In 2014, I took a job that would change my life.
Everyone starts motivational blog posts like that, right? About how some kind of life changing circumstance set them on the course to success? About how all of the hard work and perseverance was worth the struggle?
Yeah, this isn't going to be like that.
Instead, this is more of a reflection of everything I've learned from being a project manager. When I first got into PMing, I didn't know a lot about all of the details the role would require. The job listing was there, and it was at an agency in the up and coming Durham area. I needed a change, and I wanted one that would challenge me.
Note to readers: when you ask life for change, and you really mean it…. Brace yourself. Things are about to get real.
When I landed the job, and actually started working, I quickly realized two things:
- This would not come naturally to me.
- I would have to change nearly everything about my work style to succeed at this.
Because being a successful project manager requires a lot of conflicting character traits and work habits.
A delicate balance of patience, a brilliant attention to detail, discipline and a level of resiliency that admittedly, I’m still working on.
But the brilliant conclusion I drew from the high level of execution the role required, combined with my natural inclination to live in the moment, was that in order to get things finished, you need to learn how to get stuff done.
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In the three years since my first day as a Project Manager, and now, in a Client Success role at Huify, here's what I've learned about allocation, execution, and being successful at any task you set your mind to:
MVP isn't just an acronym, it's a way of life.
Producing a "MVP" (aka, a minimum viable product), is a common startup and agency buzzword. But it's also a crucial thing to master as a project manager. Why?
Because people will always want more. We live in a society of insatiability. We're accustomed to instant gratifcation.
When working on a task, focus on completing the best, yet minimal result that will keep you on track. You can always go back and optimize.
Try to keep things simple.
I've worked with a lot of different project management systems and processes. The one thing I've always found to be true is that things work better when they're simplified. Agile processes are the driving force behind productivity. The more tasks, check-ins, and meetings there are for a project, the longer it's going to take to move forward on it.
Remember - you can always go back and optimize. Don't over-think things.
Get religious about your time management.
This is a difficult thing to get the hang of. But in order to be a successful project management, and learn how to execute, it's crucial to protect your time. I personally have a secret Google Calendar I use to plan my tasks for the day. And I always prioritize the tasks that absolutely need to get done that day.
Because the thing about working in a fast-paced environment, or heck, even living in our fast-paced society, you need to be disciplined about how you're spending time. Time is precious. Time is too easy to get away from you. Make a realistic plan for the day, and MVP through it.
Stop making excuses. Seriously, though.
The valley between you and your dreams is filled with excuses you've used to not put the work in. Take that quote and frame it on your wall. Because it's never been easier to get distracted.
“I’ll follow up about being billed for that subscription later,” you shrug, pushing that task up and hour or so.
“I don’t have time to reply to that email right now,” you decide, replacing that time with time to sit at your desk and eat lunch.
“I’m going to skip my run this morning,” you decide, rolling over, hitting snooze on my alarm. “I’ll run after work.”
These are not valid excuses. If you're going to make progress in any endeavor, you will need to commit to not making excuses. Instead, be honest about what you can handle, and over-communicate your progress. It will not serve you, your co-workers, your clients, or yourself, if you make excuses to explain why something isn't finished.
These are forms of procrastination, which leads me to my next point:
Examine the reasons for your procrastination.
Behind every procrastinated task is a person who isn't confident that they can complete it. When you find yourself putting off a task, really dig into that. Why are you uncomfortable? Why do you need more time? Going back to the MVP mentality, if you ABSOLUTELY had to get this done today, what would you do to finish it?
That question has been crucial in forcing myself to grow in areas I wasn't sure that I'd be able to. Perfection is your enemy. Attack your procrastination with logic and execution, and you'll begin to really get the hang of the MVP mentality.
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Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people... and yes, that includes you.
If you ever hang around the Huify office, it's very likely that within the first twenty minutes, you'll hear one of us complimenting or encouraging each other. It's so important to be encouraging of the people around you. It's important for them to be encouraging to you. A positive, growth-oriented mindset will get you everywhere.
You know that expression - "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar?"
That mentality can also be applied to working with a team, or working with a client.
By being upbeat and positive, you make other people feel recognized. It's important to feel like you're being heard, and that your work is valued.
Corrections and constructive criticism has it's place. Provide feedback in real time, instead of bottling it up and putting it on someone later. Address things as they come, and use the rest of that time to help your team remain focused and on task.
Believe in yourself.
As corny as that sounds, in order to be an enabler of any kind, it's so important to believe that you have the ability to do it. Sara Rose Harcus, the co-founder of Huify, mentioned something at our last retreat that really resonated with me:
“You being 50% ready is better than almost anyone else being 100%.”
Believe in your abilities, even when you make a mistake. Own up to those mistakes, then move on. It's crucial to think well of yourself in order to be successful. While self-awareness is crucial to growth, like constructive criticism, it has it's time and place. That time and place is not when you're trying to get things done.
Want more of the Huify tips and tricks? Keep your eyes on the blog and check out our team's weekly podcast.