Hello and Welcome

I'm an ex-Project Manager who currently moved on to Agile Consulting and this blog is my sounding board. This blog was started in 2008 journal-ling through my project management journey, today it combines both- my passion for all things project management as well as looking into the agile way of transformation and undergoing changes.

Here I write about my experiences, struggles, failures and joys. I also interview, do book reviews and keep you updated.

I usually post twice a week: Monday and Thursday unless I am too caught up which is often these days

If I'm not working; I can be found reading with a cup of tea. I love to read, push the envelope one step further, work on new ideas, experiment, travel and explore life.

Did you know you can now buy Stepping into Project Management at Amazon Kindle.

You can reach me at steppingintopm@gmail.com

Whats in my Bedside Table- The Reading List

This is whats going on right now.

The last book I read was The Sleep Revolution.

Current Read- The Checklist Manifesto.

To read- The Talent Code.

To see why you should be reading these as well, check this space next week.

Whats in your bag?

(Pic Courtesy: Soma Bhattacharya)

This is How I work- Laurens Bonnema

Laurens Bonnema is an Agile Management Consultant with Xebia and an expert in sustainably aligning business and IT to improve the results of IT projects. He also helps people (re)learn how to visualize their ideas through sketchnoting, graphic recording, and videoscribing so they can communicate those ideas more effectively, help each other to solve problems, and have lots of fun.
For the past 17 years, Laurens has served in almost every role in IT. Even Project Manager! More about Laurens’ work at Xebia can be found here. Want to know more about sketch-noting, graphic recording, and videoscribing? Hop on over to www.bonnema.ink.

When do you wake up every day? What’s your alarm set to? 
 My alarm is set to 5:55. Most of the time, that’s also when I wake up.
Tea or Coffee? 
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.
Any rituals to set the tone for the day in the morning? 
After I wake up, I drink a glass of water and meditate for 10 minutes. When time permits, I read a few newspapers on my iPhone before getting out of bed. If not, I hit the shower, get dressed and go downstairs to grab some breakfast. Over breakfast, I look at my calendar to get a feel for the day, and check my Sprint Backlog to select the three most important things I want to get done today.
When do you feel most productive?
I feel most productive in the morning. That’s when I get most of my work done. After 12:00, my energy tapers off. I usually experience a small burst of residual productivity around 21:00. But between 12:00 and 21:00, I’m mostly on autopilot.
Where do you work?
Work is where the client is. For me, that’s usually in or near one of the main cities in The Netherlands: Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. But I’ve done assignments in Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, and India as well.
Three must have items on your desk
 If I could pick only three items to have on my desk, it would be my Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines Link notebook, Montblanc Meisterstück LeGrand fountain pen, and Apple Macbook Pro.
What do you listen to while working?
To concentrate on work, I listen to classical music. Mostly Mozart. When I need less focus, I switch to podcasts. At the moment, the Tough Girl Podcast by Sarah Williams is my favorite.
What are you reading currently?
I’ve just finished “Your Press Release is Breaking my Heart” by Janet Murray and am currently reading “Verbaal Meesterschap (Verbal Mastery)” by Remco Claassen. Remco is one of the most celebrated public speakers in The Netherlands. Next up is “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday.
How do you organize?
I use Scrum to stay organized and productive. I have a Product Backlog spread out over several Trello boards. Every two weeks, I select items from those boards and put them in Todoist. That’s my Sprint Backlog. Every day, I select the three most important items to get done from Todoist. Some days I do more, almost never less. I don’t distinguish between personal and client items. When I did, the personal items never seemed to get done. Now, I have a nice work-life-swirl going that suits me much better than work-life-balance.
Any hacks you prefer for work?
 Learn something new! And start teaching it to others as soon as you’re somewhat competent. It will keep you engaged, fresh, and enthusiastic. That translates to all the other stuff you do. Even the stuff you don’t like as much.
What are your favorite gadgets?
At the moment, my favorite gadget is my iPad Pro. I love it! It’s a wonderful drawing tool that also functions as a powerful tablet. Highly recommended for anyone getting into digital drawing!
What apps can you not live without?
 It’s a bit of a list I’m afraid, but I’ll try to keep it brief and limit myself to the eleven iPhone/iPad apps I rely on the most that aren’t time-wasters: Mail, Trello, Todoist, Calendar, Fantastical, Buffer, Overcast, OPTIMIZE, Headspace, Adobe Draw, and Concepts.
Any new addition to your routines?
The newest addition to my routine is guided meditation with Headspace. I’ve been meditating for years without guidance, and I love the way Headspace makes it easy to stay focussed. I’m still a bit on the fence about it though. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll discover I prefer unguided meditation after all.
Also, I’m trying to make habits of exercise and writing. Mostly failing at that so far. So tomorrow I’ll try again!
How do you recharge?

Reading. Nothing gets me relaxed faster than reading a great novel. That, and sleep of course.

(Pic courtesy: Laurens Bonnema)

Getting off the Grid- You can save yourself

When the sun shines on you, you have a got a good day.

We are so busy and overwhelmed with work and life that we are always running around trying to sort out our to-do's. We have stopped smelling the roses.

And we pay the price for it.

Coping up to keep ourselves in the current workforce leads to around 56% with musculoskeletal symptoms. 22% newly diagnosed hypertension,10% had diabetes, 36% had dyslipidemia, 54% had depression, anxiety and insomnia, 40% had obesity. The stress score was higher in employees who developed diabetes, hypertension and depression. (Source)

Did you know that work stress has been categorized through a series of  stages.
  1. The honeymoon stage: Euphoric feeling if excitement, enthusiasm, challenges and pride on getting a new job. Dysfunctional processes include the depletion of energy reserves in coping and adapting to the new environment.
  2. The full throttle stage: Going full swing leads to a depletion of resources. Other symptoms include dissatisfaction, sleep disturbances, overeating, drinking or smoking.
  3. The chronic symptom stage: Development of chronic symptoms like physical illness, anger and depression.
  4. The crisis stage: Persistence of symptoms leads to disease, chronic backache, headache, high BP, insomnia, etc., would develop.
  5. Hitting the wall stage: No person can continue under strain for too long and one may reach the end of one's professional career. Burnout stress syndrome takes over.
  6. The opposite: Rust our stress syndrome occurs under extreme hypo stress. This is likely to occur when the gap between one’ capabilities and environmental demands becomes too wide.

We don’t realize the stress we are putting our bodies through until something goes wrong and we are spending our time more at the doctor’s lobby than in office or home.

According to the American Optometric Association, people who use computers daily at work or at home could suffer from computer vision syndrome  , which leaves them vulnerable to problems like dry eye, eyestrain, neck and backaches, light sensitivity and fatigue.

We are all aware of what happens. Rarely do we take the time to sit down and plan to change our lifestyle. I know it firsthand. I have moved between countries, thought myself as a go-getter, done well for myself with a full time job and a blog and hosting meet up group because networking is a good, right? I ate mostly healthy, exercised rarely and wondered if I would ever have the time to sit down with a cup of tea and read a novel? I didn’t and with motherhood, my workload went crazy. I had the help, however no one can take the stress of the mind to trying to juggling so many things. I felt guilty that I couldn’t write the blog, I was so exhausted by the end of the day. Small things piled up over the years till I was sitting in a doctors lobby recently did I realize there’s no meaning for all the ambition if I can’t balance my health along with it.

So, here are 5 steps you can consider:
  1. Move- there’s no alternative to moving your body and keeping it healthy. Don’t worry if you don’t have  a gym or a park nearby- just walk during lunch. If you can’t take longer breaks form life or work, try in small increments. I started using my office gym because once I landed home, I never had the time. I try walking around in office, taking stairs and a quick walk during lunch for like 10 minutes. They all add up and it helps- your mood and health 
  2. Meals- Try limiting takeout food, eating cookies or chips for lunch isn’t a good idea. Plan ahead, make a salad or a stir fry and just take it with you. Try a smoothie. What you put in your body matters, instead of a fizzy drink try coconut water. And this isn’t some words just typed in because I liked my burgers and fizzy drinks- it de-stressed me... till I figured out how much sugar I was putting in my body and zero nutrition for nothing. Eat healthy and once in a while indulge in your fav food.
  3. Take Breaks- don’t sit at a stretch for hours at work, I am guilty of it too, I am trying to change. Use a reminder, apps, alarm- anything that works for you, but take a break. Your eyes and body will thank you for it. Take breaks as in vacation, even if it means you are just sitting at home reading a good book.
  4. Stop Being Guilty- prioritize yourself. It’s okay to not finish that painting by the weekend, your well being matters the most. Instead just go out and play, the weathers on your side now.
  5. Create a Routine to Relax- unwind every day, end of day. When you work around the same routine every day, it gives the cue to your brain, it’s time to get to bed now or sleep. So, the first step of your routine will often get you relaxed like getting in your pj’s.

The most important of all, stop saying I don’t have time. It’s not about time it’s about priority. Nothing beats your health because if that’s not on your side, your career and ambition is in for a steep fall.

So, when overwhelmed GET OFF THE GRID. It's okay to postpone sometimes, its allright to say I will take care of myself first, it better to prevent, it's logical to switch of your digital belongings and accounts couple of times a week, try being a minimal and natural as possible and then go out and conquer the world. 

(Pic courtesy: Image 1, Image 2)

What I have been reading and why it matters to you

I wanted to share with you some random links that makes sense when you look at it from your personal development point of view.

For success, life not only has to be organized, you have to be in a very stable mental space and none of them just happen to happen. I hope you find something in these stories that helps you find that zone. 
And looking for a real pick me up, don't miss this. Malcolm Gladwell being interviewed by Tim Ferris.

"For one hour of writing, there's three hours of thinking". 

This is How I Work- Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. - a billion-dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.  He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’.

In the last 4 years Peter has delivered over 200 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’. More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com  – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

When do you wake up every day? What’s your alarm set to? 
I don’t have a pattern since I am moving regularly between the UK and the US, plus a few other countries in between just to make it interesting, but I am a morning person so wake up easily and can adapt to whatever time zone I am in.

Tea or Coffee? 
Coffee, most definitely coffee.

Any rituals to set the tone for the day in the morning? 
I like to get ready for the day, then check emails, deal with anything urgent and then take some time to go out for, and enjoy, a coffee, before returning for the working day.

When do you feel most productive? 
Well I said I was a morning person, which I am, but creatively I develop a lot of ideas on flights and also at night so productivity happens at various times.

Where do you work? 

I am based at home and have a pleasant first floor office in my house, but I also work out of various offices and customer locations as needed – as long as I have my phone and laptop work can happen.

Three must have items in your desk 
A clean writing pad, pens and laptop – phones come next on the list – oh and a webcam (visual engagement is so much better than just audio) – I know that is more than three items but I do need them all.

What do you listen to while working? 
A wide variety of music, in fact when writing one of my books you will often find a credit to a band or singer who ‘helped’ me on the journey to completing a manuscript. I find that if I ever get stuck on a problem or in the middle of writing them something ‘heavy’ (Metallica for example) somehow frees my mind and gets me going again. That said my music library is extensive and varied so there is always something good to listen to (well I think it is good but we all have different musical tastes).

What are you reading currently?
I usually have three or more books on the go at any time, something on my Kindle, and an audio book for when I travel, and a business book (printed) for education. Right now I am about to start ‘How to Lead a Quest: a handbook for pioneering executives’ by Dr Jason Fox.

How do you organize? 
‘Productively Lazily’ since it is the mantra in my bestselling book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. I apply the 80/20 as much as I can, focusing on what really matters, daily sorting through what is most important and most impactful and working on that first of all – it works, well it works for me. Just remember the great quote ‘Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something’ Robert Heinlein

Any hacks you prefer for work?
It is not really a hack but I do inject fun as much as possible in my work, surprising my team sometimes with some unusual activities or ideas – the ‘hack’ is to throw people off path to think more creatively and be more productive

What are your favorite gadgets?
I guess it has to be my iPhone for various business and personal uses but generally I am not a gadget person – just give me the laptop and phone and I can work

What apps can you not live without?
Because of my travel activity I use the various airline apps a lot along with my travel company app, but I do love Audible for audio books so that is probably my number one

Any new addition to your routines? 
Always open to changes, apart from the coffee part, but nothing recent

How do you recharge? 
Writing. I always find that being a little creative allows me to relax and recharge.

(Pic courtesy: Peter Taylor)

This is How I work- Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott is a Director at Arras People, the programme and project management recruitment specialist in the UK. She’s also founder of the PMO Flashmob and PMO Conference. She is PMI’s PM Network career columnist and writes for TwentyEighty Strategy Execution and Project Challenge. Lindsay is also Co-Editor of the Handbook of People in Project Management

When do you wake up every day? What’s your alarm set to? 
Unfortunately my alarm goes off about 7.15am each morning, which is not necessarily the time I get up! I’m a real night owl so don’t like early mornings at all. I’ve often wondered if I would be better suited to the night shift but my work relies on being around when most other people are.

Tea or Coffee? 
Definitely tea – Yorkshire Tea, decaff with milk. Almost impossible to get in any other part of the world and always appreciated when I return from travels abroad. Us English certainly have a thing about tea 

Any rituals to set the tone for the day in the morning? 
Oh yes, bad habits too – tea, a cigarette and a look at the Times cryptic crossword. If its summer, sat outside overlooking the garden – or if it’s typical Manchester weather, rain, then its quickly out the door to work.

When do you feel most productive? 
I actually feel most productive mid morning and then later on in the evening so I tend to do different types of work at those times. In the morning I do a lot of writing about project management careers for various outlets, the first being the Camel blog. Later in the evening its more about research and reading.

Where do you work? 
I work in different places. We have an office in North Manchester, that’s the main office for Arras People. It’s in a small town, nothing fancy but I have a large desk and lots of in-trays. It looks like chaos but there is a system honestly! I work in London a lot too so there’s time spent working on the train, which I love, two hours of no interruptions because the phone network is so bad. In London I work in an apartment I rent, or grab a desk at the Institute of Directors in London’s Pall Mall (the pink one in Monopoly!). I tend to like working in different places because I’m a firm believer in a change is as good as a rest, especially when you’re trying to be creative in writing articles and suchlike.

Three must have items in your desk.
A cup of tea, lots of pencils and my day workbook.

What do you listen to while working? 
Nothing other than the general chatter of those around me at work or on the train. I’ve never been one for music or the radio playing in the background but can work well if there is. I just tune out.

What are you reading currently? 
I’ve got about three books on the go at the moment. For fiction it’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, set in London, an intriguing read so far. For non-fiction but not work related its The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons – I did a Psychology degree many years ago and still pick out books related to that. I’m also dipping in and out of The small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence. A good interpersonal book for any project manager. I’m a big reader so tend to have books on the go on Kindle and the real thing!

How do you organize? 
I tend to use the calendar a lot – Outlook Exchange so it works on every device I have. I’m also a sucker for a good old-fashioned list. I use a workbook – just a jotter from the stationery store and a “5 days a week” list. It’s standard stuff but I tend to list what needs to happen in the week on certain days then add in the activities I need to complete day by day. I often spend 5 minutes at the end of each work day updating the list, moving things around and doing that really satisfactory thing of striking a line through the things I’ve completed.

Any hacks you prefer for work? 
Because I’m working in different places all the time I totally rely on Dropbox to keep everything filed and easily accessible. I can’t bear not being able to lay my hands on things when I need to, plus Dropbox is also great for managing my photos taken by phone which I use for blog articles.

I use social media a lot for work too and I love reading and sharing great blogs. Dlvr is great for managing multiple social media accounts plus I love its Curator tool which allows me to save my favorite feeds, read blog articles and quickly share them across different platforms.

Finally another great tool if you use a lot of imagery in your work is PicMonkey  Although I use Adobe products a lot (Photoshop and Illustrator) you can’t beat Picmonkey for quick and easy image creation.

What are your favorite gadgets?
The usual I think – iPhone, iPad and laptop. I’m Apple on the mobile gadgets and good old fashioned Microsoft on the laptop and PC. I think that’s a Gen X thing! And I love the Kindle for being a good old workhorse of a gadget that withstands some serious knocking about. I’m also doing a lot of filming of sessions for the PMO Flashmob too so now camcorders have become a thing for me. Sennheiser wireless microphones are the best thing I’ve ever bought

What apps can you not love without? 
Oh wow, where do I start. Dropbox, Echofon (for Twitter), Facebook, Times newspaper, Daily Mail newspaper (guilty pleasure!), Weather app from the Met Office (we’re obsessed with the weather!), BBC iPlayer (TV on the go, great for the train), Anagram solver and the Thesaurus app (can’t do the crossword without it). I also like sketching when I’m at a conference – doing basic mindmaps, so I like basic drawing apps for those but no particular favorite (using Paper and Brushes at the moment)

Any new addition to your routines? 
Yes I’ve starting organizing an annual PMO Conference in London –  which has meant I have a whole new type of work to do. I love it. Especially the part where I get to choose what topic areas we’re going to cover and talk to potential speakers about their passions. It’s also meant I get out and about more listening to others speaking at conferences, like the PMO Symposium in the States. I suppose it’s like a big project for me – doing the project rather than writing about project management or recruiting for project managers like in the day job at Arras People. I like to have new things to do – to set new challenges – to blend with the work I’ve been doing for a while (it’s coming up to 15 years at Arras People!)

How do you recharge? 
I’m the queen of chilling out when I need to – or want to – I enjoy watching TV and movies – anything period drama wise and you’ve got me! Love reading of course and at a weekend I love visiting places. In England we have so much history on our doorsteps and under our noses that you just have to get out and explore. Recent weekends away have included the castle where Harry Potter was filmed and the Plague Village. If there is a magnificent garden to visit I’m also right there, and a chance to combine them with a city visit even better. The Real Jardín Botanico de Madrid was a recent visit.

(Pic courtesy: Lindsay Scott)

To read the last interview of this series, please click here.