Some DPM New Year resolutions

22-December-smallSo it’s almost 31st December and I bet you’re already thinking about those dreaded resolutions. Well why not take a different steer on them this year and focus on improvements that can be made to you as a PM?

1. Lose weight

No, I don’t mean cutting back on the turkey, stuffing, and chocolate! What I’m talking about is streamlining your PM life. Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and look at what your processes are, what documentation you produce, how you manage your communications—and be really objective about how much you do. Look at the documents you produce: Are they all necessary or are you creating documents for the sake of creating documents? Could you pick up the phone instead of writing out that lengthy email?

One thing that PMs have to be great at is managing our own time. We don’t have someone planning what we do and when we do it. So look at the time you have and the processes you use, and cut back where you can. Try to tie similar items together so you’re not repeating the work you do. When people ask you to do things, don’t automatically say yes. Instead, question it and make sure it’s being done for a valid reason and will be beneficial to someone. Could it be done in a better way?

2. Quit smoking

By smoking I mean the smoking head caused by stress! It’s very easy to carry the weight of the project on our shoulders as PMs. We ultimately tie all the different parts of it together, and make sure it’s delivered how and when the client wants. We can end up being the jack of all trades. There have been many tasks I’ve done (content creation, site maps, content entry, image purchasing, sourcing sounds… the list is endless!) that don’t seem to fit within my role as a PM, but somehow I end up doing it. After all this, one can become a frazzled mess!

Firstly, review what you are doing and ask yourself: Is everything manageable? Are you taking on tasks that should be delegated to others? Make sure you are comfortable with the timings of the project and the deliverables, and if you aren’t—make your project stakeholders aware of the risks. If you are doing a little bit of everything, make sure you are getting your team members to pick up the tasks that lie with them, and potentially find others to help you out. And most importantly—take a step back, a deep breath, and a bit of time out. Try to come back to it with a fresh head.

3. Save money

I’ve been told by one of my clients that next year is the year of value. But there should always be value for your clients, and good value doesn’t necessarily mean cheap! It should mean that for the estimate you’ve given you’re delivering the best solution for their and the users’ needs, with the maximum return. So when the client approaches you with a request, interrogate and examine it—does it really address their objectives? Is that the best use of their money, or should you be looking at another solution that will deliver more efficiency? Don’t be afraid to go back to the client with an alternative if you have the reasoning that it could prove far better for the client in the long term. Ultimately, you could be giving the client a lot more value and potentially saving them money in the long run.

4. Learn something new

Why not make a resolution to learn more about your field next year? Whether that’s by following industry people on Twitter, or reading blogs, as I said in my previous article for 24 DPM blogs—having an understanding of the skills and languages that your teams are using can only help give you more of an understanding of the project as a whole. Maybe try out one of the courses on certain languages like HTML or CSS I linked to in my previous courses, or speak to your peers about what skills they have or their specialisms. And there’s a certain conference coming up in January that could prove very useful!

So check out the resources I’ve linked to here, have a look at who other PMs follow on Twitter, search for blogs in the industry and you can unearth a whole range of information. Oh and make sure you take a look at Brett Harned’s great post on DPM resources he’s written for this blog!

5. Stop a bad habit

Everyone has one, whether it’s not delegating to people enough (guilty!), flitting between too many tasks at once, or saying yes to everything. The first step to break the habit is making it conscious. Try to figure out why you do it, what triggers it and when, and write this down. Think about what the root cause is. If you’re constantly jumping on the next task before finishing your existing one, are you prioritising effectively enough? If you find it difficult delegating to people, is it because you’re a bit of a control freak (me again!) or because you feel bad asking people to do things?

Start with the smaller steps and then go further once you feel more comfortable. For example, if you’re constantly dropping tasks to focus on the next thing, try to get rid of small interruptions—recently I switched off the email pop-up notification on my Outlook and it’s made such a difference! Then once you’ve got used to these smaller things, go bigger—if you’re getting distracted when you’re in the middle of writing a big document, shut yourself in a meeting room for a couple of hours with your out of office on.

These are just simple examples, but you see where I’m going… start making steps to break the bad habits! It can take time, but can really help to improve your day to day working life.

Have you got any resolutions you want to make for next year? Let me know!

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  1. Ian May

    Suze, turning off your Outlook notifications is a great idea for minimising distractions. Have you ever tried the ‘Work Offline’ button? That’s brilliant for giving you space to concentrate and think too – and then best thing is that when you go online again all those emails you wrote go out into the world and do their stuff!

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