Sneak peek into the life of Project Manager's- Pt 1

This is my second year of this year ending tradition and it's one of the best
moments that I really enjoy.

This year ends with a fun light-hearted interview where the Project Managers talk about their everyday routine and New Year resolutions. I have always wondered how most of them have the time to do so much. Running successful blogs, doing podcasts and writing books along with high profile jobs and managing their global team.

So, I wanted to peek into their secret schedules with the hope that I might
borrow some of their routine and fit into mine.

I ask them 2 simple questions:
  • Do you have an everyday routine that you start your work with everyday?
  • What’s your New Year resolution? Anything related to project management?
Part 1 of the interview is where we talk about their Morning schedules. Stayed tuned for Part 2 coming up on January 4 (Monday).

This is what they said-

Alec Satin

Morning is the most productive time for me. Someone from the software development side once recommended that all project managers schedule their status and team meetings in the afternoon, as it keeps the most productive time for developers open. That idea makes a lot of sense.

Here are the things I tend to do most mornings:
  • Write down 3 things for which I feel grateful
  • Imagine (and write down) a few sentences about how I envision the day going.
  • Review all open items in my Autofocus task log and select any that must be completed today.
  • Add any tickler items from my google calender to my autofocus log.
  • Note the day's meetings and prepare any notes, documents, etc as

  • Prepare a large glass of hot green tea (Pi Lu Chun from Upton Tea is a current favorite)

The start of my day consists of coffee, coffee and coffee.

I like to leave the start of the day as much open as possible, to be able to "walk around", get in touch with remote team members, go through the mail, etc.

After I have had my cup of tea in the morning I do what everyone else who works in an office does these days: I sit at my computer and I answer the ten-trillion emails that seem to have arrived overnight. My project team members are in various time zones around the world, so it's quite normal for me to spend about one hour just responding before I can get any other work done. Note that I said " get any other work done" and not "get any real work done".

This is an important distinction. Many people think that answering emails in the morning isn't real work, but remember that one of the most important jobs that we project managers have is to communicate. We receive information, we disseminate the content, we correlate it with other information on the project and then we make decisions and communicate these decisions to other people. That is why I don't look at this morning "ritual" as something that makes me lose time but as something that allows me to keep on top of my projects and to keep everyone else on target.

But sometimes I do wonder why people who live in the same town as I do send emails to me at 2am in the morning. Don't they ever sleep... ;-)
My team here has interesting hours, they all come in/start at different times(including me). So, morning meetings normally don't work out so well,anything we need to do early in the day happens around 11am or later.So, my own routine before I start moving on my day is to scroll through the twitter-#PMOT feed from the last 10-12 hours, see if there was anything interesting that came in the night before. I am more of alurker than a contributor, but I do try to contribute when I can.

My normal routine is more like - Promise myself I will get up in time to have a healthy breakfast. Get out of bed at the last minute and grab unhealthy breakfast on the way to work (current choice is Caffe Nero's Amaretto Latte which comes with a free biscuit).

I am normally in the office around 8.30am. Most of the time my team is not in the same building as me, so I don't routinely call them together for a stand up meeting or anything, although on Tuesday mornings we have a team conference call. I'm addicted to my Blackberry so by the time I get to my desk I have already read all my messages on the tube on the way to work.
Once I'm settled, breakfast over, I review the top three things that I wrote on a post-it note the evening before, which I stick on my laptop when I pack it away for the night. That gives me my three most important things to get done that day and a focus for my activity.

Flo Castro

Each day and each night I have a routine. Each day before I leave/close down, I look at the actions set for the rest of each week. Each day before I leave I check off, add, and prioritize what needs to get done to meet those goals. Each morning does have one common element.
NO day starts without espresso. No day. First thing each day, Igenerally review what needs to happen each day pretty to keep critical path initiatives on track. Then I reach out to my teams;
since they are generally geographically varied, I will dial them.

(Flo Castro has a fifteen year track record as an information systems program and project manager, with a broad range of expertise in Information governance, Enterprise software development & integration, eDiscovery, and Strategic information planning/Business intelligence. Prior to Vetta Solutions, Flo was a program manager and JPMorgan Chase, & Cos. where she led eDiscovery, Finance, Trading, and Investment Banking initiatives. She maintains annual program portfolio s of $21MM to $36MM annually. She has been a PMP since 2002.)
Josh Nankivel
  • First, I get a good breakfast and go to the gym every morning. The exercise and nutrition wake me up and get me excited about the day!
  • When I get to work, I would usually walk around a bit and chat with my team for about 10 minutes. Now that I'm producing training full time, this is mostly Twitter time for me!
  • Next I bring up my to-do list that I updated the night before. I glance over the top things on it and get it ready for my next step.
  • Calendar check - take note of meetings
  • Email time. Anything that's actionable within 2 minutes I do immediately. Everything else goes on my to-do list. I mark all email as read and clear it from my inbox. I'm done when my inbox is empty. (In some cases, I block out time on my calendar to work on a specific to-do item)
  • My to-do list is now updated and in priority order. I use it and my calendar to guide my activities throughout the day.

Lindsay Scott

My work day always starts with my plan for the day; I use a day book which contains a list of everything I want to achieve in that day. Sometimes the list is already pretty full with some carry overs from the day before! Generally though it works for me and I would be pretty lost without it.

Depending on the day of the week the mornings might start with our team breakfast which we do every Friday. This is an opportunity for us all to talk about current workloads, any new ideas we want to develop or help each other out on any issues that might have surfaced during the week. It’s an informal meeting but actually this is how most of our business improvements might be kicked off, an idea generated by anyone within the team. Other days the mornings might be spend on set pieces of work, we do a lot of blogging, twittering and other social media activities and it’s important we do this every day so a schedule of activity is needed for each member of the communications team.

(Lindsay Scott is Director of Arras People, the Programme and Project Management Recruitment Specialists. Lindsay is also an enthusiastic blogger on How to Manage a Camel which is focused on project management and careers. Lindsay is also interested in the world of PMO within project management and helps run the PPSOSIG)

Pawel Brodzinski

I grab a cup of tea or coffee and I skim through emails, rss feeds and general news. If there's something important to do I find in email or I know before I come to office I terminate the routine and start dealing with the priority issue.
(Pawel Brodzinski is a team builder, project firefighter and program manager. He runs Software Project Management blog where he shares his knowledge and experience in creating software, managing projects and building great teams)

Samad Aidane

I try (and the key word here is “try”) to list the top 3 priorities for the day and make sure that if, by the end of the day, I don’t complete them that I at least have made major progress on each one of them.

It is hard to do this every day, with all the fire fighting that has to be done, but it always feels good when I can do this.

(Samad Aidane is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with over 15 years of IT experience. His industry experience spans Telecom, Finance and Health Care, and Government on projects in U.S, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. For the last five years, Samad has been focusing on two specialty areas: Large complex system integration projects and troubled project recovery.Samad shares his thoughts on project management at He is a member of the Project Management Institute including the Information Systems SIG, Olympia Washington PMI Chapter, and Puget Sound Washington PMI Chapter.)

I am totally different person at home compared to office. Let me presume that what I do at home is not quite relevant here.

I start my work day with a long drive to the plant where I am working. It’s a gas processing plant. We have a site office and I start the day with a half an hour standing meeting with my team. We discuss the outcomes of last day’s work, pending activities and scheduled work for the day.

I believe in work ownership, accountability and chain of command. These things are essential to run any organization or team. Where people don’t take ownership of the work they are performing, you may observe several delays and issues. I use “Why” method to find root cause whenever a complaint or issue has been received or where ever I find things improper. We meet and communicate throughout the day attending work packs and trouble shooting.

Hope you enjoyed the interviews as much as I did going through them.

The New Year begins with another interview from none other than Jurgen Appelo himself.

Happy New Year everyone!

(Pic Courtesy: Google Images)


Elizabeth said...

Hi Soma. This is a really great post, I enjoyed it. It was great to see Flo in the list, I met her at Congress this year. I wish my morning routine was as structured as Josh's. The gym every morning!!

Dina said...

Yes, I was also jealous of Josh's morning routine. Wow, I remember the days of going to the gym in the morning (pre-kids of course).
There's about 3-4 hours of getting kids up, dressed, fed, shuttled to school, and then my own commute to work before I actually sit down at my desk! But, of course I wouldn't give up those 3-4 hours for the world and I really enjoy the trip to school with my kids in the morning. That trip actually inspired my very first blog post (and I will shamelessly plug it here) -

Thanks for making this post Soma, very interesting to read about other people's mornings!

SIPM said...

@Elizabeth- Thank you for stopping by and Yes, I met Flo through you (virtually of course). I saw your video I think where you interviewed the PM's in twitter and I saw most of their profile and added them. So, as always thanks to you.

@Dina- You have a beautiful blog and thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to do this. I enjoyed reading all the morning rituals and am sure others will too.

SIPM said...
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