Lessons from a Not-So-Skilled Project Manager

By Liz, loving the beach weather…

I am a chronic learner. I would go to school forever if I had the unlimited funds it takes to get degrees these days (and yeah, I’m still paying off that grad school degree from many years ago, so there’s that). I do manage to find a way to keep learning though. I love online courses and have taken a number of them over the past couple of years, mostly related to my business venture. I’m also loving memberships – both running one and belonging to them.

During the course I took about how to create a membership, I met a fellow writer who was also launching a membership. But she’s not just a writer – she’s a project manager. And she’s not only used that superpower to manage her own writing life, but now she’s helping other writers do the same. So when she launched her membership on how to make your writing life more joyful (yes please), I had to sign up as a founding member. Because, let’s face it. I’m a good writer. I am NOT a good project manager. When faced with project management realities in my corporate life, I used to ignore them as best I could. As I got higher up in the food chain, I hired people to deal with that kind of thing. It’s just not my wheelhouse.

Yet here I am, determined to figure out how to manage my work life – and possibly my whole life – better. Part of the problem is I pile too much on. I’m still working during the day, although it’s shifted to a consulting role, which just means less politics and meetings. The amount of work is the same. I’m also working on getting my business off the ground. And, of course, there’s the writing.

So I’m a few weeks into this membership, and I wanted to report on my progress. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Stop over-scheduling myself. I have a tendency to want to get everything done RIGHT NOW. I would make giant lists and expect to do it all in a week or less, then get so overwhelmed I shut the laptop and sat on the couch. Now, I’m learning to estimate how much time I WANT (not should) to spend on tasks and only note the ones that can be done during that amount of time.
  • Prioritize ease. Much to my shock, I’m learning that doing more is not always better. I was raised with an overachiever mindset, and if I’m not constantly producing or feeling like I’m advancing something, I feel like I’m not doing enough. Here, I’m learning to be realistic about what I can do and not stress about more.
  • Celebrate myself. I’ve been talking about this for a while, but it’s a hard lesson for me (see above point). It feels very foreign to me to pat myself on the back for something. It’s much more normal to say, Wow, that’s it? You could’ve done more! I’m learning how not to do this.
  • Schedule something fun. I just learned this one today. The facilitator asked what fun thing I’ve been putting off. When I identified it, she told me to take one work thing off the list and put the fun thing in instead – not to just add it to the list, which I’d been about to do. This whole process is about finding more space, and while it’s WAY out of my comfort zone, I’m definitely learning how to think about work very differently.

I can already tell this isn’t going to be an overnight transition. But I can tell that once I learn these lessons, they’re going to pay off exponentially.

Readers, how have you learned to think about time/work/effort in a new light? Tell me in the comments!

19 Thoughts

  1. I treat my board membership like a job (but a job I love!) and spend specific times of the day on it. Most days, I have to pull myself away from it because I am new at it and love to learn. When I first started, I’d spend way too much time reading and studying about it and it was burning me out. Now I have a happy medium.

  2. Good for you, Liz, for working on new practices. I also work too much, but this summer I’m really trying to just sit back and enjoy the season, the fresh veggies and fruit, even the heat.

  3. I live by lists and schedules – both in my day job and with writing. One trick I’ve learned is to tackle the easy things first. It gets them off the list and gives me a sense of accomplishment and confidence that helps when I move on to the bigger things.

  4. You deserve several pats on the back for addressing this now until as we did much later in life. For us, it was one of those “Boy, if we had only learned this earlier!” type things.

    Our learning to slow down, not sweat the small stuff and to realize limitations came about rather abruptly when my Mom came to live with us after cancer surgery and with the onset of Alzheimer. At first, you think you can take all this other on and still continue on as if life hadn’t changed, but when exhaustion and the 24 hours feeling like 48 yet you are only getting 8 hours worth of work done, you have to realize fast that it’s just not possible. Then to get done what has to be done, both on the 24/7 caregiver front and your normal life, we had to learn to pace ourselves, realize what was important and to get the mindset that it was always “me” that had to do something.

    After the passing of Mom and hubby’s retirement, life drastically changed again with more adjustments and lessons to be learned. It’s only now, so much later in life, that I realize that many of the practices we use now would have worked fabulously when we were stressing in life all those years ago. I’m sure though that there will still be more adjustments ahead of us, but I’ve learned to accept them and to go with the flow because stress and worry does no good other than to create ulcers. 🙂
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. Great suggestions, Liz!

    I am a woman of lists – I use a Full Focus Planner where I daily write my big three goals and then write the full list of what I want to do – even if it includes items I won’t get to for quite some time. Better to have it on a list then let if fall through the cracks! I also keep a daily calendar track of my daily accomplishments and the time each took. My personal philosophy is to tackle the worst first – or in the parlance of the mentor who taught me this habit – “Eat the big frog first first”. Once that’s done, I can move ahead and zip through the rest!

    I need to add in fun. That is something that only seems to make it to the “soon” list. Maybe I’ll add it to the big three!

    1. I definitely vote for adding fun into the big 3!! I’ve heard a lot about Full Focus Planner – Amy Porterfield talks about it a lot. I don’t use it but have gotten in the habit of identifying top 3 things most days.

      1. I bought one a few years ago and rarely used it. As far as I was concerned it was one more thing. Then I looked at it, and realized what a great asset it was–for me.

  6. I could never get caught up because I always had way too much on my plate. Once I retired, again, I decided to stop doing so much. My calendar still fills up, but mostly with really necessary things like dr. appts. I leave plenty of room for things like lunch with my daughter, massages, and fun Zoom meetings. I make TBD lists and love crossing off the finished items. For the most part, I have stopped feeling guilty for taking a day off and lying on the sofa and reading all day. I still always have a lot TBD, but I have learned everything will get done, or it won’t. The world isn’t going to end either way.

  7. I’m an over scheduler as well. I always think I can do twice as much at night as I actually have time to do. Granted, it’s often stuff I enjoy (like reading), but I’ve attached some work to it (must finish book for review). I keep saying I need to find a way to balance the two, but I just go on to something else instead.

  8. I was a very A+ personality when I worked. I tried to be the one who made it through my complete to do list. Since I became disabled, I have a found it hard to concentrate to get much finished. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

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