The Parallels Between Life and Project Management

Committing words to Paper: As soon as something it is recorded it will be held as fact for the duration of the project/relationship. Don’t commit something to paper you are unwilling to stand behind or you do not believe is factually correct.

Fixing end points: Stipulating a time-scale for anything invariably ensures the project will have costly overruns. As soon as you have accepted something is going to take a specific length of time psychologically you have already begun working towards that and anything adverse that occurs will ensure additional time is required.

Sprint: purposefully give yourself less time than you know everything will take. Typically I develop an accurate estimate and subtract 20–25% of the time I know it will take to complete. I realise that sounds counter-intuitive and flys in the face of conventional wisdom but give it a try and you may surprise yourself. Do it for everything and watch as efficiency savings roll in.

Don’t waste time: Use a timer for everything. Some things may seem inconsequential but that 30-minute meeting that takes 37 minutes bi-weekly is costing you over 12 hours of productive time a year.Extrapolate that figure out for every individual present and the meeting and you have some a significant economic loss. Multiply that for every meeting that runs even a minute over. You schedule is sacred, protect it or you’ll pay for it in your own time. Same applies for even menial chores. Once you know how long something takes you have a target to beat.

Who are you impressing?: It shouldn’t impress anyone if you need to work extra hours to cover the work you should be able to achieve each day, it merely highlights your inefficiencies. It may give you an ego boost and gain you acknowledgement in the office i.e. ‘John’s alway working late, he’s such a hard worker’, but you’ll know you’re wasting your time. Get the work you need to get done in a day and recover. Nobody got anywhere from burning themselves out.

‘Swallow the frog’: do the thing you are least looking forward to first and the whole day will seem brighter and easier. Get the things out the way that make the biggest difference not the things that take longest. Email takes time but can be done at any time and slows down momentum, do the things that enable progress.

In fact, lock email in a box and do the following:

  1. Only check emails once per day. Some of you may question how this is possible or believe it would force me to miss important messages through the day. In truth, it made me far more productive. It allowed me to focus on the task at hand more clearly and if anything did come up I started receiving phone calls which allowed me to tackle the problem quicker, easier and without the need for additional emails.
  2. Stop sending as many emails. It sounds simple because it is, but I was able to drastically reduce my emails received on a daily basis by as much as 40%. No more emails to emails that didn’t require a reply. No more emails to people I could phone and get an answer from in ten seconds. The freedom gained is truly invigorating.

If something that requires attention comes up someone will call; you wouldn’t email the fire brigade to inform them your house is on fire.

Throwaway plans: Plans are perfectly correct until they begin and then they merely loosely indicative. Don’t think of a plan as a concrete route from A-B as you will always be disappointed. Think of it as an anecdotal story, which if everything goes right, and it won’t, you may have an easy ride. Plans don’t account for ‘road works’ or any kind of adverse conditions. Depending on a plan going to plan is the thing that will get you into the most trouble. Foresee issues, pre-plan in expectation and if everything goes smoothly you’ll appreciate having had the contingency in place.

Recognise when wrong: Recognise when you are wrong and make amends. Never be too proud to apologise or patch things up. Even if you are right and the other person is wrong, if they are adamant in their beliefs, changing their mind isn’t going to improve relations therefore even being right can mean you are wrong.

Trust people: don’t be precious and protective of things. Let people showcase their expertise and benefit collectively. Welcome people into the team with open arms, don’t be suspicious of their intentions. Ultimately you and the team are the beneficiaries. You will meet lone superstars along the way so find ways to connect whereby the partnership is mutually beneficial.

Congratulate and inspire: Praise people when they do well. Nothing motivates people more than the acknowledgement of the effort they have put in to achieve success. Better yet praise people in front of the whole team which simultaneously encourages the person who had done the great work and lets the team witness what happens then they contribute to the team’s success.

Train: Coach people instead of telling them off. Empathise and understand and suggest ways that the previous outcome could have been improved. Use considered phrases which don’t damage confidence. ‘I see what you did there, have you considered doing…’. Show people the road and they will follow. Or they will find ingenious ways to improve on your suggestions.

Be liked: To be liked you need to sincerely care about the other guy. You need to forego your own ego and understand what the other person wants and actively give it to them. Ultimately people want another persons attention and to feel important. Give it to them and learn about them, in turn learning about yourself. All great, long lasting relationships are built on an understanding of the other person. Stop being selfish and realise there are two sides to every story.

Who are you?: Character is who you are when nobody is looking. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Humility: Treat people how you want to be treated. Whether you acknowledge the cleaner tidying up your mess in the hotel or the CEO of your company, humility and sincere interest are ubiquitous in revealing you humanity.

Be trusted, earn respect: Do what you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. In fact, do it before. Trust is the currency that enables transactions to occur in higher frequency. Without trust and respect, in life and in business, you are nothing.

Ask don’t tell: The easiest way to lose the support of your team/friends/family is to demand and tell instead of requesting or politely asking. Kill people with kindness and generosity and they will gladly assist you in any endeavour. Thank them for their time and expertise, make them feel valued.

You can’t win an argument: You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is wrong. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Be honest: Be honest to others but most importantly be honest with yourself. The quickest way to sentence a project or relationship to defeat is to tell tall tales or hide the truth. Being upfront and honest about your own limitations, sharing concerns and identifying problems when they happen can save huge expense and alleviate small issues before they become massive problems. Being honest with yourself allows you to identify your weaknesses and unmercifully pursue improvement and development.

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