In my last article, I have talked about the fact that we overwhelm ourselves and what to do about it. In this article, I share 3 more tips, which will bring you further away from overwhelm and nearer to peace of mind.
You missed my last article with the first 3 tips on how to minimalise your project management? What a shame! 😉
But don’t worry, you can find it here.
Do not forget to come back here once you’re finished, to get 3 more tips!
So, it’s time to declutter our brains! Let’s get started with my …
3 new tips for minimalism in project management
4) Don’t go crazy on software
I know there are great pieces of software out there that could presumably make your work so much easier. Or, which I find is more often the case, would be so much cooler to use.
It is so easy to get lost in the next shiny object and we often forget the huge amount of time that it takes for you AND your team to learn how to use this new software. And do not forget the effort that it will take you to get over the resistance that you will surely encounter from some of your team members when you switch to a new software. The thing is that you are managing a project, with the clear objective to reach a goal, and I bet the goal is not that you learn to use some kind of fancy software.
I am a big proponent of keeping things simple, which means to use a software which fulfils your needs without adding any bells and whistles. And after all, the best software is the one you and your team know and use.
That said, don’t get me wrong. If the current software lacks important functionalities that makes you run into limitations concerning your control over the project, your capability to analyse what is going on, or is just too time consuming, then changing the software would be the right choice. But this choice and its pros and cons need to be analysed and documented in the project planning phase, and time and perhaps also budget need to be allocated.
To give you a concrete example.
If you plan projects the waterfall style, you can do it on Excel or any other open source spreadsheet tool. This is easy, everybody knows how to use it and it comes at no cost. And it goes a long way, as you can elaborate this so that you can track completion, cost and all this other fun stuff and the export and formatting capabilities are great.
The cons are that you cannot interlink activities and you cannot develop load diagrams for your people.
Unless your project is not very complicated, you can go with that, but imagine that your project becomes more complicated and you need the interlinking and the load diagrams. Well in this case, you might want to go to a free alternative like ProjectLibre® or a paid version, like Microsoft Project®, which sounds much cooler.
Now, Microsoft Project® can do all you need and much more, so problem solved, isn’t it? Well think twice, there are some cons to consider. First, it comes with a hefty price tag. Are you prepared for this and also to provide the software to the key players in your team, because otherwise you will spend a lot of time exporting data to pdf in order to provide your team with the latest version of the project plan? Second, you and your team will need training to be able to use this. And third, and that is the most critical from my point of view, this software has its own intelligence, which means it will try to think for you. Not a good idea if you are just starting out and need to clean up this software’s mental problems.
You also could use ProjectLibre®, which will also do what you need to do in the first place. It is also complicated, but much less than Microsoft Project®, and it’s free and comes without some of the super advanced bells and whistles and therefore is less complex. As it is free, no need to do the export exercises as with the paid product, as everybody in your team can have the software installed. You will still have a learning curve and that’s where you must weigh the time lost learning against the gain of efficiency.
5) Don’t generate data you don’t need or understand
Today, generating data is too easy. An Excel sheet and some formulas are all you need. The downside is that too much data is generated and, believe it or not, every number you generate costs time and money.
Why does it cost time and money? I mean, once you looked up the formula in the internet, Excel does the rest, isn’t it? Well, because you will have to look at it and find a good explanation for every movement of each and every number, just in case someone asks. Also, the amount of numbers you produce correlates directly with the time spend in meetings and preparation and the risk of missing just that important piece of information.
As an example, let’s look at project scheduling data. SV, PV, EV, PV, SPI, BAC, CPI, … can you know exactly what these figures mean? Do you know what it means when SPI moves from 0.9 to 1.1? I mean, what is going on and what would be the appropriate actions to fix this problem? Is it a problem at all?
If you cannot answer the questions in a split second, then do not use these numbers!
If on the other hand you reflect on your project plan and just chose one or two numbers you can perfectly explain and where you know exactly what a movement in one or another direction means and what to do about it, then you are good to go. And believe me, having one or two numbers to explain is much less overwhelming than 50.
6) Stop micromanaging
Micromanagement is and has always been one of the most prominent sources of overwhelm, overload and overwork.
I should get back to this topic and soon publish something about how to delegate right. So, stay tuned if you want to get rid of this illness.
It stands true that if you have a very unskilled team you will need to give more directions, but the problem is, if you do this too much instead of training your team to get better and solve problems by themselves, 3 things will happen:
First, your team will relax because the boss is controlling everything anyways, so what is the point putting the effort to get things right?
Second, you will start to work too much hours and due to that and due to your lack of competence, you will start making errors. You cannot be the expert in every field, which will lead to time loss (because it will take more time than necessary to do things) and errors, because as mentioned you are not the expert. On top of this, you will also make errors in project management, because you have no time to put the necessary time in this to do a good job.
And third, you will get negative feedback from your boss due to the bad performance of the project and yourself, which will raise your stress level, which will lead to even more problems, which … See? This is anything but fun!
So, for god’s sake, stop micromanaging and learn how to delegate!
Now its your turn!
Which of my 6 points is yours? Make a priority list and decide which points you want to work on during the next month. And then, start observing yourself and every time you get the feeling that you relapse into old behaviours, just count down from 5 to 0 and do it in a different way.
Let me know, which point(s) you want to work on and how it goes. I am curious to read your feedback.