While I take a lot of pride in the project management skills that I do have, there is one clear area of improvement I could make. It pains me to say it, but at times I can really struggle with responding in a timely manner to every work email or phone call that I get. Since communication and keeping the information flowing is very important on all projects, this is one of those project management skills that must be mastered and stat.
If this is a problem you also encounter in your work life, consider that perhaps you have a strong drive to avoid sending boring or “no progress” type emails.
Perfectionism Rears Its Ugly Head
Do you, like me, crave every email to build on the last and move your project forward? Does it pain you to be asked for a status update before the next milestone is ready, and you have to hit reply to say “Not just yet”? Ever had that knot in your stomach when your on-ice project starts back up right in the middle of a busy time, and now you have more even emails flying around?
You might be a perfectionist. That’s okay, there are millions of us. Billions even!
Frankly I didn’t even know that I had this trait until I was confronted with the hard truth about why I avoid certain tasks. Never before had I been accused of being one, and I certainly wasn’t the type of student who bemoaned an A- or studied excessively to get full marks.
I thought I was generally a pretty cool customer, so what gave?
This wasn’t something I realized on my own, because it’s way too deep for that. Instead I went looking for a different answer: how do I keep my living room picked up? This began a whole new learning process for me, and ultimately it was shown that when we only take action if we can Beast Mode the task, a layer of hot Todos (or dust) will pile up over time.
Instead, we need to be taking incremental action – no matter how unsexy or boring these small chunks are.
The core around which this “I’m buried in correspondence!” snowball has formed is the desire to do every job exceedingly well, all of the time.
And if you are so afflicted, the answer to keeping your house looked after is Flylady. (You’re welcome!)
Are You a Perfectionist? Why Email Sits in Our Inboxes
“If you’re going to do it, do it well.” That’s what my dad has always said, and chances are good that you heard that growing up too.
So there is a real temptation to make every email you send (and voicemail you leave) an epic tale of progress, success, and completion. When this works out, it’s pretty awesome and you feel like a rockstar. “I’m a real mover and a shaker, pushing things forward today,” you will think. Delightful!
How about those other times though, where maybe the question is unclear or it’s about an add-on that wasn’t included in the original build?
“Can we solve this other problem? What’s going on with the red box – it’s linking to the description by the image and it’s weird – should it be doing that?”
If you are a perfectionist, you are compelled to drop everything when these emails come across so that you can look into your clients’ problems and respond smartly. Thirty or sixty minutes later, you send out your well crafted reply. Then you get another one from a different client, and you’re all squeezed out. You just close out your email client and tell yourself that their reply will have to come later.
What we really need to be doing instead is concentrate on communicating, not just fix-and-respond. We need to send out micro communications that say “I got this, let me see what I can do,” and “Can you walk me through your steps to get this result?” As project management skills go, frequent touch-ins are vastly better than rare 1000-word transcripts of work done. Less satisfying maybe, but it lets our team mates and clients know they have been heard.
My Project Management Skills 2018 Resolution: Fast Replies
Dec 1 2017, What an excellent time to make a resolution and practice sticking to it! I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions because… Surprise surprise, I don’t want to be caught breaking them. That’s how deep this perfectionist game runs, friends.
This year though I’m going to up my communication game and give it my all. I may have to write some pretty basic “touching in” type of emails, but that’s my next level-up step.
If you’re a serial reply-waiter, join me! We can make 2018 our best client communication year yet.
Lauren Grey is a Scottsdale web design and development pro who project manages with a high attention to detail – when she is wearing the PM hat, that is. She works with clients one on one, and also as part of a team, to build beautiful and user friendly custom websites.
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