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

December without Snow

I am in the mood to celebrate life and December is my favorite month.

So, I have ordered a few more books and my Sundays are mostly about trying to cut down the clutter and soaking up the sun. 

 I am trying to get back to my original self, being more grateful, trying out new hobbies and hoping that this month is where I get to be creative again.

Last month I traveled, planted some more plants in my tiny balcony and started posting in Instagram. I also sprained my left ankle.

I have so much stuff coming for the blog and I am positive that my new change of routines and way of working will ensure I actually can get them done. So, it’s just not a concept running around wild in my head!

For some random links that I have been browsing recently:
  • Let’s start with the gifts: click here 
  • How about unwinding for the year by doodling and learning about its benefits: click here
  • Thinking about starting your own and finding out the latest in the tech world journalism: Click here
  • If you follow a end of day or beauty routine, ever heard of the capsule format: click here
  • Why Scrum is a scale free architecture: Click here
  • How about some serious reading on how social media and mental health are connected: click here
Anyone interested in browsing through the top 50 project management blogs (By Feedspot). can look up here.


(Pic Courtesy: Pinterest)





Where is Project Management?

If that’s what you are wondering, you are not alone.

If you look at my last 3 posts, there’s nothing about project management really. However, all of them will hopefully make you think about being a better professional and a project manager and sustain it over period of time.

Because being a project manager is not a onetime thing, you have to maintain your title, the success of your project and your reputation.

Anyways, this space for me has always been very personal. I have mostly written things that I have been going through in real life. See my first blog post from eight years ago here . That’s what I read/research on and that’s what I mostly write about.


So, hopefully this change of track seems interesting for you. What are you thinking?

(Pic courtesy: pinterest)

Finding your Zone: What you Need to Learn from Winners

I have always wondered what it takes to sustain the intensity of the work required to be successful. It can be easy to be in a positive mind frame every day when you are living life. 

In my search for finding successful people I turned towards athletes. It must be a huge pressure to perform and ensure failures and get back at it again. I learned that some athletes can learn to trigger a feeling of success through smell and sound alone -- outside of competitions. For example, when some athletes are feeling in a really strong, powerful state during training, they smell lavender oil and listen to a certain song. They then repeat these steps before competitions to bring back those powerful feelings. "It can actually elicit quite strong emotions," said Fletcher, explaining how connecting to these neural pathways can help trigger the unconscious brain, pushing the athlete into a really positive state of mind. 

Conditioning your brain is the secret to not only win Olympic medals but also win in the race called Life. Top tennis player Andy Murray often leafs through a notebook during his tennis matches to remind him that he's prepared, capable and ready to win. 

Getting into the zone – also known as “being in a state of flow” – usually happens when we are energized, in a good mood and doing things we enjoy and have some level of skill that meets the demands of the task.
Will a checklist help? Perhaps.  If routine that is continually done and adapted with years and comfort level- you might be able to recreate your zone over and over again. Sometimes it can just be music or a song, sometimes the same setting/place, a perfume.
No matter what it takes, its something essential to continue doing the good work and being you. And its’ not easy. So make the changes and see what gets you in the zone and keep doing it. I don’t think I get into the zone on a regular basis but it helps a lot when I do.
Few things I have been trying to do:
  • Have a routine
  • Repeat the routine during the same time everyday (till it becomes natural and just repeating it puts me in the mood- to relax or write or feel positive)
  • For me sound, visuals and smell work great- I use songs, sometimes visual boards (my office has one) and perfume (I have set perfumes for days when I am not quite myself to make me be myself)

We are all humans and getting into the zone might end up being challenging but that’s what we should look at it- a challenge that needs constant work and adaption.

(Pic courtesy: Pinterest)

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 Meisterst├╝ck 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)