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7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Project Manager Should Make

It’s the start of a new year and that means new goals and new opportunities to grow your skills and advance your career.

For project managers, it’s also the perfect time to reflect on a past projects and find new ways to improve your skills. For advice on new year’s resolutions project managers should consider, we reached out to Tony Oliver, a highly experienced PMP® credential holder and instructor in our Project Management Certificate Program.

Here are seven resolutions Oliver recommends for novice and seasoned project managers:

1. Invest in learning new software and tools.

Microsoft Project remains a venerable standard, but project management does not rely on Gantt charts alone. Consider PowerPoint alternatives (Mentimeter, Mural), Visio substitutes (Google Drawings, Lucidchart, Creately), and mind-mapping tools (Coggle, Mindmeister, Bubbl). Aim to check one out every month and gauge its effectiveness to meet your own project needs.

2. Be more mindful about differentiating risks from issues.

Risks are events that may occur; issues are risks that have occurred and now must be managed. However, the two terms may be used interchangeably by stakeholders, including your sponsor. It is essential to reiterate the difference between the two and to clearly communicate when those risks “graduate” to being issues. Begin noting the differences during every project status meeting.

3. Leverage new ways of organizational change management.

How many Zoom calls do you attend? Is your inbox bursting at the seams? Imagine, then, how your stakeholders and prospective users feel. Reflect on the communication method that works best for each and recognize your own preferences before making assumptions about others. A multi-pronged strategy is still the golden standard, but don’t be afraid to mix-and-match for effectiveness based on the user and the topic.

4. Take stock of your own appetite.

We often overestimate what we can get done in a short amount of time (like a day), but underestimate what we can get done in a longer span (a quarter or a year). Start at the top, connecting to specific goals, and then break it down into packages. While granularity is important with progressive elaboration, be careful not to assign overly optimistic estimates to each activity based on your new-year enthusiasm.

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5. Recognize that stalling the engine can harm the car.

We’re often quite eager to start new projects, especially as new budgets are issued. Well-meaning management may green-light a lot of projects at the same time, focusing on their prospective benefits while not spending enough time on the business analysis. This can lead to projects starting out of the gate with delays or issues, which can affect the team’s morale. To avoid this, ask yourself if the project is ready or if the decision-makers just want movement.

6. Know your own “off-season.”

I have two passions: reading and baseball. Despite my best intentions, my book pile grows during the baseball season, as I passionately follow the sport. Once the World Series ends, though, I tackle the books with a vengeance, often reading a couple each week. This personal trait has taught me a great deal about project integration and scheduling. Recognize how you operate best. You may prefer to work on one thing in the morning and one in the afternoon, or perhaps switch every few hours. Don’t multi-task, but acknowledge when your mind prefers to switch tasks to keep itself occupied.

7. Help nonprofits with project management.

It’s important to give back to the community, and there is no shortage of worthy organizations in dire need of assistance. Rather than just writing a check, ask whether there are any projects needing assistance. Many non-profits need this type of expertise and websites like Catch a Fire can connect you to those opportunities.

About the Author

Tony Oliver has two decades of experience in a variety of roles, including project manager, business analyst and change management specialist. Leveraging his project management and Six Sigma certifications, he is currently a senior manager with Aetna, a CVS Health Company, and has experience as a peer and career advisor and mentor.

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