Stress is a fact of the project management world. The responsibility to deliver projects, week after week, gradually wears you down. On a Friday morning, you finally deliver a major project.
Before you can even start to unwind, someone asks you to join another project. Suddenly, the sweet experience of a well delivered project fades to a vague memory.
To break out of this punishing cycle, you need tools to refresh your career. These tools give you new perspectives on your work. These concepts will improve your professional network, help you understand your accomplishments and identify new opportunities. For best results, put all of these into practice over a period of weeks (some of them can be used daily!)
1. Go For A Long Walk To A New Area (30-60 minutes)
New environments have a big impact. So many people think they have to get on a plane and visit a new country in order to experience something new. International travel is fantastic but don’t limit yourself to that. After all, you may have limited money and vacation days.
This week, put on your shoes and go for a walk to a new area of your city. You can look for a park you’ve never been to before. Or you can explore residential areas that you always ignore on your daily commute.
There are two career benefits to going for a long walk. First, you get some much needed exercise – a simple way of maintaining your health. Second, when you wander through a new area your preoccupation with career challenges fades. From time to time, you may even get new ideas on what to do in your project (or the next chapter of your career).
Tip: Do a Google search of “walks” + “your city” (e.g. “New York City walks”) to get inspiration for new places to walk. You may even find a guided tour to explore your city’s history, architecture or parks.
2. Write a Fifteen Minute Report on Fridays For A Month (15 minutes per week).
Have you ever had the feeling that the work week went by and you’re not quite sure what you achieved? Given the constant crisis management and stress of projects, this feeling is understandable. Happily, there is a simple way to cut through the fog.
On Friday, write a short text document called “Weekly Report”. This simple document has a few components. Spend no more than 15 minutes on it.
- Section 1: What I Accomplished This Week (suggest 2-4 items)
- Section 2: What I Learned This Week (2-4 items; can be books, websites, new software etc)
- Section 3: Plans For Next Week (focus on the 3-5 most important items)
I used the fifteen minute report practice for more than six months. It made a big difference in helping me realize how much I achieved at the office.
Tip: Once you get comfortable with the weekly report habit, ask your direct manager (or project sponsor) if he or she would be interested in receiving a short weekly report. This brief report is one of the best ways of demonstrating your commitment to your work.
3. Contact An Old Manager To Catch Up (10 minutes)
When was the last time you talked to an old manager? It could be the person that hired you at your first full time job. Or it could be someone more recent at your current company. Given how much project managers move around (especially those that work on a consulting basis), it is very easy to lose touch with people.
To reconnect with an old manager, look them up on LinkedIn.com and send them a short message. Write a few sentences about what you’re doing and ask about them. Follow up with another a message a week later if you don’t get a response. You may decide to go out for lunch together and continue the conversation.
4. Write A Process Improvement Note (30 minutes)
Finding opportunities is an important skill for project managers. When you focus relentlessly on project execution, your ability to see opportunities may fade. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be like that!
Think about your past two projects for a moment. What processes did you have to follow on both projects? Did you have a lot of paperwork to complete? Cutting paperwork complexity is an excellent way to improve efficiency.
Over 30 minutes, write down 10 ideas for ways that you can improve processes at your company. The act of writing down your ideas is vital. By having one page of process improvement ideas on hand, you will be able to contribute ideas easily the next time sometime says, “This process is terrible!”
These four ideas will make a major difference in terms of refreshing your project management career. Best of all – none of these ideas require any money or software to put into action.
Get started today by writing a comment about which idea you plan to put into practice.
Bruce Harpham writes on project management training at Project Management Hacks. His corporate experience includes leading process improvement projects at financial institutions.