Personal Management

Recently I wrote a blog post on how I now use Favro to keep track of my personal work. I’ve done some more writing about management on personal level in the book I’m working on. I thought I should share that chapter with you here. Please enjoy reading, and get back to me with feedback!

You

The most important person for you to be successful is YOU! No matter which other persons you have around you, they can’t influence or ”help” you in the same way as you can do. So to become a great leader, you have to start with yourself. And since you know yourself best that should be fairly easy, right?

”Take a look at yourself, and then make a change” – Michael Jackson

When I began my first work I learned two words, the first was ”be” and the second one was ”professional”, i.e., ”Be professional”. I have tried to keep that in mind since then through my career. What is being professional you might ask, is there no time for fun and jokes? I will explain what it means is this chapter, and yes there is plenty of time for laughter as well.

”Lead by example” is a good phrase. Imagine a situation where the parents tell their child that they should not start to smoke, but they do it themselves.

  • ”Your should not start to smoke, it is dangerous!”, says the parents.
  • ”But why do you do it?”, the child replies.

I would like to see a parent with arguments enough to get out of that situation, with logical reasoning it’s virtually impossible.

So if you want your project team members to be on time to the meeting, you have to be on time to the meeting. If you want the team to put in extra hours when the deadline is coming closer, you have to do it. You can of course come up with excuses, ”The management meeting was extended” or ”I don’t work with development so I can’t contribute in the end” but those will only eat on your fund of trust. If you don’t have enough trust in the group you should lead, you will not be the leader! You can still be the ”formal leader” on paper of course, but some other person(s) will in fact be the ”informal leaders” (and they will lead).

”Treat other people the way you want them to treat you”, is another good saying. Be polite and correct to people, then they will be the same against you. To become furious over a situation may feel good in the short run (to really burst off and start yelling like a mad dog), but it will not lead to trust in the long run. There is a theory that some great leaders are psychopaths, but I don’t really believe in that.

”Keep what you promise”, it’s easy to say but harder to follow. If someone asks you to help out with something and you promise them to be ready by Friday, you should work very hard to get ready by Friday! If it’s not realistic at all to be ready by Friday, you should not promise ”by Friday”. Most people are kind and we often ”over promise”, but to what good? You will fail to deliver on time and feel bad, and the other person will be disappointed about not getting what was promised. You need to give realistic estimates of your time, if ”by Friday” is ”by mid next week”, you should tell the latter straight away. If the other person have a problem with this, it might be a conflict in priority, but then at least that is spotted.

But ok, if the shit really hits the fan (and sometimes it does, it happens to all of us) you should tell that immediately when you know it, ”By Friday will become by Tuesday next week, but this is because of this situation that has occurred”. People that never (and I mean never) keep what they promise will ultimately become impossible to work with.

”Do your best”, this is pretty straight forward. For every task you are working with, do your best! By that I mean you should always try to put a little extra effort in that will make a difference. Then you might think, ”I’ve done this a thousand times before, why can’t I do it exactly the same once more?”. The answer is when you stop to do your best, you stop to develop. And when you stop to develop, things usually becomes very boring (at least that is the case for me). When a job becomes boring, its time to change. And remember, there always something new to learn that can add extra value to the work you have done a thousand times before. ”Knowledge is not a heavy burden”, as my father-in-law said.

Now you have some guidance how you should act, continue to learn how you can keep a clear mind to be able to focus.

Clear mind

A clear mind makes you ready to act on the things that pops up when you are in charge of something. How do I get a clear mind? Well, it’s all about focus and context. When you are at work, then your focus should be work related. When you are at home, your focus needs to be with your beloved ones. This is easier said than done today when its possible to be connected everywhere, all the time.

For me it works if I don’t ”mix the two worlds” too much. At home, I seldom do work related stuff (if I’m not working from home of course). At work, I seldom do ”non work” related stuff (like reading newspapers online or looking for concert tickets).

To be able to focus, you also have to be in ”control of everything”. This starts with what you have in front of you, with what you see. For example if you have a technical report lying on your desk, your immediate thought when you see it is that you really should read it right now. But you don’t have the time right now, because of all the other stuff. If you have some receipts laying around, they will give you bad conscience of the expenses report you must do before end of the month. These ”distractions” are in the way for your focus and will clog the other work tasks you have at hand. 

”My

Picture of my desk. Clean desk = clear mind. My colleague (whose desk is shown at the top of the picture) is using a different ”personal management”-system 🙂

”But what should I do with all the receipts and the reports I have to read?”,  you may ask. You need to have a system to act on them in a controlled manner, and for that you need be in control, more about that now.

Control

To be able to control others, you need to be able to control yourself. Sounds pretty straight forward, but can be heck of a work depending on your personality 🙂 . If your are very fortunate you might be able to hire an assistant, but for most of us we need to find out a way for ourselves.

Personally I used text files (before switching to Favro) to keep control over everything I need (notes, tasks, meetings, etc.). All the things that I do, goes into these files. Well, it’s not 100% true, if there is something that takes less than five minutes, and I can fix right away there is no need to update the file about it, if don’t want to keep a record of it that is.

Staying in control is not something you can decide to do for a week and then skip. It’s a continuous work, that you have to carry out day out and day in. Sounds pretty boring, and sometimes it is, but the benefits you get out of it makes it worthwhile. And if you get a ”control system” up and running, it soon becomes part of your daily routines.

One last piece of advise, if you use some other tool (than text files), don’t over-trust it, it’s easy to be blinded by all the functions. But you still need to put the effort in and enter information. And if it can fetch from information from other sources, that is good, but that info is easier to neglect, since you haven’t created it. Things you write down (and repeat for yourself) is easier to remember.

Summary

To conclude, a change always starts from within. Take a look in the mirror and see what needs to be changed. If you can’t see, ask for options from other persons. Be professional in everything you do, from how you treat other people, to the effort you put into your work (do you best and add try to ”a cherry on the top”). Keep your head clear from distractions and you are ready to go!

  • Be professional means:
    • Lead by example.
    • Respect – Be polite and correct.
    • Keep what you promise.
    • Do you best.
  • Keep a clear mind to be able to be one step ahead and do active management.
  • Keep yourself under control by using some sort of control system (text files or other tools).
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