Everyday Project Management is a great book that every manager should read. The topic of the influence of the media over project management is unusual, but Jeff wrote about his visions.
The effect of the mass media on our lives is incalculable. Worldwide media coverage certainly yields benefits. Democracy has a chance to spring forth when oppressed people see or learn about how other people in free societies live. As we spend more hours tuned to electronic media, we are exposed to tens of thousands of messages and images.
To capture overstimulated and distracted viewers, television and other news media increasingly rely on sensationalism. Like too much food at once, too much data, in any form, isn’t easily consumed. You can’t afford to pay homage to everybody else’s 15 minutes of fame. As the late Neil Postman observed, in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Television, with the three words “and now this …” television news can hold your attention while shifting gears 180 degrees.
With a planet approaching eight billion people, media outlets are furnished with an endless supply of turmoil for mass transmission. Such turmoil is packaged daily for the evening news, whose credo has become “If it bleeds, it leads.” We are lured with images of crashes, hostages, and natural disasters. Literally, more people die annually from choking on food than in plane crashes or by guns, but crashes and shootings make for great footage and play into people’s fears.
The Need for Selectivity—With its sensationalized trivia, the mass media over-glut obscures fundamental issues that do merit concern, such as preserving the environment. Meanwhile, broadcasts themselves imply that it is uncivil not to tune into the daily news—“All the news you need to know,” and “We won’t keep you waiting for the latest….” It is not immoral to not “keep up” with the news that is offered. However, to “tune out”—to turn your back on the world in favor of your current project—is not a great solution. Being more selective in where you offer attention, and for how long, makes more sense.
Being more selective is no small feat in an area where you can subscribe to Dish or DirecTV and have up to 400 channels beamed to you via satellite. You can subscribe to various online programming, a variety of Amazon or Netflix services, AT&T U-verse, or other such systems where so many programs and channels can be offered that it’s impossible to keep pace.
The obvious solution is to select the handful of channels and programming that best suit your needs and, again, have the strength to let go of the rest. While the amount of programming available exceeds 20,000 hours a week, no one has that kind of time. You only have 168 hours.
Tomorrow, while dressing for work, rather than plugging into the mass media, quietly envision how you would like your day to be and how you would like your project to proceed. Envision meeting and talking with others, making key decisions, having lunch, finishing tasks, achieving milestones, and departing in the late afternoon or early evening. You’ll experience a greater sense of control over project issues that you might have considered too challenging. (See Chapter 4, “What Makes a Good Project Manager?”)
There is only one party who controls the volume and frequency of information to which you’re exposed. That person is you – the project manager. Each of us needs to vigilantly guard against being deluded with excess data. Otherwise, you run the risk of being overwhelmed by “the latest” issue, and feeling overwhelmed can exacerbate feeling overworked. Treat the risk of losing you just a regular project risk. Read more about Assessing the Risk in Project management on PolicyMatters.Net.
Too much documentation for the project managers
“Paper, paper everywhere, but not a thought to think.” Similar to too much information, or too many eyewitness reports, having too much paper to deal with is going to make you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Yet, the long-held prediction of paperless offices, for now, is a hoot.
The Thoreau Society reported that Henry David Thoreau, who personally has been unable to make any purchases since 1862, received 90 direct mail solicitations at Walden Pond during a recent year. Under U.S. postal rates, catalog publishers and junk mail producers can miss the target in 98% of the attempts and still make a profit—it has been widely observed that only 2% of recipients need to place an order for a direct mailer to score big.
Attempting to contain what seems unmanageable, our institutions create paper accounting systems that provide temporary relief and some semblance of order, while actually becoming more ingrained and immovable, thus creating more muddle.
Maybe One Day—Of the five mega-realities, only paper flow promises to diminish one day as virtual reality, e-books, and online capabilities expand. For the foreseeable future, if you’re not careful, you could be swamped with paper, even if you employ sophisticated project management software (see Chapter 11,“Choosing Project Management Software”). It’s essential to clear the in-boxes of your mind and your desk.
For now, even in this age of voluminous e-communications, paper plagues a preponderance of career professionals. The evidence is plain to see: Look around your own office. How about your desk? Are stacks of paper, often stapled or in file folders, piling up? How about on top of filing cabinets and around the corners of your room?
What about the offices of folks surrounding you?
If paper everywhere and anywhere were not an issue for most people, they would have clear and clean desks, tables, and flat surfaces. Generally, they do not. So, be on alert. Regard each piece of paper as a potential mutineer. Among those sheets with merit and worth saving, electronically scan and file all that you comfortably can. Recycle the rest dispassionately. Each sheet has to earn its keep and remain worthy of your retention.
An Overabundance of Choices
In 1969, Alvin Toffler predicted that we would be overwhelmed by too many choices. He said that an overabundance of choices would inhibit action, result in greater anxiety, and trigger the perception of less freedom and less time. Half a century later, we can see and feel that he was right. Having choices is a blessing of a free market economy. For project managers, having too many choices often leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed and can result not only in increased time expenditure but also in a mounting form of exhaustion.
Consider the supermarket glut: Gorman’s New Product News reports that in 1978 the typical supermarket carried 11,767 items. By 1987, that figure had risen to an astounding 24,531 items—more than double in nine years. Grocery stores in 2018, according to Market Watch, carry 40,000 more items than they did in the 1990s.
Elsewhere in the market, Hallmark offers cards for no fewer than 105 familial relationships. More than 1,260 varieties of shampoo are on the market. Some 2,000 skin care products are available. Even 75 various types of exercise shoes are available, each with scores of variations in style and features. A New York Times article reported that buying leisure-time goods has become a stressful, overwhelming experience.
Choosing to Be—Periodically, the sweetest descision you’ll have to make might be choosing from what you already have. Choosing to actually have what you’ve already chosen. Choosing to be on your current project. Choosing to work with your project team members. Choosing to tap the potential of your project resources.
Project management and avoiding engagement in low-level decisions
Even more important is to avoid engaging in low-level decisions. If a tennis racquet comes with either a black or a brown handle, and it’s no concern to you, take the one closest to you. When you catch yourself about to make a low-level decision, consider: Will this make a difference? Develop the habit of making fewer decisions each day—the ones that count.
At first, you might feel a bit queasy not making all the decisions related to your project. Happily, this feeling will pass. As you gain more confidence in your project team members, you can rely on them to make lower-level decisions, thereby freeing you to concentrate on the higher-level decisions. In addition, you will likely be a bit gentler with yourself as you begin to realize that letting some of the small issues go will not adversely affect the project, your management capability, or anything else of note.
No Let-up—The rate and volume of change that you encounter on the project, within your organization, and in your personal life are not likely to decline. As we proceed into this brave new world, if anything, you’ll encounter more choices with which to contend, not fewer. Thus, you’ll need to establish a viable framework for relatively quickly assessing what merits your contemplation and what does not.
The winners in the world of project management understand the importance of focusing on the higher-priority issues. They are aware that spreading themselves too thin can be as risky as not being diligent on those issues that do merit their attention. This is, of course, a fine line. Those who become adept at project management learn how to traverse it. Those who don’t make it to the finish line, or who do but get close to burnout, are often among those folks who feel they have to stay on top of every little thing. This is insidious. Let go. Trust yourself. You’ll be okay!
Project Managers are overwhelmed and underserved
Project managers, read carefully this section. In a Time Magazine cover story years back, titled “Drowsy America,” the director of Stanford University’s sleep center concluded that “Most Americans no longer know what it feels like to be fully alert.” The phenomenon is now global. Lacking a balance between work and play, between responsibility and respite, we find that simply “getting things done” becomes an end-all: We function like human doings instead of human beings.
We begin to link executing the items on our growing “to-do” lists with feelings of self-worth. As the list grows longer, the lingering sense of having more to handle infiltrates our sense of self-acceptance. The world itself seems to be irrevocably headed toward a new epoch of human existence. However, is being frantic any way to exist as a society? To manage a project? To run your life?
We appear poised to accommodate a frenzied, time-pressured existence, as if this is the way it has to be and always has been. Our ticket to living and working at a comfortable pace is not to accommodate a way of being that doesn’t support us, but rather to address the true nature of the problem head on. The combined effect of the five mega-realities will continue to accelerate the feeling of pressure.
The positive news is that the key to forging a more peaceful existence can occur for you. You are whole and complete right now, and you can achieve balance in your life. You are not your position. You are not your tasks. You have the capacity to acknowledge that your life is finite; you can’t indiscriminately take in the daily deluge that our culture heaps on each of us and expect to feel anything but overwhelmed.
Project Managers and wok-life balance. Balance Begins with the Basics.
Viewed from 20 years from now, today will appear as a period of relative calm and stability when life moved at a manageable pace. On a deeply felt personal level, recognize that from now on, you will face an ever-increasing array of items competing for your attention, both on the current project and off it.
Each of the five mega-realities will proliferate in the next decade. You can’t handle everything, nor is the attempt to do so worthwhile. It’s time to make compassionate, though difficult, choices about what is best ignored versus what does merit your attention and action
Work campaigns come and go. Trying times happen. Stretches occur when we have to flat out give our all, maybe to the detriment of other aspects of our life. Such times pass. Concurrently, we need to acknowledge that a life of balance supports people and their careers. Work-life balance includes the basics: good sleep (see below) every night, good nutrition daily, and exercise at least three or four times a week.
Project management is not for the meek
Pay heed to these basics so you can be effective on the current project as well as for the long haul as a project manager. Why? Project management is not for the meek. At times it can be taxing. If just anybody could handle it, then many more people would. Thankfully, starting from where you are, you can be effective as a project manager, even if you’re on your first project, and still experience work-life balance.
Quality Control and Project Management
Quality Control and Quality assurance is another topic that lies on the shoulders of the project manager. Read about Quality Control and Assurance in Project Management on ScrumTime.org
With these additional duties, the project manager is now really broken and down if everything else was not enough.