by Jim Vaughan

How a Project Manager Can Sleep Like a Baby

Sep 15, 2010
IT Leadership

Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night worrying about your projects?

One eye opens. You look at the clock; 4:16 AM. You suddenly remember that Wally has been behind on his piece of the project and you did not get a status report. You think, “Not a problem, I will contact him this morning.” You put your head back on the pillow and then remember that Wally told you he would be out the rest of the week. There goes the rest of the night’s sleep.

If you are a project manager losing sleep do not blame Wally. The problem here lies squarely on your own shoulders. It is your responsibility to stay on top of all the moving parts of your project. But how do these problems happen? You have a detailed project plan utilizing resource management and deliverables based planning. What could have possibly gone wrong?

Perhaps you are missing one key tool required to be a project manager. You need a list. This list will contain items with due dates and owners. While it is often possible to generate this list directly from a project management planning tool you can also do this with the simplest of tools, a pencil and paper. In fact you might be better off keeping this simple.

The reason a paper and pencil is so effective is that the information needs to enter your brain, be transformed into the physical movements that create the list which are then re-intercepted through the eyes and back into the brain. This process also allows for the cognitive process causing the brain to clearly understand the items on the list in your own terms. This list is not something that you create at the start of the project and use throughout. This list is created and re-create on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to use the other end of your pencil to make changes to your list. This list can and will be very dynamic and will be used to monitor the daily fluctuations on your project.

This list needs to look into the near future. As a project manager you should worry less about the items that are already late and worry more about those future items that have the potential of being late. Don’t get me wrong, it is equally, and maybe more important, to take care of those items that are already late, but you need not worry about those. You cannot change the past but you can influence the future. The most effective project manager influences the future to keep their projects on schedule.

Use all of the tools, data and information you have available to create your near future list. Review and update your list throughout the day. Be aware of what is due in the future and stay on top of those issues to keep your project on track. Do this and you will sleep like a baby.

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