Monday, February 25, 2013

Dos and Don'ts of Time Management

This guest post is from Steward Copper of Project Management Insights

Show me a person who wouldn’t like to become successful in life and his career. We all want to become winners and overcome others in the competition. We want to achieve some goals, become famous and get into the top list of the ‘winners’.

But it isn’t easy – the road to success and prosperity is really hard and it isn’t a bed of roses. You need to be ready to work a lot in order to achieve your goals. The most valuable thing that we all need – and which we always lack - is time. Although there are only 24 hours a day, some people manage to do more things than others. How do they manage it? They apply time management principles and know how to prioritize tasks and issues. Remember, that your big goal is a combination of smaller goals that you have to achieve on the way to your own ‘big goal’.

No matter who you are – a student, a teacher, a businessman, a project manager, or a housewife – you need to learn how to manage your time efficiently. I hope the following tips (the so-called ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ will help in this.

  • State your aims and goals: Think carefully about the things that you usually do. Put down the tasks and activities that are needed to be done every day, every week, and every month. But the most important is listing the goals that you would like to achieve in the end. Look at them attentively, analyze and set priorities. Then, rearrange the tasks in the list and add time limits and deadlines. It will give you a possibility to allot enough efforts for completing each task. Do not neglect minor tasks – they may seem not important at first but don’t procrastinate on them. 
  • A good beginning makes a good ending: If your goals are set and time limits are established, it’s time to start the way to your goal. Be optimistic and believe in your success because, as the proverb says ‘Well begun is half done’. If you are not sure about the success, put aside the task for some time and start only when you are ready 100%. 
  • Don’t forget about some extra time: If you know exactly how much it will take to complete the task, assign that amount of time. But if you are not sure, add more time in case of some problems or delays. Be flexible – if necessary, replace one task with another but still try to stick to the plan. Don’t forget about some unexpected things that can – and do – happen in life. Make allowance for such situations – leave some spare time in general. 
  • Work done, have your fun: Life is not only work. Don’t forget about some pleasure and fun since they are needed to fill you with energy for new victories. If you only work, you will become stressful and annoyed, which will result in failures and broken deadlines.
  • Stay focused: Well, if you have stated your goals, made a list of things to be done, walk towards your goals and don’t let anything or anybody make you leave this way. Stay concentrated! Don’t waste your valuable time on unimportant or time-eating activities.
So, I hope these tips will help you manage your time better and become winners!

Author Byline
Hi, my name’s Steward Copper and I am the owner of Project Management Insights. While working as a project coordinator and BA, I have tried almost all possible PM tools, BA instruments, collaboration programs, including tracker and task management software solutions. I use Comindware Tracker for my project management processes. Follow me on Linkedin.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

6 Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Managing Distributed Project Teams

The following is a guest post from Andrew Filev of Wrike.
 According to a survey we ran with 1,000+ employees of various organizational levels, over 60% of them expect their work to go fully virtual in the next few years. Given that remote collaboration is becoming a more and more widespread trend, project managers need to quickly adapt their practices to the changing realities. So, what pitfalls are there to expect in managing distributed teams, and how can you avoid them?
Putting too much hope in self-organization leads to false expectations
Even though a virtual team generally enjoys some extra flexibility, it is deceiving to believe that it will function effectively without enough managerial control. Even more than co-located teams, distributed workers need common guidelines to get their efforts synchronized. For example, when and how to report on work progress, how to deliver results, which best practices and standards to adhere to in the process, etc. Simple and concise rules of work organization will help to get the team coordinated­ at any distance.
Reports instead of conversations lead to miscommunications
If the team’s communication is limited to exchanging tasks and reports, it’ll lead to at least two challenges. First of all, both the manager and the team will suffer from poor visibility into what’s really happening.  Second, this will make the atmosphere inside the team too formal. To avoid this, don’t stop talking! An ongoing conversation will keep everyone updated on the progress, help colleagues solve some questions together and also increase engagement. To add some face-to-face components, you might occasionally run a video-conference or even an offline meeting if there’s a chance.
Lacking the culture of sharing leads to frustration and low velocity
Transparency is one of the main challenges for remote teams. Often, workers get “siloed” with their own assignments, documents and reports, and all this info isn’t automatically accessible to their colleagues. Cloud technologies and social project collaboration software are great enablers in developing the habit of sharing within the team, so that work-related info isn’t isolated on personal PCs.
Not enough motivation leads to poor productivity and lack of satisfaction
Separated by distance, you can’t shake hands with every employee or pat high-achievers on the shoulder. But little things might matter. Express appreciation verbally, be that a thank-you note or a call. If your company’s policy allows, you can consider such acknowledgement options as flexible working hours, employer-paid leisure activities or personalized gifts.  
Making assignments too big leads to misalignment and poor visibility into progress
Without direct communication, there is higher risk of someone misunderstanding his goals. According to my experience, the key pain reliever in this case is assigning work in a more granular way. The remedy is simple: think big, but act small. With smaller assignments, a worker will understand them better, complete them faster and report easier. For the manager, in his turn, it will be easier to track progress both at bird-eye view and in detail.
Not believing in the efficiency of a distributed team leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy
To conclude, the biggest delusion of some project managers is being convinced that productivity stops at office walls. Yes, your employees do not gather daily at one location, but they are still a team that can be as synced, efficient and successful as a co-located one is. Don’t take the virtuality as a weakness. On the contrary – you have the opportunity to broaden your geographical, time and talent reach! You just need to find your own right mix of methods and tools to see the productivity of your distributed project team flourish.

Andrew Filev is the founder and CEO of Wrike, provider of popular project management software. He is a seasoned software entrepreneur, project and product manager, and advisor to several fast-growing ventures.