Why some people make it and others don’t?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up" (1936)

If you think you are not exceptional, you will never be one!

If you want to stay covered in your fears and back off every time, you won’t make it.

No one knows why some people make it, but clearly it has to do with the mind. Some argue it’s inborn, some say it can be taught and trained. If scholars could pin it down- I guess they would by now and we would all be great.

It has to do with the mind. This book talks about the opposing forces of the mind and how the tension between the two creates something new and ground breaking.

Well challenging yourself cannot be the most important thing the mind can do -to push the boundary and create something rare. It’s for sure not simply hard work(because Jack of all trades did that- must be a lot of work to learn all trades), not working smarter either. It has to be something that leads to everything else.

The power of thinking is the ability to think and create meaning out of it. To take a thought and mould it to something extraordinary that is sensible and mind blowing.

If you see this link here , we at some point have to think that if teaching how to think affects the level of one's thinking?

Would students perform differently if students of same IQ were taught differently? If you were taught to think differently- would you think differently naturally?

I believe it would.

Most of these creators are school dropouts or wasn't the best student in school and then they emerged as something we call the talented or the genius. They are the same people with the same brain and same thinking. Why did they not excel in something at certain point and then over excel later?

As they say- everyone is gifted with a unique talent, whether you can find it or not is upon you.

What would you do to find that talent? What we think or convince us to think- is not always the truth. We are bred in such a pre-conceived world that thinking otherwise is impossible.

No one knows what they make it and some don’t. You have to try to make it and not give up. Accept your negatives, feel your fear and if you can think and figure out why you fear or think the certain way- that’s the winner.

You have to know yourself to know the rest!

Hows your team doing today?

As someone who leads the team, we somewhere forget that teams are made up of individuals who have their down times as well. They cannot perform to their best always.

When your teams down what can you really do? Pushing harder might end up creating more mess, instead why not help them go through this.

I work with a small team of 3-4 people and an extended team of some more and like all of you I always know when they are down. You can feel it- in their work, the way they respond, how easily they loose their cool…..

You cannot sort out their problem, however you can help them to overcome it in your own way- is that not what leaders do? You inspire to bring out the best in others.

I simply start with the basics and work upwards-

  • Is everything alright? Most people don’t want to come up with their problems at work and will rarely confide when asked first.
  • Help them with more breaks, a partner to work with or some time to cool off. If is still persists, dig deeper.
  • Ask them if they like what they do. Do they want to try out something else? Have they been doing the same thing over a long period of time that work doesn’t interest them anymore- no thrills, no challenges, same drab work. No one likes that.
  • Thankfully I work in an environment which is flexible and we try to be happy with our work, create challenges and keep up to them. I encourage learning something new, delegating a new work to break the monotony and give a chance to think about something new. This helps them love their job not because of the paycheck but something more.
  • They don’t suddenly become experts in their chosen new trial field, however they have the chance to do what they do and try out something new. If they want to change departments after a while, we encourage that as long as you can prove you are good at it and have learned the skills
  • If there’s one thing I ask- it is to come to work every day the way you came in your first day. It not always very realistic, but closer we are to our first day emotions, better we will be.
Now we have the thrill of a newbie and the experience of the oldie- try beating that!

(Pic Courtesy)

Automate and Schedule More

Everyone who is successful has their own schedule they follow, however they adapt it to their style to keep them comfortable and its true- it works every single time.

So, 2 weeks ago I had my appraisal and to celebrate it I ordered a few books. Very geeky, I know. I ordered 5 books.

Each book is something I want to know about the topic and the author and while I’m reading Tim Ferris’- Four hour Work Week , not the blog but the book I realized while he talks about minimizing work and being more productive at the same time he is telling you to automate as much as you can so you have more time. Well, Ramit Sethi tells you the same thing to manage your finances better and both of them are New York Times best selling author.

They have done it themselves. Peter Taylor whom I interviewed in my blog talks about being more productive and being smart about your work.

So, what is being smart? How can you be one?

Everyone has their own way I guess, however you should be able to automate your lifestyle as much as you can. This includes being disciplined and following a schedule. Like I tried to write blogs in real time and post it, however for the last couple of months I figured out if I can write during the weekends and time it to post during the week. This ensures that the postings happen on time and am not stressing myself that I don’t have anything written and don’t have the time to. So, every Sunday morning I write my blogs for the next week and time it.

Of course, I take the liberty to let it go at times if I am meeting friends for brunch or talking my sister over Skype. More I keep to my schedule, more I get done within the same time.

  • Have a schedule and you’ll be surprised at how much you can get done within a day.
  • Keep a diary, paper anything; I recently got a planner for myself. I write down my thoughts, ideas for blogs, something I have to read and to do list so I don’t forget and get it before time.
  • You will notice you will do more and be more active when you have things written down.
  • Repeat your schedule that you have set for yourself and it will become second skin to you. It can be anything- going to the gym, writing your blog, planning your book, calling 2 friends everyday. If you know what needs to be done and when you will start doing it.
  • Every day you think- how do these people get so much done within the same 24 hours, the funny thing is you can too! Get into the rhythm of your schedule and you will not only enjoy it but get more done. Your friends will be surprised how much you are doing at the same time.
  • You will stop giving excuses before you know. You suddenly realize how much can be scheduled and done because you have just minimized the planning and confusion phase.
  • You will enjoy your work more. You not only know what you are doing, your are planning it along the way. So, things just happen but its part of the path you want to follow. You are achieving more because when we sit down quietly and plan, we plan good things.
  • Achieve things you always wanted to. This year be strong and do something you wanted to do.

Interview with the Lazy PM

If working long hours, pushing the limits and getting back home late was not enough- we all wanted to be lazy. At least for a day!

Lazy as we think; is not always as bad as it sounds- ask Peter Taylor and he will tell you that.

I'd love to be lazy- so I ask him how can I be one?

I haven't read your book, but read the reviews and understand that you are saying through your book "The Lazy Project Manager" that being lazy doesn't mean being bad at your job. In fact, you can be lazy and productive- is that true? What did you mean by that?

'Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.' Robert Heinlein (1907 - 1988)

By advocating being a 'lazy' project manager I do not intend that we should all do absolutely nothing. I am not saying we should all sit around drinking coffee, reading a good book and engaging in idle gossip whilst watching the project hours go by and the non-delivered project milestones disappear over the horizon. That would obviously be plain stupid and would result in an extremely short career in project management, in fact probably a very short career full stop!
Lazy does not mean Stupid. No I really mean that we should all adopt a more focused approach to project management and to exercise our efforts where it really matters, rather than rushing around like busy, busy bees involving ourselves in unimportant, non-critical activities that others can better address, or indeed that do not need addressing at all in some cases.

The Lazy Project Manager explores the science behind ‘productive laziness’ (yes there is some) and the intelligence behind ‘productive laziness’ (and yes there is some of that as well). It attempts to share with the reader some of my own experiences that have led to my style of project management where, it is often observed, that I appear to be less stressed, less busy and yet more productive.

‘Productive Laziness’ is the term that I use to express this approach and it is a style of working that is beneficial to an individual, through a better work/life balance, and to the project(s) that they are leading.

When someone is starting out in their profession (project management), no one will usually tell you to "be lazy". How can ‘newbies’ be lazy (if allowed) and yet be good at their work and impress their team?

Indeed, when starting out in a job or role for the first time there is often a belief (both from the individual and sometimes also the manager) that being extremely busy and putting in long hours can be productive. This is rarely the case over any length of time.

Now I am not suggesting that on day one you declare that you are off at 5pm regardless of what is going on, no I am just saying that by just being in the office or on site (in the clear visibility of management) does not equate to doing your job to the best of your abilities or on a productive manner.

No one will ever tell you to be lazy but they equally won’t tell you to be busy. The expectation is that you will get the job done to a good level of quality and within the expected time/cost frame. If you can achieve this and still leave time for other matters that will raise your profile and increase your personal skills and knowledge then all the better I say.

How did this concept of being lazy come to you? Have you always been "lazy"?

Well if I am truly honest it all began with an insult from my manager. At the time I had been working on a training program for our project managers and one of the common questions people asked me was ‘how do you manage to seem so relaxed and yet run a large business operation with hundreds of projects?’.

I was on my way back from Milan, Italy, and travelled with my manager. Now we have worked together for the last 15 years across three companies and he does know me very well. As we chatted about what would we like to do in life I mentioned that I enjoyed writing and speaking/presentations and that sort of thing could be fun to do. He agreed saying that I would probably be very good at this but that I was too ‘lazy’.

And there you have it – an insult? Perhaps but more an insight really, he had identified the key to describing my approach to work and life. From this came ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ and the world of productive laziness.

Now have I always been ‘lazy’ – no I don’t believe so. Certainly in my early days of project management I worked long and hard and definitely was a ‘busy, busy bee’ but after completing a major three year project I looked back and reflected on the effort I had put in to make the project successful. I realised that that much of what I had done was unnecessary and that I often created work for myself that was either not really essential or that others could have done (probably better that my efforts if truth be told).

The Lazy Project Manager was first a website in November 2008 and then a book in September 2009. Now I would love to share the world of productive laziness with the world through speaking engagements.

Wow! Tell me one thing that "laziness" should not be considered as?

An excuse to avoid doing something critical!

The Lazy Project Manager and the art of ‘productive laziness’ refers to the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), which states that for many phenomena 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes.

The principle was in fact suggested by management thinker Joseph M. Juran but it was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of property in Italy was owned by 20% of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.

So ‘20% of clients may be responsible for 80% of sales volume’. This can be evaluated and is likely to be roughly right, and can be helpful in future decision making. The Pareto Principle also applies to a variety of more mundane matters: one might guess approximately that we wear our 20% most favoured clothes about 80% of the time, perhaps we spend 80% of the time with 20% of our acquaintances and so on.

The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule can and should be used by every smart but lazy person in their daily life. The value of the Pareto Principle for a project manager is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters.

The value of the Pareto Principle for a project manager is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that really matters. These are the critical actions that you should prioritise on and that will deliver the most benefit to your project.

Three ways every project manager can be ‘productively lazy’?

Well where better to start than to focus the art of ‘productive laziness’ in the area of communication within the project.

The would be ‘lazy’ project manager will think very, very carefully about what they need to communicate and how they need to communicate it and why they are communicating what they are communicating.

The general guidance is that some 70-80% of a project manager’s time will be spent in communicating. That is 70-80% of your time!

So, if you play the productive lazy game at all, and you only apply it in one area of project management it makes blinding sense to do it here, in communication. This is by far the biggest activity and offers the greatest opportunity of time in the comfy chair.

Imagine if you would able to save some of that 70-80% of your time, how much more relaxed would you be?

Beyond this then consider how you are using your project team. Are they being truly utilised in the sense of applying their combined knowledge and skills? Could you use them more, delegate more, trust them more, and benefit from their experience more? I bet you could. Try it.
Finally, something I have always advocated if having fun. Whilst this does not necessarily allow you to be more ’productively lazy’ it does bring a very positive feeling to any project and thus should encourage the wider team to more ‘lazy’ (in a good way of course).

‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by’ Douglas Adams (Author of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’)

You have to laugh; well I think you have to laugh.

Without a little bit of fun in every project then the project world can be a dark and depressing place.

Setting a professional but fun structure for your project can really be beneficial for when the problems start to rise up to challenge your plan of perfectness. And problems will inevitably arise.

And so, ending with a laugh and a wave:

A man in a hot air balloon was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a little bit more and shouted:
"Excuse me madam, can you help? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am’.
The man replied: ‘You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above alkali desert scrub habitat, 2.7 miles west of the Colorado River near one of the remnant populations and spawning grounds of the razorback sucker’.
‘You must be a biologist’ said the balloonist.
‘I am’ replied the woman. ‘How did you know?’
‘Well’ answered the balloonist ‘everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help so far’.
The woman below responded ‘You must be a project manager’.
‘I am’ replied the balloonist ‘but how did you know?’
‘Well, said the woman ‘you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise to someone that you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is, you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow it's now my fault!’

Thank you Peter.

The interview inspired me so much, I went ahead and ordered the book last week. It hasn't been delivered, however I'll let you know what I thought of the lazy goodness once I have devoured it.

Be Lazy!

What's New in Project Management

Here are 2 survey's happening right now in Project Management, so if you have a few minutes to spare take them please:

Economy and Project Management
Social Media and Project Management

There are new blogs in PM town, find them here and some more here.

If you have questions, you want to ask- don't wait any longer, try out this site

This year will certainly be interesting, lots of new stuff happening now.

Plan for 2010

Dear Newbie’s,

This year I am bringing in a lot of new goodies to the blog!

The regular postings continue twice a week with Expert Interviews happening every month. We talk to Project Managers, Human Resource experts, Marketing Gurus and almost anyone who has been there and done that transition- from being a newbie to the expert. We also talk about what newbie’s should do to be noticed and taken seriously other than running errands and doing photocopies.

We are starting the Coffee Break Series because newbie’s -let’s face it don’t have the luxury of an hour long lunch. This will be a 2-4 minute of audio, video, postings that center around discussion and issues that all newbie’s face and how to get through them. So, while you munch down on your sandwich and coffee and run to your next meeting trying to get into a project where you happily volunteer your lunch time- this is it- a 2 minute Coffee Break moment that will help take you to the next level. Listen to it while you doze off on the couch after a long day or first thing in the morning when you know it’s going to be difficult.

You are still here because you are not the quitter; your brother once said you were. You know what you want and will not give up till you get it. So, this year is for all your dreams, the dreams you believed in when no one else did!

With best wishes,

Soma

(Pic Courtesy)

Sneak peek into the life of Project Manager's- Pt 2

This is Part 2 of the interview and if New Year Resolution is in style right now, that’s what I ask the Project Manager's- What’s your New Year resolution? Anything related to project management?

Alec Satin

Are there any other PM’s out there who love planning and goal setting so much that they do it all through the year? I actually couldn't wait for January 1 and revised my latest goals and objectives this past week. Don't want to give anything away - but let's just say that I can't wait to do some new things with my blog. In terms of project management, I'm excited to be part of the PMI New Media Council, and look forward to helping bring information both to and from Project Management International.

Here's to a successful, happy and healthy 2010 to you Soma, and all your readers.

Baas de Bar

In 2010 I will start active virtual mentoring and coaching.

Cornelius Fichtner

In the last 20 years I have had the same new year's resolution every single year. It is "I will not make any new year's resolutions.". I have a 20 year record of successfully completing this resolution.

Dina Garfinkel

New years resolution...I don't really make New Years Resolutions because a lot of the New Year thinking for me happens in the fall at the Jewish New Year. And even then I don't always remember to come up with specific goals, except the general one of trying to be a better person. This year I am definitely trying to work on improving my work/life/family balance... I need to make more quality time to spend with my kids before they get too old and tell me I'm not cool enough to hang out with them (they are ages 3 and 5 :)

Elizabeth Harrin

Finish the jumper I am knitting.

I say this every year, but be better at managing risks and issues. They should be active documents, not just a worksheet in a spreadsheet!

Flo Castro

I think my New Year's resolution will center around balance. I tend to schedule/accept too many meeting invitations in a day. This, in turn, leads to less time available to reflect on what was discussed and follow up on actions promised during each meeting. This is how project managers end up in the office late in the evening. Blocking time during the day so that you can reflect/plan/follow up is crucial to having time left for yourself at the end of each day.

Josh Nankivel

There was recently a #2010 hastag on twitter and my new year resolution is this: in 2010, I’ll strive to help more people than I did this year. I will be putting out more training material and lots of articles to help new and aspiring project managers reach their career goals.

Lindsay Scott

My own NY resolution related to project management is based around PMO (Programme Management Office), I’m a member of a voluntary group called PPSOSIG (Programme and Project Support Office Specialist Interest Group http://www.ppsosig.co.uk/) and we’ve been putting on conferences for the last 9 years in the UK. We’ve been holding two conferences a year and in 2010 I want to expand what we do so we can engage even more PMO professionals.

I’ve launched two local groups which concentrate on two major cities in the UK and I’m really excited about growing that in 2010. The events are going to be free, which is going to be great news for people and I’m looking forward to not only hosting the conferences but also project managing them (and hopefully making them a great success!)

Pawel Brodzinski

I don't do New Year resolutions. Actually every other date is as good as New Year to set the plan and start following it. My recent one is to engage local student community with a series of workshops focused on best engineering practices. This is something I missed when I was a student - there wasn't enough focus put on teaching methods which help to build high-quality software on time. It ends up people not learning how software is developed in real life until they start their first job. I wish they were entering job market equipped a bit better.

Samad Aidane (www.GuerrillaProjectManagement.com)

My New Year resolution, related to project management, is to enroll in and complete a meditation class. I want to learn how to use meditation to manage stress better. I have a major project coming up next year and I need all the help I can get.

Sreejith Kesavan

I could not implement or complete many of previous year’s resolutions – mainly related to acquiring some more academic qualifications and formal learning. However professionally it was a “happening” year with some interesting projects.

I don’t really have any bad habits to quit. How ever I am looking forward to upgrade my skills in management and technical aspects.

To read Part 1 of the interview and detailed bio of the interviewed Project Manager's click here.

(Pic Courtesy)

Interview with Jurgen Appelo

He has always inspired me and is considered one of the most serious blogger. I don't remember how I came across his blog, must have been blogroll of other bloggers.

The first time I read his blog, I went blank. The combination of research and thought that was put in most of the postings was so clear and refreshing. It was different. I wanted to write like him, may be if possible- even think like him.

So, this year I wanted to take that extra plunge and do things I wanted to do but was too scared to think about it. This is one of them. I have always wanted to interview him but thought he would deny. I was so sure, he would deny that I decided to write an email and ask. I mean- what the heck- he would deny anyways, so why not just write an email and forget about it.

I ended up getting 15 minutes of his time- so here is Jurgen Appelo!

How do you inspire yourself everyday?

I have no need to inspire myself. I am always curious to know how the world works, and I always want to find out what my own opinion is on many different topics. So I never have trouble picking up another book, or a science magazine, or reading blog posts. Because I know that I will be interested in the new knowledge available for me to discover. And I am usually rewarded with insights, in the form of "Wow, I never knew!" or "Of course! That explains it!" I really love such moments. And then, having picked up new things here and there, I am ready to write about my own thoughts, which is usually little more than connecting the dots between different things I've learned.

Do you have a regular schedule that you start your day with?

No, I have trouble getting out of bed. But I also have trouble going to bed (always too late), so that compensates for the first problem. :) I don't keep regular schedules throughout the day, because for me that doesn't seem to work. For example, writing is something I cannot do for 8 hours straight. I simply lose my concentration. I like my days best when I do a number of different things.

How did you train yourself for what you are doing today (and I don't mean the certifications and degrees)?

I'm afraid I have a very boring answer: I simply read a lot, and I practice a lot. I have read a few different books on writing (how to write well, how to write blogs, how to write books). It helps to learn from the experts that way. But practice is even more important. Looking back at the first blog posts I wrote, I think they are awful. I became much better at writing blog posts. But you only get there by writing many bad ones first. Now I'm writing a book for the first time. And it's a whole new learning experience for me. Maybe some time in the future, when I'm writing my 10th book, I will look back on the book I'm writing now, and I will think "My god, that was an awful book I wrote back then!" :)

What is more important- talent and IQ or the inspiration and conviction to go the extra mile?

Both, I think. If you are untalented it seems to me it doesn't make much sense to go the extra mile. It would be a waste of effort. For example, I know I am bad at sales and account management. It's not my thing. I could spend 100 hours trying to learn it, but (because I have no talents in that area) the return on investment wouldn't be worth it. Of course, I probably would get a little better at it, but not much. Instead, it is wiser to spend those 100 hours on things that I have some talents in. Because then the return on investment is much higher.
Thank you very much.

Oops I forgot to ask, if I can have an autograph- a signed copy of a sticky note would do.