Everyone in business (and life in general) usually tries to get something done. Well, most of the time.
Here are a bunch of the top tools/techniques I’ve seen first hand from the people that do it the best. Geared towards the workplace, these tools also apply to when you’re Project Managing life in general.
You are effective as you are organized - Improving your personal organization is the most overlooked and easiest place improve your effectiveness. If you have 100 things to do, how do you keep track of them? If those 100 things constantly change stakeholders, change requirements, and change deadlines…how do you keep it all straight in your head? Suggested Reading: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Define to-do list item next steps - If you’re on a project, and it seems too massive to handle, it’s because your next step is still ambiguous. Define the next steps and break them down into little chunks of tangible to do list items. Cross them off one at a time. That’s progress.
Every job a to do list - Every job you’ll ever do is a variation a to-do list. Write it down the next step, mark it off. This goes for creative work, leadership, sports teams, personal growth, you name it.
Tell a story your results - Document your work. This is so crucial it’s hard to understate. You hear about the best performers in life/work because make their story be heard. They document their successes and spread the message.
Impact doesn’t lie - When you tell your story, focus around the impact you had. What changed after you did work? If your project/work didn’t create impact, why did you do it in the first place?
Every list in priority order - When you make a list of goals, or new features to add to a product, or list of next steps, which are the most important ones? This forces you to think about trade offs and resource allocation.
Ensure public accountability - To ensure accountability, write down next steps from a meeting in a spot that everyone can see, whiteboard, notes on a meeting screen, recap email. Then agree on them. What to avoid: Next steps that don’t have an owner OR the owner doesn’t know they are responsible for them.
Have meetings with goals - Put the “goal” of every meeting in every invite or email. What do you want to get out of it? Why are you having it? What does a successful meeting look like?
“No Surprises” - “No surprises at meetings.” No one should be surprised by what you’re going to say. Prep and send notes before hand. You should always be giving updates on potential surprises. The bigger the surprise (especially a negative one) the bigger an opportunity to give a heads up beforehand.
Extra 10 minutes of details save hours - The extra 10 minutes you spend writing and detailed email or project document will save days of back and forth trying to clarify. If you don’t think you have the extra 10 minutes to write the extra details, ask yourself do you have the 30 minutes or and hour in a meeting to explain yourself a couple days later?
Before you complain, have a solution - If something isn’t going your way, your manager (or other people in general) won’t fix it unless you suggest them a solution (or two).
Make a schedule that fits your workflow - The Manager vs Maker schedule is real. Managers operate well going from meeting to meeting. Analysts or makers need half day chunks of time to get in the groove. If you find that you’re having problems, see if your schedule is aligning with the type of work you’re doing.
Keep the other person’s interests in mind - “How can I help you?” is one of the most impactful questions you can ask someone else. Additionally, ask, “What are your top priorities?” You’ll immediately understand what they want.
Always know what you need to move faster - Conversely, always have an answer for if someone asks you the same thing. I’ve seen multiple iterations of this. “What do you need to go faster?” “If we gave you extra resources, what would you do with them?” “How can I unblock you?” “How can I help you complete your goals?”
Have 1v1s with yourself - Schedule a 1v1 with yourself to get your act together. Mine is from Monday from 8am-12pm. If you don’t make time for yourself (at work or life) no one else will. Make sure no one else takes up your time.
Ask good questions - This topic deserves its own post. Think about asking the best questions you can when trying to understand a topic or grok something from someone. One of my favorite is “who do you know has to work the hardest to get what they want? What do they do?” Check out Tim Ferris’s list of best questions here.
Ask for specific, not general feedback - When you ask for feedback, ask for feedback on specific topics that you want. Don’t say, “can you give me feedback on this?” Nobody wants general feedback. If you were 100% confident about your work, then you wouldn’t be asking for feedback in the first place. What are the weaknesses in your work that you’re worried about?
Most common examples involve resumes. Instead of sending someone a PDF and saying “what do you think?” Send your resume along with specific questions for someone to answer. Make their job easier. For example, “My resume, do the first couple of bullet points get the most attention, do they give a “this guy’s legit” tone?”