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January 19, 2012, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.

From the Editor

Stop for a second and take a look around your work environment. What's the energy level like? Do your team members look enthused, or enervated? If your boss looked in on you right now, would you look like someone who is glad to be there, or some who's just trying to survive the day?

Kimberly Wiefling's column this week came as a timely reminder: If we don't take care of ourselves, no one else will. Her five common sense practices are things we all know, and all neglect from time to time. Read her article as a refresher, then pick just one of the resources we're highlighting this week to follow up on her suggestions. (Did we miss a spot? If your biggest energy sap isn't addressed here, let us know. We want to help.)

Featured Article

Too Tired to Care? Regain Your Perspective with 5 Proven Practices
by Kimberly Wiefling

Kimberly Wiefling Somewhere around the spring of last year I started to forget to take care of myself. I started ignoring my need for balance in my life, and focused single-mindedly on the enormous pile of tasks and projects I had accumulated. By December, I was a mess! As I said by end-of-the-year goodbyes to my colleagues in Tokyo, I bellowed (only partially joking), "I know you've all been working just as hard as I am, but frankly I'm too tired to care!" And I truly was. In exhausting myself, I had lost my ability to care about my teammates. What a pity!

This is a place that a project leader cannot afford to end up. And yet, in the demanding, deadline-driven project environment, it's all too easy to exhaust ourselves to the point that we're ineffective (and not much fun to be around).

Out of necessity, I've adopted the following five common sense practices. They have helped me regain my perspective, reduce my stress, and optimize the results I get from the time I invest in my work. I hope they'll serve as a handy reminder of what you already know, but may sometimes fail to do. Whatever you do, make some changes for the better before you're carried out on a stretcher. Read the rest »

For Team Members

Don't make your job harder than it has to be. Keep your project lead in the loop about what's going on, what is making your work harder or easier, and that great idea you had last week (which may or may not be an advantage in the long run).

Team Member Status ReportPREMIUM
Sharing your project milestones and goals regularly will help raise issues, even if you're just sharing 2-3 bullet points in an email. Be proactive about your status reporting, even if your project lead isn't asking for it. Make sure they know what you're working on, and what you need.

Impact AnalysisPREMIUM
Before you add that gold plating, consider whether the customer will even care. Scope creep from well-intentioned designers is a major cause of project overages and personal overtime. You don't have to be as detailed as this high-level template suggests, but get in the habit of considering these factors before you take the time to make something "even better."

For Project Leads

Managing projects means managing up, down, and sideways. If your team needs help, you need to ask. If the project is facing risks, you need to keep people informed. And perhaps most importantly, you need to keep your team rested and sharp, so they can spot and solve problems.

Software Quality Release CriteriaPREMIUM
When is it "good enough" to release? If your team is trying to write perfect code, nothing will ever be done. This short document will help you capture what "good enough" means -- what are the deal breakers, and what you can live with until the next patch.

Keeping Up the Pace?, by Kent McDonald
Help your team set a work pace they could keep up forever (though hopefully the project ends a little sooner than that).

Executive Summary of Project Status and RisksMEMBER
This easily scanned report focuses on changes and trends, not just dates and numbers. Heavily risk-focused, it also includes all of the usual items like milestone status and accomplishments. The result is an at-a-glance summary that quickly shows execs how the project is doing and directs their attention to what help is needed.

Managing PMs

Are your project managers directing effort toward the most important projects and activities? Are you? Make the best use of scarce resources by knowing what matters most, and what matters least. Then make sure everyone has time to take a breath and think about it.

Scored and Ranked Project ListSPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until February 2, 2012
You can get pretty fancy with project prioritization, but it isn't always necessary. Especially in smaller organizations or at the department level, you can get a lot of mileage out of a pretty simple list like this one. Keeping it in a spreadsheet means you can accommodate changing priorities easily.

Portfolio Data Collection LetterMEMBER
While we're on the subject, are you sure what projects your teams are working on? You might be surprised how many "little" efforts have sprung up like mushrooms over the last year. Use this letter to find out what's really going on. (Emphasize that this is information gathering, not punitive discovery, if you want to be sure you get accurate information back.)

What Matters: Giving Ourselves Time to THINK, by Cinda Voegtli
There's a difference between effort and results. Are you and your teams so focused on getting things done that you've lost perspective on what's worth doing?

Career Corner

We all know that self-management matters, but if you're caught in "I'm too busy" mode, it's easy to feel that you don't have time to manage your time. If you can just get through this list, this pile, this series of meetings, you can manage your time "later." The people getting ahead in their careers, though, aren't waiting for the perfect opportunity to take charge of their time. It's a mindset. They even say no on occasion.

Personal Time Management Assessment LogMEMBER
You don't have to spend hours to recover minutes. Just 5 minutes an hour for a few days can help you capture where your time is going. Do it for a week, then analyze the log to look for cues. Are you really spending your time on the best things? Time to find out.

Good Soldier Syndrome, by Doug DeCarlo
A can-do attitude can kill your project and tank your profits. Approach these conversations with a tone that's assertive -- not a passive "Yes" or an aggressive "No!" -- and you can start a dialogue examining the real risks and rewards involved in taking on that feature, task, or project.

Premium How-To Course

Dealing With Schedule-Killing Scope Creep
Presented by Cinda Voegtli, ProjectConnections CEO

Cinda Voegtli There you are just trying to get it all done -- on an already tight schedule, most likely -- and here comes yet another "must have" requirement, yet another cool thing we need to add. At this rate, you're pretty sure the team is never going to be able to get it all done. But it's an executive request, so I guess we'd better just do our best, right?

Wrong. This mini-course explains how to spot dangerous scope creep before it derails your project, how to deal with those "must-do" executive requests, and more. Cinda's practical, get-it-done tone emphasizes controlling the project while sounding proactive, in charge, and business-minded instead of petulant, obstructionist, or resigned. The goal isn't to refuse all changes; it's to make the right decisions about changes, no matter who suggests them. 1 PDU Learn more »


Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing

Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.


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