As a project manager, how many projects have you handled simultaneously?

As a project manager, mind you, not as a Program Manager. The difference is, as a Program Manager you have dedicated Project Managers working under you for each of the projects. But as a Project Manager, you are 100% involved in each of the projects.

Chances are, you are currently managing multiple projects.

One time I had 4 projects, of different team sizes, from 2 member team to 16 member team.

If you are in a similar boat, I know exactly how you are feeling.

For a starter, there is no ‘absolute calm period’ at any point in time. One or the other project has one or the other issue, and you are constantly pulled in all directions.

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Then you have the resource issue. Every project manager in the company needs their hands on the best people. And so you have no other way than to ask your best people on one project to help on the other. And there is the constant fear of, “what if my best people leave?”

Don’t even get started with schedule issues. 🙂

Most importantly, you need to manage the expectations of your higher-ups and your team members.

As a project manager, you are in, what I call, a sandwich position.

A place where burnout can set in quickly. And what you need to understand is this: burnout doesn’t come from too much work, it rather comes from this feeling of being NOT in control of what’s going on.

If you step back a bit and visualize the entire organizational hierarchy, you will not take long to understand the fun of being a project manager. Once you are used to being in the thick of things, you can pretty much manage any position. Even as a solopreneur or entrepreneur.

Being a project manager mentally prepares you, in the true sense, to climb the ladder and take positions of other responsibilities. Of course, those positions will take specific skills, but the mindset – that’s something you can carry forward from being a project manager.

But right now, we ARE talking about being in the thick of things. So in this article, let us see what you can do to get things under control.

While at it, don’t miss 2 of the most important PM concepts I’ve explained in the videos below.

What does it take to handle multiple projects?

Understand this fact: being a project manager capable of handling multiple projects is such a vital skill, it takes a high level of organization, planning, and people + time management. And that makes you one of the most valuable assets in the organization.

Don’t waste time and energy worrying. There are a few strategies that can help you cut the overwhelm and manage multiple projects successfully without getting burned out.

1. Carve out ‘ME time’

It is easy to lose track of time and jump from one burning issue to the other without a pause. And in most cases, this is exactly what happens.

As a project manager, you need to carve out ‘me time’ for yourself.

Every day.

Every week.

Every month.

It could be 15 minutes at the beginning of the day, or the end of the day. You need to take time to reflect on the state of things as it is today.

Similarly, take at least 30 minutes a week to reflect on the past week and plan for the next week.

Finally, take time to reflect on the higher picture at the beginning of each month. While it helps to do this with the team, or with key members of each of the teams, it’s important that you do this on your own as well.

Don’t miss these latest articles for project managers: [continue reading…]

PMP exam prep nontraditional PM background, by Premila, PMPIt is not every day that you come across someone from a non-traditional project management background to have passed the PMP exam.

Considering how hard it can be for a traditional project manager to pass this exam,
someone from the healthcare profession, NOT using PMBOK 6th edition,
in fact, not using ANY traditional study resources, and
passing the PMP exam is nothing short of,
I wouldn’t call it a miracle,
but it sure is unusual!

I would let you discover her unique approach to the PMP exam. Neither she nor I would recommend you take that approach.

She began serious preparation just 3 weeks prior to the exam.

And, she got an Above-Target score in all the 3 domains!

Yes, this is that kind of story and the protagonist is Premila Balasubramaniyan.

Pull that jaw up, and let us hear from her. 😀

Premila did have some earlier project management studies under her belt. Even then it takes some special skill, commitment, and mindset to do what she did.

In this interview, I have tried to get as much out of her as possible, so you can get a sense of what may work for your own exam. I hope you will find this helpful.

If you do, please consider sharing this with someone that is preparing for the PMP exam.

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Premila, thank you for this conversation today. Can you tell our readers about your work?

Premila passed PMP with 3 Above Target score!I am a licensed Physiotherapist based in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy and a Master’s degree in Human Rights. I also completed the Project management program a year ago from eCornell university.

I am currently employed as a full-time Physiotherapist in a long-term care facility, primarily serving as a consultant Physiotherapist.

As a passionate lifelong learner, I am keen on continuously acquiring new knowledge and skill sets to make me a better person.

I would love to work on projects related to Public health.

Obtaining PMP certification was my personal goal for 2022 as I aimed to broaden my career opportunities and possibilities.

In my free time, I enjoy reading books, spending time in nature, spending time with my family, doing Yoga and meditation etc. despite time constraints affecting my preparation.

I am proud to accomplish an Above-Target level performance in all three domains of the PMP exam.

And I am ready and open to taking interesting and challenging positions anywhere in the world to work remotely at this point on projects related to public health, poverty alleviation, global research and policy matters/vaccine research projects/ future pandemic preparation projects.  I think these have a larger impact on humanity.

What made you take up PMP?

Taking up the PMP exam was my first step to preparing myself for a bigger and more positive change.

I thought with a better work-life balance I can contribute better to society on a bigger level.

I do love my profession as a licensed Physiotherapist working in a long-term care home in Canada helping hundreds of seniors living here.

I’ve come to the decision that it’s time to switch careers and look into other opportunities which challenge me and allow me more time to do things in a better way. I think the recent pandemic has changed my way of thinking about life.

My interest in PMP was sparked by its adaptability, versatility, and a wide variety of areas where project managers work. Also, many PM positions allow flexibility to work as per your area of interest also in remote, onsite, and hybrid models.

Definitely, I am curious to learn and enhance my knowledge in the field of project management by pursuing specialized certifications in addition to the PMP, if I foresee it would bring value and expertise to my existing knowledge and profession in the future.

Now that you are certified, how do you see PMP helping you?

I understand that PMP certification is a globally recognized certification offered by Project Management Institute. The core benefits I expected from earning PMP certification are :

  1. Better ability to lead and direct complex projects as a Project Manager
  2. Increased credibility, value, and recognition as a project manager
  3. Improved project management skills and knowledge
  4. Improved career opportunities with better financial benefits

Above all, to test where I stand with my skill and knowledge level in project management.

After completing the Project Management Professional certification exam, I feel my mindset and the way I deal with my day-to-day life and work changed.

PMP certification helped me in validating the information, abilities, and experience I have accumulated thus far in my life with regard to project leadership and management. Also, I feel I’ll be able to keep up with the most recent industry standards and best practices as a member of PMI.

Don’t miss these latest articles for project managers: [continue reading…]

Eight effective tips for project managers, that's what you'll discover in this article.

“You’ll have to travel to Arizona next week, to meet our new client. You’ll be there for some time for business discussions and help the team here design and implement the project”, said my manager.

It was my first independent project as a project manager.

I was excited at the opportunity to travel halfway across the globe, meet a new client, and discuss the requirements of the new system we were to build.

But what I didn’t know was the uncertainties that are so much a part of every project manager’s role.

The roller coaster experience.

For the next 9 months, across multiple travels, we ended up setting up a team spread over 3 time zones across 4 locations across the globe.

I ended up working pretty much round the clock, being available to all the teams to support their work.

Project management is a demanding responsibility and can cause a great deal of stress.

As a project manager, you have to be able to handle pressure and stay focused on the tasks at hand. Unfortunately, the pressure of deadlines, long hours, and managing many stakeholders can often be overwhelming.

Stress management is an important skill for project managers to develop.

Learning how to manage stress and stay focused on the job can help you stay on top of your workload and complete your projects on time and on budget.

Here are 8 tips for managing stress and staying focused as a project manager.

Feeling like you are heading to a burnout as a project manager? Use these 8 tips to stay calm and get the work done. Click to Tweet

Some of these are not part of your job as a project manager, but these tips are for you as a person and not just a project manager.

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1. Schedule Time for Yourself

It is important to make time for yourself and your own well-being.

Take a few minutes each day to do something that relaxes you and helps to take your mind off of the project.

This could be a short walk, some yoga, or reading a book. This will help you to stay focused and manage stress more effectively.

2. Prioritize Your Tasks

This is like Project Network Diagram, but for your own tasks.

It can be overwhelming to manage a project with numerous tasks and deadlines. More so if you are managing multiple projects.

To stay focused and avoid stress, prioritize tasks and make sure that the most important tasks are completed first. This will help you to stay on track and ensure that you are making progress towards completing the project.

Don’t miss these latest articles for project managers: [continue reading…]

PMP exam 7 easy steps to success unlock professional potential

The PMP exam is one of the sought-after project management certification exams.

PMI’s salary survey has consistently found that project managers with PMP credentials earn 16-25% or more over and above those without PMP (here, and here).

Moreover, many organizations use PMP as an interview filter – “Please apply only if you are PMP certified”. This is a benefit when you consider that PMP gives you a good chance at an interview.

But it can be difficult to pass this exam.

The reasons are many –

  1. The sheer amount of content to study is huge
  2. The exam is for practitioners, so the questions are scenario-based
  3. There is no official word on exactly how the exam is scored, or what’s the passing threshold.

If you didn’t catch the repercussion of #2 above, please read the sentence again.

What it means is that simply studying the concepts is not sufficient. You have to be able to apply the concept to a given scenario from the question and choose the ‘best’ option among the given options as your answer.

That’s thinking time.

And the exam gives you just 76 seconds per question.

In short, your exam should go like clockwork.

A minute per question 180 times, and then buffer time to spend on a few tough questions you’ve ‘marked for later’.

Once you are certified, your confidence level, recognition in the industry, and authority in your field – all go up.

You get to unlock your professional potential. 

Now that we’ve seen why PMP is important and why it is difficult to pass, let us see a simple 7-step process to help you prepare for and pass the PMP exam.

This is the path of least resistance!

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Unlock Your Professional Potential with the PMP Exam: 7 Easy Steps to Success

I have included an infographic at the end of this post that you can download.

Print it and stick it to your desk as a high-level study plan.

Step 1: Understand the PMP Exam.

Before attempting the PMP exam, it’s important to understand what the exam is and what it covers.

You should familiarize yourself with the PMP exam’s structure, the types of questions you’ll be asked, and the topics covered.

We have talked about some of the nuances of the PMP exam at the beginning of this article.

The syllabus consists of 3 domains –

pmp domains

Figure 1: Question distribution across 3 domains of PMP syllabus

In terms of questions, PMI states that “About half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches”.

But, please do not take this literally! 🙂

I interview fresh-out-of-the-oven PMPs and publish their interview on this blog (333+ at the time of writing this article).

Most of them have NOT reported that they got an equal amount of agile and predictive questions. Some have reported more Agile questions and some have reported more Predictive ones.

The other thing to know is that the exam will contain multiple types of questions –

  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Drag and drop – matching left & right side options
  • Click on the image to answer by understanding the scenario.
  • Multiple choice question with 4 options and one correct answer.
  • Multiple choice questions with more than 4 options and multiple correct answers.

Once you understand the PMP exam landscape, it becomes easier to plan for your study.

Step 2: Collect The Right Resources.

Gather the resources you need to help you study for the PMP exam. Find a variety of resources from PMP exam prep books, online tutorials, podcasts, and practice tests.

Know this secret.

Irrespective of which resources you use, keeping PMI’s own books as a reference helps you feel more confident about the exam.

There’s a reason for this. The questions created for the exam should be referenced from 2 recommended study resources, and chances are, most of the questions on the exam you can trace back to a book in PMBOK or Agile Practice Guide.

Consider enrolling in a PMP exam prep course or purchasing study materials to help you prepare.

Let me give you another PMP success secret: choose your primary study resource something you enjoy learning from.

  • If you enjoy reading a book, choose a book.
  • If you enjoy watching videos, choose a video course.
  • If you enjoy something working with you, get a mentor.
  • If you need help + motivation, choose a combination of the above.

When you learn using a resource that you enjoy learning from, you will not feel the burden of studying.

You will enjoy your study time. Which helps you understand better. Recall information easier.

And this reduces your overall time and effort for PMP certification.

Do research all the top resources and make an informed choice. If possible go through some of the content and ensure you like it.

If you are looking for them, consider these for your research:

Another aspect of the study is momentum.

When you build study momentum, you will find it easier to study as days pass by.

For this one simple way is to be part of a support community.

Next, you can also find a study buddy.

Here are 2 free communities you can be part of, to study micro lessons every day and continue your study momentum.

Schedule a time on your phone like a daily alarm, and spend 10 minutes answering a sample question, checking the previous answer, and studying a flashcard. [continue reading…]

Managing remote teams: project managers' challenges and solutions

In the past 3 years, the world of work as we know of has completely changed.

The old beliefs of working in close proximity, especially for knowledge-based working environments, have been severely challenged.

New paradigms have been set.

One of the main changes has been working remotely.

And the biggest brunt of this challenge has been felt by managers.

  • How do you ensure every team member is supported to work efficiently?
  • How do you ensure a seamless flow of information?
  • How do you avoid communication bottlenecks?
  • How do you conduct meetings efficiently?
  • How do you arrest productivity dip?

I can see you nodding your head.

Well, almost. 🙂

While there have been certain benefits of this – such as reduced overhead costs, time saved in daily commute, ability to work undisturbed, and so on – none of these are the benefits for the manager.

And the problem gets only worse for two reasons –

  • As a manager you are always in a sandwich position – you need to manage the expectations of the management as well as your team members.
  • Your performance is inseparably tied up with that of your team as well as your project.

In this article, let us look at some of the challenges associated with managing remote teams you face on a daily basis, and how you can overcome these:

  1. Communication glitches
  2. Time zone struggles
  3. Lack of accountability
  4. Cultural barriers & individual preferences
  5. Information gaps

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1. Communication glitches

When you have a remote team, even if some of the team members are working remotely, communication is the key to success.

The ability to effectively communicate with your employees is essential for building trust and accountability within the project organization, as well as across it.

A good manager will always keep this in mind as he or she designs their and their team’s way of working.

There is one way you can increase the natural propensity of people to communicate well:

By building an environment of trust.

How do you do this?

You can personally do this in 2 ways:

  • Be available when a team member needs you
  • Take time away from your regular schedule to talk to each

You can also do this by setting up a few team rules:

1. Have common working hours.

For example, if office time is say 9 am to 6 pm, then ensure that the whole team is available from 11 am to 4 pm. This enables you and others to set up meetings, 1-1 calls, brainstorming sessions, and so on – where collaboration is required.

2. Have weekly and daily task goals. This is a no-brainer if you are project has an agile team. Most of the agile approaches work with a planned scope and schedule.

3. Have short all-hands meetings. Again, for most of the agile teams, there is some sort of meeting where work and challenges are discussed. If not, you need to have a 5-minute daily meeting and a 15-minute weekly meeting where people talk about their progress and challenges. Any help needed is identified and taken up separately with concerned people.

Creating an environment where people can grow together by trusting each other is essential.

And that is one of the primary responsibilities of the project manager, more so as the remote working culture is becoming a norm.

2. Time zone struggles

Time zones are a challenge. [continue reading…]

data-analysis-tools-techniques-part2bIn the first part of this series on Data Analysis tools, we looked at 13 tools/techniques and the processes they are used in.

This series is part of the bigger series on ITTO groups, all 6 of them covering 49 tools and techniques.

In the first post of this series, we looked at the Data Gathering Techniques used across all the processes required for the PMP exam.

Why this series?

ITTOs are one of the most stressful parts of studying for a PMP student.

When you study a tool and technique in the context of a process, you would be doing that over and over again in each of the processes that it is part of.

This is not a bad way to study, it’s just that sometimes with a bunch of tools and techniques to study under a process, it can feel quite overwhelming.

The other way to study is to understand various techniques that are similar in nature (remember we said there are 6 groups?) and being in the same context study them all together.

And armed with this knowledge when you study a process and you come across one of these techniques you will feel comfortable because it is familiar and you already know what it does, and how it works.

This makes the whole PMP exam study much.. much easier.

Get a cup of your favorite brew, and let’s begin. Or continue, if you are coming from the first part. 😃

In this post, we will look at these important Data Analysis techniques –

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Data Analysis #14: Proposal evaluation

Based on the make-or-buy decision,

following the procurement strategy of the organization,

the buyer creates the procurement statement of work, a bid document such as a Request For Proposal, Request for Information, Request for Quote, and any other supporting documents.

Next, the buyer advertises the bid and solicits proposals from prospective sellers.

Once the proposals are received from these prospective sellers, the buyer will evaluate them to ensure that they are complete and in accordance with the technical, performance, pricing, and other criteria mentioned in the bid documents.

The process that uses the Proposal evaluation technique is –

Data Analysis #15: Regression analysis

By PMI’s definition, regression analysis is “an analytical technique where a series of input variables are examined in relation to their corresponding output results in order to develop a mathematical or statistical relationship.”

In simpler terms, this technique involves understanding the interrelationship of input variables of the project to the project outcome.

For example, in an agricultural project of optimizing the yield of a crop, the combination of fertilizers and water is studied in relation to the crop yield. This data is then further used in similar or future projects.

This is why regression analysis is helpful whenever you close a project or a phase.

The process that uses the Regression analysis technique is –

Data Analysis #16: Reserve analysis

[continue reading…]

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