Thank you for your comments on my last post about interviewing for a new job and relocation to Europe! I
have joined my new team and became fairly busy for the last couple of months. Starting a new job can be easily overwhelming, it involves not only the new processes and organization to learn, but also to build your network, dive into the company culture and keeping up with existing teams. How to restore the work-life balance then?
My assignments can be characterized as management of large organizational changes and as such is never done. My to do list is always full and I could easily stay occupied from early morning till late hours every day. But that is not what is happening. As mother of three kids, I see reaching a work life balance as a must.
I also realize a lot of pressure on women, particularly mothers, who want to provide their care to their families and at the same time to keep up with their career and develop professionally. Unfortunately they are often facing unwanted judgmental comments whether they are dedicated either enough to their families or to their jobs. I’ve been there. But after all that does not matter as long as you’re able to find the balance that makes YOU happy!
I would like to share few tricks that may help.
Set boundaries to manage your time
My experience is that once I mentally admit to myself that I can work long hours, evenings or weekend, it happens in a second. Any free space in my time that I’m willing to dedicate to work is immediately filled up. How to get out of this? Set yourself boundaries and keep your spare time for urgent matters only. Treat them as exception, not a standard. It is hard, requires a lot of self-discipline, but it is definitely helping.
Delegate and orchestrate rather than manage and control
Centralized decision making creates bottlenecks. Is it easier to save discussions and just do it by yourself? In certain situations for sure. Does coaching and mentoring your team consume time and energy? Yes indeed. But from a long term perspective, empowered teams not only foster intrinsic motivation of the team members and deliver better results, it also helps people to grow professionally and increase their skill maturity. All these aspects then ultimately helps to manage the workload.
Prioritize and minimize number of your work in progress items
When it comes to prioritizing and delivering items on the to-do list, I use approach borrowed from agile practices – focus on the necessary things to avoid gold-plating, create the outputs when they are needed and gather early and often feedback from your stakeholders to adjust quickly and prevent rework.
It is necessary to admit that certain things will never get done. Not because you skip them due to the lack of time. The reason often is that priorities change over time, stakeholder requirements are altered after seeing a first draft or certain discussed concepts are later abandoned after digging in more detail. Keeping you to-do list verified with your stakeholders helps to spending time on items that are really critical for success and overall helps you to deliver the right outcomes.
What is your experience with seeking work-life balance? Looking forward to hear your tips!
Project momentum is energy that makes your project moving. But there are so many possible situations that takes the motivation and spirit from your team or even from yourself. Maintaining project momentum requires true leadership skills and solid project management base in terms or knowledge, methods and experience.
Do you know that feeling when your team reaches a milestone, everybody is a bit tired after all the effort and seeking for at least a short break? Let your team celebrate and enjoy their success. Highlight their achievement and transform their positive energy into motivation to achieve further deliveries.
One of the advantages of project work is that people experience tasks beyond their regular job assignments. Project managers may enhance their learning, skills development or even support their job promotion. All these steps motivate the team members to contribute to the project success.
Be always one step ahead
To keep the project moving, project manager must be focused not only on the currently happening activities, but also foresee, plan and initiate necessary steps in advance to ensure smooth transition between project stages that require changes in the team structure, processes or methods of work.
Such transition may involve redirecting the team focus to different type of tasks, e.g. from business requirements analysis to development, establishing relationship with new stakeholders, e.g. system ramp-up support after implementation that requires communication with broader spectrum of the system users, or enlarging the team with new roles and experts.
Lead by example, show your energy to energize the others
There will always be some moments that drag your team spirit down. Not approved change request that was really important for your customer. Key stakeholder took another challenge in the company and is no longer supporting your project. System architecture reveals more and more issues impacting your delivery and you can’t change that. Unexpected budget cut. You name it.
At such moments it is the project manager that everyone is looking at. And that’s the time to show the true leadership! Use your own energy to motivate the others to find solutions to sudden obstacles. There are always solutions. Maybe not visible at the first sight, but motivated team can find them.
So nope, there’s never really any time for a project manager to take a nap. The project management discipline is very complex not only in terms of knowledge to be acquired, ability to learn new technologies and products, but it also demands emotional intelligence maturity and high level of leadership skills. Keeping project momentum is not a magic, it is rather a lot of hard work.