Once the weather starts to change and temperatures start to heat up, project managers from all industries start to have something in common: it’s hard to stay motivated on your project when you’d rather be outside!
I’d like to share some summer productivity tips to help you out.
I am not an ‘outside’ person. But I still find it difficult to stay focused on project board minutes or tracking risks when it’s nice out. However, without motivation, you can’t be productive.
If you find your own motivation and productivity falling as the days get longer, it could be happening for a number of reasons.
- Your project may have been heavy going over the preceding months, so you are ready for a break
- You might be gearing up for social events – there tend to be more gatherings in warm weather so you may have weddings, parties, reunions, and other events coming up that are pulling your focus
- You might find it harder to get stuff done if your children have broken up from school.
Or it might be something else entirely – your workload as a project manager tends to fluctuate hugely due to project initiation tasks and go live dates. There are normally quieter periods and busy times. Or it might always feel like busy times!!
You have to find the motivation
If summer happens to coincide with a quieter period for you, then happy days! But if it doesn’t, you are going to have to find the motivation from somewhere to keep your projects moving.
What you do on your project today will affect your outcomes and your team down the line. Chances are you will not be able to slacken off (although if you can, my advice is to do it – you’ll be busy again soon enough).
However, be aware that if you do opt for sunbathing and holidays while your team is slogging away, that’s not going to look good for you. It’s best to work at the same pace as your team during the summer, even though there are other things you’d rather be doing!
Here are 7 ways to stay motivated and productive over the summer.
1. Have clear objectives
It’s hard to stay motivated if you are not looking at your project in a focused manner. If the goals, objectives or deliverables aren’t clear, it becomes too easy to procrastinate and it won’t take long for your work to pile up.
Having said that – this is true of any time in the year, not just during the summer.
If you are struggling with a poorly defined project, read this article on the 3 most important things that define your project.
2. Avoid overload
This is easier said than done, I know!
You’ll be more focused and more productive if you aren’t overloaded.
If you are trying to spread your time between several projects, you could be setting yourself up for failure. For example, what’s going to happen if all the projects need to go live at the same time? How are you going to manage that?
Managing multiple projects can be done, and most of us do it every day. But think carefully about the schedule for those projects and when you are going to be at your most busy. Talk to your teams and your manager to spread out the burden in a way that is workable.
These 5 tips for managing information overload will help you stay on top of your work.
3. Focus on the right activities
Where should you be spending your effort?
Staying focused on the right activities will keep your project moving in the right direction. And mean you get out of the office on time every night, so you can enjoy the sunshine or whatever it is you would rather be doing with your summer!
The specific activities you should focus on will depend on your project, but I would recommend you focus on:
- Tracking where other people are in their tasks, without micromanaging
- Horizon scanning for what’s going to cause your project problems in the near future, for example, checking for common roadblocks and dealing with them
- Building relationships with the team and key stakeholders
- Managing stakeholder expectations
- Monitoring the work so it stays on track
- Making sure other people know what their priorities are.
When you’re working on the computer, it can be easy to spend too much time checking and responding to email, checking in on personal social media (not that we do that during office hours, right?), or following threads in Slack.
These things may be relevant to your work, but try to spend the bulk of your time doing the priority tasks.
Templates and checklists can help you focus your efforts on the things that really matter.
Templates to help you set expectations, get information, request updates and manage issues. Aimed at Business Analysts but easily customizable for all project roles.
4. Be goal oriented
You know what your project is trying to achieve. Make sure everyone else does too.
You could write out the goals and put them on the wall. You can have them at the top of every meeting agenda.
Keep track of your team’s progress and celebrate success together as you move closer to achieving the goals. There are some simple, not very expensive or free suggestions in my article on 15 ways to celebrate team success.
5. Change your space
If you aren’t feeling very motivated, try changing your space up a little bit. There are lots of little things you can do to your workspace to make it much more inspiring.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That saying is very true when it comes to finding motivation. Find a picture of what inspires you and hang it up where you will see it while working. This could be pictures of your kids, a picture of your dream home, new car, or whatever else you find inspiring.
When you’re having a bad day and feel like throwing in the towel, look at your picture and think the reason about why you’re working. You’ll find the energy to keep going.
I have a quote above my desk that inspires me to find ways to have less to do through doing it right first time and saying no. (I found it on Kelly Exeter’s website.)
6. Get organized
If you don’t already have project management tools, then start thinking about how you are going to get management to agree to buy something to make your life easier.
It’s far easier to be productive with the right tools.
Personally, I like paper systems, because I can cross items off my list as I complete them. But I also use Teamwork with my colleague when working on this blog, because we can share task lists and quickly see what is still to be done.
You will, no doubt, have your own preference for the tools that help you stay productive. And if you haven’t quite figured it out just yet, keep trying new things until you find a system that works for you.
7. Find time to recharge…
You do need time off.
Project managers work at a phenomenal pace, and certainly those of you who email me often share stories of just what burden you have because of busy schedules, poor management, too few resources or over ambitious stakeholders (or a mixture of all of these). Even in well-run businesses, sometimes the timelines for work can be unrelenting.
So take time off.
If you can’t take a proper holiday, at least finish work on time. (Not sure that’s possible? Try this 30-minute miracle that will change how you leave the office – it worked for me.)
…But not too much!
Ah – yet another area of project management that is all about balance! You need to recharge, but not to the point that you are going to struggle to get back into everything.
The big tip here is to make sure you do a great handover to your team and that you have full confidence that they can handle everything while you are away. And if you don’t have a team you can trust, how are you going to get one? Plan for that now, before you pack your suitcase.
Take time off, but in a way that makes you feel confident that you are going back to a well-run project, that has been ably managed by your trusted team while you’ve been away.
There are going to be days when you’re just not going to feel like working. And those are the days where you’ll just have to be your own “project sponsor” and tell yourself to get the job done.
Finding your motivation is possible, and once the work is done, you can go on holiday, leave the office on time, or simply take a long lunch in the park knowing you’ve got everything under control.