and when. Encourage them to ask questions to clarify anything that may uncertain, and to come to you whenever something seems to be out of place or going awry. Clear and open communication is mission-critical.

5. Embrace your role as leader

You are the director of this project, so be sure to act the part and do not let any other team member assert dominance over your position. It’s your job to draw the best work out of your team members, so you are coach, mentor, and motivator. You may need to cultivate a team atmosphere among people who have not worked together before, so be sure to include team-building exercises if necessary. You also are the liaison with the client, so be accurate in your communications both internally and externally.
Be sure to provide strong and calm leadership to your team if your project encounters turbulence. It’s far more difficult to be a great leader in times of stress, but that’s exactly when your team needs you the most.

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6. Manage project risks

Hopefully you have defined the more likely risks up front during the project preparation, so you will already have contingency plans in place for certain occurrences. If you can see when a risk is imminent, you can take preventive action to avoid it, or you can quickly step in with corrective measures if necessary.
Be ready to halt a project if the risk becomes unacceptable. Part of your role as leader is to know when things have begun moving inexorably toward a failure point.

7. Evaluate the project when complete

Once a project has been completed, it’s important to do a “post-mortem” report, even if it is only for internal purposes. You can pinpoint what went right and what went wrong, determine what could or should have been done differently, and establish the best practices for use in future undertakings.

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Simon Andras

Simon is an entrepreneur who blogs about lifestyle.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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