If you’ve ever listened to a large choir, either at church or on a TV special and wondered how the singers all came together in such a glorious unity, note-for-note and word-for-word, knowing that they weren’t all accomplished musicians, then you should know that one of the most essential methods of organization and working through complex concepts is learning by rote.
R-O-T-E. Rote. Learning something by repetition. The tenor in the second row, who’s an electrician by day, may not understand music theory. He may not have a premonition about how a piece of music is supposed to sound. However, if he practices it over and over again, he will develop a clear image of what his role is, as well as the others around him. Then he will know, intuitively, when things are right, and when they’re not.
This method works for project managers. In fact, it may be the most valuable habit you can develop in your effort to meet deadlines, accomplish what you set out to do and even over-achieve. Set yourself up for success by setting yourself up in a repetitive rhythm of activities that increase your awareness and stimulate you for the job at hand. The following are some practices to achieve harmony in your daily project management routine.
1. Tend your e-mail
OK, you knew that was coming. E-mail can be a bonanza or a bust, but the one thing you must not do is ignore it. Do not let your incoming e-mails mount up. That little red circle with the number in it should be like a stoplight to you.
Stop what you’re doing and clean up your inbox. If you want that little red circle to go away (it would be nice if it turned green), you have to deal with the e-mails within. And come on now. You know that two-thirds of them are junk that only needs to be deleted.
Shift-select-delete. Boom. Twenty-seven e-mails have gone for good. Answer the e-mails that need to be answered and forward what you can to others (This is the delegation of responsibility, project manager. You know that’s a good thing.)
2. Update yourself on the project’s status
With so many project management apps that help you, you can do yourself an enormous favor by getting everyone on board on a common platform. Here you can track the project’s progress, communicate with the people who have been assigned various tasks, re-evaluate expectations and deadlines, and be ready for the next phase.
If you don’t want to go the software route, you can do all this manually, but the main thing is to do it. It’s your project. You should take inventory of all the factors that can either drive a project to completion or derail it.
3. Learn from your successes or failures
“Tenors!” said the conductor. “On measure 38, that’s an A natural! Please pay attention.” Even if you don’t know music, you know that spot he’s talking about, and you know how it just somehow didn’t sound right a minute ago. It’s in your head now.
Approach project completion with that technique in mind. When something doesn’t go well, remember it. Don’t sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen. Likewise, when something goes right, remember that moment of euphoria.
4. Don’t hide from problems
If, in applying Tip #3 you realized that your supplier is not coming through for you as you had hoped, you could make allowances for that, OR you can determine what needs to be done in order to fix the problem forever, or at least for the foreseeable future.
Some problems require more thought than others, but don’t let the degree of difficulty cause you to procrastinate on fixing them.
5. De-clutter your personal space
You know that slogan: A cluttered desk is the sign of an organized mind?
Not true. Maybe somewhere, yes, but you’re not that person. Organize the things around you – on your desk, in your office, your car and even in your personal life.
It’s a lot like the e-mail thing – take care of the physical items in your field of view. Regularly. Not just when you can’t see over the top of them. Paper letters, charts, pens, staplers, baskets with labels on them that you don’t even use that way anymore – throw out, store, clean and render useful the things that are actually useful to you.
You’d be amazed at how that clears your thinking.
6. Communicate with everyone
Productivity apps are great for communicating with co-workers en masse but don’t forget one-on-one communication.
Take the time to check in with each person on a project – not just the middle managers or those who have the biggest load, but everyone.
This makes each individual feel important and part of a well-oiled team, and they will be more motivated to improve and go beyond what asked of them.
7. Show appreciation
The human brain is made to function on reinforcement – ideally repetitive reinforcement. Never forget to say thank you to anyone who helped see a project through to a successful conclusion.
And remember, size doesn’t matter. Don’t save up your big shows of appreciation to those who made the most profound contribution. Show equal appreciation to all, regardless of that individual’s role.
Dance to the music! When a project is done and the outcome is good, get up and dance! OK, maybe not literally, but do have a party or outing where the main purpose is to have fun.
Take everyone bowling, take them to the local watering hole (all things in moderation, of course) or miniature golf. No “shop talk” allowed, no worrying about the next project and no complaining. Just have fun!
Marla DiCarlo is an accomplished business consultant with more than 28 years of professional accounting experience. As co-owner and CEO of Raincatcher, she helps business owners learn how to quickly sell a business so they can get paid the maximum value for their company.