“Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” – Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies
Welcome to Episode 31: How Many Hats Are You Wearing?
Living in entrepreneur-land is sometimes all about how many things you can do on your own without a team or a sidekick. Sometimes we just want to do things ourselves because we feel it will save us time and money. But in that same breathe, sometimes wearing too many hats just makes things worse …!
The term project management used to have me shaking in my shoes! I am the type of person who sometimes takes on one too many projects at a time because I have so many goals to fulfill my bigger picture. But then one day I sat down to sort out of brain onto one of my trusty to-do lists and realized it’s not about how many projects I have on my plate to complete, whether short or long-term, but HOW I plan to attack them all.
Here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...
Are you ready?
Pop in your awesome earbuds and let's dive in!
Living in entrepreneur-land is sometimes all about how many things you think you can do on your own without a team or a sidekick. Sometimes we just want to do things ourselves because we feel it will save us time and money. But in that same breath, sometimes wearing too many hats just makes things worse …!
Think of things this way … If you were to assign every role, task, or project to a particular hat with the skillset and all the glorious responsibilities those come with, how many hats do you think you’d be wearing? How does it feel to wear all those hats? Especially when you’re wearing them all at once. Probably very much like a crazy balancing act!
I have been in this hat-wearing scenario way more times than I can count. Even quite recently. In my business, as well as most of the work I do for my clients, I am the graphic designer, the web designer, the social media guru, the IT specialist, the “help desk”, the virtual assistant, the proofreader, the brand specialist, the accountant, the project manager, the business developer, the operations manager, the sales manager, and this list literally goes on and on (and ON!) forever …!
I still, to this day, have more hats than I can count! But now I am more mindful of not wearing them all at once. I have learned over the years to combine them but never more than 2 or 3 at a time. Why? Because every hat deserves to be worn, appreciated, admired, and respected separately. And really … It’s not a good look for you, your business, or your bottom line.
Getting rid of some of your hats really boils down to two main things: organization and outsourcing. So, let’s take a quick few to dive into those in a bit more detail …
And nope, I will never get tired of expressing the importance of this. (LOL!)
In this step, it's time to get clear on the work that needs to be done in order to succeed. To put your work into context so that you can truly understand #AllTheThings that need to happen in order for things to work the way you want them to. The way you need them to. All the while, not forgetting to prioritize.
So, before you begin tackling your daily to-do list, think about where each of your tasks or projects falls into each quadrant. Then schedule them accordingly.
Remember, there is a huge difference between important and urgent. And yes, making time to work on your business (not just in your business) counts too!
Okay, now …. Outsourcing.
It’s TIME to hire the experts.
Yes, sometimes resources are tight and as entrepreneurs, we try to fill those gaps all by ourselves. It’s usually because of time or funds. And sometimes due to time, we wait too long to hire additional staff then more hats just pile up. But skimping on “the help” can have a detrimental effect on your ability to grow, support your clients and your audience, and even a loss of new opportunities.
Okay, now it’s time for the hard stuff …. sitting down to objectively assess your own strengths and weakness. But you already know we don’t like terms like “failures” or “weaknesses” … We’d rather them be called upon as gifts of imperfections – with room for improvement. By being honest and objective with yourself, you will have clear eyes on where you could best get assistance from a pro – whether a graphic or web designer, social media guru, accountant, virtual assistant, coach, etc.
It’s always best to try to maximize your own strengths, then try to fill in those gaps rather than just hire for “lower wage” work because it seems like the easier decision.
So, let me ask you this …
The concept can be overwhelming if you think in terms of a large project stretching over weeks or even months. But it does not need to be …!
First off, not all projects are that large. Even short-term projects will benefit from thoughtful and deliberate management techniques.
The steps involved in project management, including it as a state of mind -- not just getting caught up in all the organizational details, can help you clarify your focus, gather the resources you will need to succeed, and monitor your progress. This way you will be able to reach your goal -- and on schedule.
Secondly, if your project is truly overwhelmingly large, then project management will be your survival mechanism. If you do not document (yes, in writing) your plan to manage the project at hand, you are setting yourself (and your team) up for unwelcome surprises and headaches along the way. And who the heck needs that?
Whether the project is for yourself or for a client, it is up to you to manage the process efficiently. Who wants to waste precious time and money?
And Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies says it best …
“Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.”
So, here’s WHY it’s tremendously important to understand project management …
First and foremost, project management is not just a job title. It’s not just “doing things”, getting caught up in all the details, therefore, accomplishing nothing. It’s a state of mind and a frame of thinking.
Entire books have been written about managing projects. You can find courses that teach it in universities and online. You could even get a Ph.D. in project management if you wanted to. For my purposes here, however, I want to look at project management as a tool to guide you during your work on a project. So, if you have not worked this way in the past, you might want to try it with a small project for practice, either by yourself or with another person. Perhaps a virtual assistant (VA)!
You can think of it like learning to drive a car. You don’t just hop in and take off! The more you practice, the better you will be able to drive.
So, the same rules apply ... if you practice project management on a smaller scale, then when you get that call from a client asking you to manage a project for them, or with a team, you will be better equipped and prepared to do that effectively.
I previously wrote about the Habits of Highly Organized People in a past blog post of ours -- and plan on rehashing those details in an upcoming “untangling” podcast episode -- because I truly do believe the more organized you try to be, the more effective and efficient you will be. As you can see, these things all tie together.
The term project management used to have me shaking in my shoes! I am the type of person who sometimes takes on one too many projects at a time because I have so many goals to fulfill my bigger picture. But then one day I sat down to sort out my brain onto one of my trusty to-do lists and realized it’s not about how many projects I have on my plate to complete, whether short or long-term, but HOW I plan to attack them all.
I hate to admit this out loud -- but there are a lot of “time wasters” in our daily (working and professional) lives which can sometimes have a negative impact on what we’re trying to accomplish. That is why it’s so important to understand time management -- which in reality can also be viewed in partnership with project management.
We don’t want you getting burnt out, so the key here is PLANNING. You want to work more efficiently, not work more. You want that life of freedom (whether it be timewise or financially). You want your big dreams to become reality. So, in order for that to all happen you’ll want to plan things out according to your daily tasks, projects, and goals.
If you work too hard you may lose sight of your bigger picture. And we most certainly don’t want that -- as that’s what we’ve been working so hard to build up to and work towards in order to gain more lifestyle freedom. Research suggests that as we burn out, we have a greater tendency to get “lost in the weeds” – and since that’s the last thing you want, it’s time for you to slow down.
So, now let's talk about the 4 basic stages of managing your projects. And these descriptions I’m about to share with you are under the assumption you are working with a team -- maybe even a virtual team -- so if you are working solo, adjust accordingly.
#1. Project Initiation.
Start with a description of your project, one that is clear and easy to articulate. At this stage, it is important to identify the scope of the project including its goals and objectives. Without clarification around the scope, what the project entails, how will you know later if you are veering off course?
Your project includes this and only this. And when working with a team, this focus ensures you are all on the same page and working toward the same end game. So, as you start a project by defining its scope, you also need to be clear about the end goal. Will the project end with specific deliverables?
Examples of a deliverable would be a series of social media posts for a content marketing campaign or perhaps even an eBook as a lead magnet.
#2. Project Planning.
In the planning stages, you should break the overall project down into smaller, measurable tasks. Then set a schedule for completing those tasks and draw up your budget. This is where you should identify what resources you need and how to obtain them.
Do you need additional people to work on the project? If so, how will you build your team and assign tasks? What tools will you need, that you don't already have?
If you are a frequent reader of our blog or follow VU on social, you probably already know how much I love productivity software! Some of these apps are solely designed to help teams collaborate more effectively. But not just teams … you can use them solo, too!
A few that my team and clients enjoy are Asana, Trello, and Evernote.
It’s best to play around with each one to determine which feels like the right fit.
I am also a huge advocate for increasing your productivity in other ways, too! You will find some great tips in our blog post How to Become Productive in 15 Days (or Less).
When you are leading a team as a project manager (or CEO), you may notice opportunities for individual team members to increase their productivity as well. The best way to help them is to model productive behaviours and share your tips (or mine!) with them. Better work habits -- the secret to greater productivity -- are contagious!
That being said, you may have heard the term "project management methodology". And there are quite a few methodologies for this!
The more traditional one’s order tasks sequentially, where each task depends on the completion of a prior task. Another type of methodology -- called "agile" -- requires that tasks be completed in repetitive cycles, so the results are constantly evaluated -- and those results determine the next step in the process.
Some methodologies are better suited for long-term projects, while others work better with shorter ones. Some may even allow for the project's deliverables to change depending on results along the way while others assume the deliverables will not change.
So, one thing to keep in mind … you cannot plan the project in a vacuum.
Are you managing this project for a client?
Are you managing a team?
Planning includes mapping out the anticipated workflow, deadlines per task, and the project timeline. This step produces a diagram -- ideally a colourful one -- that shows which tasks should be completed sequentially and which ones can be tackled simultaneously. And this is where Asana or Trello comes in handy. The setup helps everyone involved to visualize the activities, how they fit together, and which tasks are dependent on the completion of other tasks.
And don’t forget to celebrate your milestones as you move along!
#3. Project Execution.
As if the preceding stages did not seem like work to you … the execution stage is where the real work gets done.
Team members carry out their tasks, and as manager of the project, you will monitor the quality of their work, manage the timelines as well as the budget.
Any changes must be marked on the workflow diagram, so everyone can clearly see the cascading effect of how a change at one point along the timeline will affect tasks down the line.
The most important team dynamics during the execution stage are communication and flexibility. No matter how well you plan, you are likely to run into unexpected obstacles. Often, working through said obstacles requires changing some part of the plan -- usually the timeline, task responsibilities, or budget.
Your team's ability to communicate in real-time is critical here. Each person needs to be aware of any changes to the plan and how those changes might affect their responsibilities.
So, whether you are working with a virtual team or one that can meet face-to-face, it is important to establish expectations in terms of how frequently everyone should communicate. The team-oriented productivity software programs mentioned earlier also include mechanisms for virtual communication. Will you also have regularly scheduled meetings or simply communicate as soon as updates are available -- or when problems occur?
If you do have meetings, you want to make them as efficient and brief as possible. In the end, everyone will thank you for that!
Time is the scarcest resource.
So, unless it is managed properly, nothing else can be managed.
And lastly …
#4. Project Completion.
All great projects must come to an end at some point -- even the not-so-great ones, too. So, when you produce the deliverables for the client (or yourself), it's time to wrap things up.
You may want to conduct a "post-mortem" review, which involves evaluating the project and taking a look at which elements contributed to its success and which ones did not. This information will have a powerful impact on how you manage your next project!
In the hardcore reality of the business world …
There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.
Like most things, project management will become easier the more you do it. In a way, every project you manage will be different, but in other ways, they’ll be similar. The similarities are why lessons learned on one project will often translate to improvements in others. So, it truly helps to keep in mind that project management is a tool for helping you guide your projects to completion. And like any tool, how well it works depends on how well you use it.
So, to make things easy-peasy lemon-squeezy for you, I created a project management breakdown for you with 6 simple, yet very important, stages so you can adjust your workflow (no matter how crazy) accordingly.
And like most things, this process becomes easier the more you do it -- and the more you know about how to execute things well.
It’s all about baby steps because every single step you take towards the top IS POSSIBLE due to all the little steps you took in the past, or the ones you are taking right now …!
So, here are the rules of thumb my team and I go by that may be helpful to adjusting your project management process …
And there we have it, 4 stages broken down into 6 simplified steps to keep from shaking in your shoes every time you think about project management.
In short, be SMART about it …
We all procrastinate at one point or another in our lives. We all get distracted by things easily within our reach (or view -- technology is literally everywhere). But it’s time to start thinking about YOUR TIME as something that is palpable. If you don’t, you will, unfortunately, keep making the very same mistakes and end up wasting more and more time on tasks and projects that don’t bring any positive changes into your life as well as benefit your business (and those of your clients). It is not enough to be busy … The question is: what are we busy about?
So, to round up everything nicely and top it with a bow …
It is not possible to get everything done, especially on your own. And sometimes you may feel that there just are not enough hours in the day for you to accomplish everything you set out to do. But if you’re clear on your project and its goals, are calm and work smarter -- not harder -- and follow some of the tips I shared with you today … you might find that there are enough hours. And your bigger picture will become a reality a lot sooner than you thought!
If today’s episode resonated with you AND you’re feeling as though no matter what you do, you’re not getting ahead …. time management isn’t making any sense or working to your advantage … you can’t finish off the items on your to-do list every single day … There’s another way to nudge things along …!
I would be more than happy to offer you a 30-minute consultation for free, so we can figure out how Virtually Untangled can help get you on track -- and not break the bank!
If this is what you’re needing to get back on track, or if a newbie to the entrepreneurial world and want to start things off on the right foot, then feel free to drop me a line so we can chat.