January 18, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Tips on how to remain insanely productive at work

Productivity tips from industry experts

An article originally published by Proofhub, an online project management and collaboration tool designed to make teams more productive at whatever they do. And, being part of an industry where everything revolves around productivity, we are always on the lookout for productivity hacks, tips, tricks and other stuff that can make people more productive than they are right now.

We got in touch with some of the brainiacs of the project management industry to get an answer to the question What keeps their productivity levels high? We asked them about their secrets; the ones they follow to keep on being productive every single day. Do they have any magic potion that they sip-in daily or productivity is just a habit?

Project managers who shared their tips

  • Susanne Madsen, Project leadership coach. Author of ‘The Project Management Coaching Workbook’ and ‘The Power of Project Leadership’.
  • Elizabeth Harrin, Author of Social Media for Project Managers & Customer-Centric Project Management, Director of @otobosgroup.
  • Linky Van Der Merwe, Project Manager, Blogger, Adviser of recommended PM resources
  • Bert Heymans, Senior Project Manager
  • Peter Taylor, Project Management Speaker and Author
  • Tor, brain behind the award winning blog http://www.timemanagementchef.com/

Productivity Tips

As successful project managers, these professionals have quite a lot on their platter to share with people who are looking to make it big by being productive at their jobs. And, this is what they had to say –

Susanne Madsen @SusanneMadsen
Project leadership coach. Author of ‘The Project Management Coaching Workbook’ and ‘The Power of Project Leadership’.
  • Focus on your most important tasks single-minded
  • The best tip is to start the day with a clear intention on what you must absolutely complete and then focus on those tasks single-minded. Identify the activities that tend to disrupt your work, and find a way around them. You can for instance avoid checking emails and answering the phone when you’re in the middle of something important.
  • Discipline yourself to work on a task until it’s complete, as once you’ve broken your flow, it can be difficult to reestablish it.
  • Many of us multi-task and believe we’re effective when we do so; but evidence suggests that 96% of the population can’t effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. In order to stop multi-tasking, set specific time aside for meetings, returning calls and for doing detailed planning and analysis work at your desk. Whenever you find yourself multitasking, stop and sit quietly for a minute.
Elizabeth Harrin @pm4girls
Author of Social Media for Project Managers & Customer-Centric Project Management, Director of @otobosgroup.

Block meetings with yourself to do actual work. Otherwise you’ll end up in other people’s meetings all day and with no time to pick up your actions. Having time booked in your diary gives you the focus you need to sit down and complete a task, such as updating your risk log or reviewing your annual objectives.

Linky Van Der Merwe @virtualpm
Project Manager, Blogger, Adviser of recommended PM resource

Being a bit of an old-school project manager, I have two productivity tools that I use on a daily basis, because they work.

  • I use a hard-cover A-4 book to write down my planning for the week. This helps me to keep a certain work rhythm and not to miss anything important. Urgent and Important tasks are transferred to my calendar, like an appointment with myself. I can relax once it’s written down, because I know my week is not finished unless my weekly tasks are complete.
  • The other tool I cannot live without, is Microsoft’s OneNote. It’s part of the Office suite of applications, free on every PC/laptop when using MS Office. It’s like an electronic filing cabinet where I keep all my notes from various meetings, whether progress meetings, ad hoc meetings, discussion or workshops. It saves and syncs automatically with your windows live account; and is easy to share via email.
Bert Heymans @bertheymans
Senior Project Manager

These are the things that I found make a particular difference in my productivity:

  • Habits are everything.
  • Do the hardest thing first. (read the “Eat That Frog” book by Brian Tracy)
  • Work out! You can find numerous sources online where Richard Branson mentions this is his most significant productivity booster, and if it’s good for Richard Branson it’s good for me.
  • Recognize that procrastination is a symptom, not a cause.
  • Think positive, because thoughts become words and words become actions.
  • Recognize that we overestimate what we can do in one year, but underestimate what we can do in 5 years.
  • Talk to yourself in the present tense if you want to start doing something, say it out loud if you can (example: “I am cleaning out the garage”) Apparently this tricks your brain.
Peter Taylor @thelazypm
Project Management Speaker and Author

Always ask yourself three questions before taking action:

  • Do I want to do it?
    Don’t do something just because everyone else is or because it’s the ‘usual thing to do’. Just running with the pack is never going to allow you to take control of your own time and will only lead you into over-commitments.
  • Is the result worth my effort?
    Only do the things with the most impact. It is all about applying the good old 80/20 rule. What are the most critical things that you need to get involved in? What is the 20% that will deliver the 80% of value?
  • Do I have to do this myself?
    Ask yourself if you really are the best person to do whatever it is that needs to be done or is there someone else who is better qualified than you to do this thing? At every opportunity you must think your actions through to the end and aim to optimize the return on your personal investment.
Tor @TorRefsland
Brain behind the award winning blog http://www.timemanagementchef.com/
  1. Plan your day the night before
    The experts say that every minute spent in planning saves you 10 minutes in execution. In order to become super productive you should know EXACTLY which tasks you should be working on at any given time. How can this be achieved? To plan in advance. I would strongly recommend you to plan one week ahead. This will save you a ton of time. In addition, instead of just responding to other people’s requests, you will have control over your schedule and week.
  2. Use a master to do list
    You should only have ONE to do list, and it should be your master to do list. Why do I call it a master to do list? Because it will contain ALL the activities that you need to do. If the activities aren’t included in your master to do list, they won’t get done.
  3. Apply the ABCDE method and the 80/20 rule
    A tasks — are tasks that you must do today, if not they will give you serious consequences
    B tasks — are tasks that you should do today, if not they will give you mild consequences
    C tasks — are tasks that you could do today, if not they will give no consequences
    D tasks — are tasks you delegate to other people
    E tasks — are tasks you eliminate, you never do them

Use the 80/20 rule to identify your most important tasks, which will be your A tasks. Pareto’s law says that 20% of your tasks will result in 80% of the total production value. This means that if you have 10 tasks on your to do list today, and you ONLY complete the 2 most important tasks, they will give you 80% of the total result.

Studies have shown that most people are the most productive the first 2 hours after they get up from bed. That is why THAT time should be spent on your most important tasks. This may of course vary from individual to individual. Some people are the most productive during the evening, while others are night owls. The key is to find out WHEN you are the most productive, and then block that time out for your most important tasks.

Want to take your productivity to the next level? Sign up for our Free 30-Day Trial and see what you’ve been missing out on!

Originally published at blog.proofhub.com on February 8, 2016.

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Book Review: Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers

By Linky van der Merwe

Leadership Toolbox for PMThe aim of the book, Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers, written by Michel Dion, is to help equip project managers to manage projects in a dynamic, complex and unpredictable environment. The book is focused on Leadership including self-awareness, vision, strategic thinking, decision making and interaction with others.

Career Advancement

Many project managers were experts in other fields before they learned the skills of Project Management. As project managers are assigned to more complex, strategic projects they need to add leadership skills to their Toolbox of Technical Project Management skills.

Michel emphasizes Continuous Learning as part of the Foundation you need before focusing on Leadership skills. What I liked about his book, is that he starts with looking at the leader as a Person, and looking after your own well-being first, instead of putting it as an after-thought at the end of the book. He gives guidance on modifying your behaviour with the key qualities of a leader and to develop a high level of self-awareness. He puts much focus on values and ethics that influence leadership actions and decisions.

I like his opinion that people is the critical asset to the project’s success, including the team, the project sponsor, users and any other stakeholders. And I agree that the value contribution of a project will be measured by all these people.

Leadership skills

Another important Leadership skill is Delegation for which Michel provides the questions to ask when delegating tasks. He explains how to create a learning environment and how to keep adding value while delegating.

Towards the end of the book Michel publishes interesting Leadership survey results about project challenges, strengths and weaknesses in being effective leaders.

Michel laid out strategic thinking and decision making in the project context very well, convincing the reader that learning leadership is a journey and not a specific formula that can be applied the same way on every project.


In my opinion, the only improvement that can be made to the book, is to provide some exercises or perhaps actions steps that the reader can take to help them along on their leadership growth journey.

I will recommend this book to all aspiring project managers as well as existing project managers who seek to develop their leadership capabilities to help them cope in the increasingly dynamic and complex project environments that we are having to manage projects today!

The book is available on Amazon: Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers: Achieve better results in a dynamic world by Michel A. Dion (22-Apr-2015) Paperback, as well as on Michel Dion’s website, Project-Aria.

Mindset of a Successful Project Leader

When comparing the qualities needed to be a successful manager (as shown in the Infographic below) with the characteristics of a successful project leader, and research analysis, there is much overlap.

Good managers tend to be natural leaders with a genuine interest in helping others. Not all project managers are natural leaders, but fortunately that is a skill that can be honed, especially when coupled with the desire to serve others.

Effective leadership is built on respect and trust. Leadership is critical during the beginning phases of a project when emphasis is on communicating the vision and motivating and inspiring the project team to achieve high performance. In a project context leadership is about focusing the efforts of a group of people toward a common goal and enabling them to work as a team. It’s also the ability to get things done through others.

Guidance to the project team is given in the form of influencing, mentoring and monitoring, as well as evaluating the performance of the team and the project. Open communication is essential together with listening to your team’s needs.

It’s always in the best interest of project leaders to keep investing in their own development and growth. For professionals who are new to project management, check out the Growth Program for new Project Managers that will put you on a fast-track for learning how to become a successful project leader.


Inside the Mind of a Successful Manager:

Pepperdine University Online MBA Degree

Reflections on 2015

2015Another year is coming to an end which calls for a personal reflection on the year of 2015. What a wonderful journey it has been with numerous highs and very few low points.


Memorable moments

There were plenty of highlights in 2015. At work we concluded a 14-month long Programme successfully. I facilitated a number of closing workshops and project reviews on lessons learnt. Many new relationships were developed with a few growing into friendships that will outlast the projects. What will make this Programme very memorable, is the honour of receiving a CIO award for Delivery Excellence at the end.

As one Programme came to an end, I moved on to the next Programme with its own challenges, complexities and relationships to be formed with new team members. And in that lies the pleasure and fulfilment of being a professional project manager. There is never a dull moment and what an interesting journey to get to know new processes, systems and new people. To work with and appreciate all the talented individuals who are chosen to work on big corporate Programmes.

Virtual Project Consulting

As far as Online activities are concerned, our presence through Virtual Project Consulting, continued to grow as a website with the most comprehensive recommended resources about project management software, training, products, books and events.

In the blog section appeared several articles covering leadership, change management, project methodology, project success stories from experienced project managers, guest posts, reviews of different project software, how to compare online project management software, Agile project management and emotional intelligence among others. Podcasts of our Best Practice articles, as well as the Success Stories have been published.

Contributing Author

This year a Book opportunity presented itself to me through an invitation to contribute a Chapter to a book about the Strategic Integration of Social Media into Project Management Practice, due for publishing in 2016. This came about as a result of the extensive research I have conducted in prior years around the use of social media for small business marketing, and more specifically in the project management context. See more in Social Media for Project Managers.



On the personal front, I am privileged to share that 18 December 2015 is my 22 year wedding anniversary, and I consider it a blessing to be happily married with three children as a reminder of our faithful commitment to each other.

Game Changers

There were a few events that shifted my priorities this year. I worked with a coach who really helped to broaden my perspective, but at the same time, who guided me to focus on getting specific things done that will contribute greatly to growing my online business in future. Some strategic partnerships were also formed which could lead to interesting new opportunities in the new year.

Growth Program for New Project ManagersI had my first experience of running my own webinars, of doing a Pilot training program and eventually developing a fully online, self-paced Growth Program for New Project Managers aimed especially at the many Accidental Project Managers in every organisation.

This makes me look forward to making more contributions to the project management field in future. Like a quote from Audrey Hepburn saying: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible”.

I will continue to live and work my passions and to always be grateful. I wish you a happy and fulfilling time with your loved ones over Christmas and a Prosperous New Year in 2016!

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Project Story: Retail Staff Scheduling System

By Linky van der Merwe

retail-staff-scheduling-systemThis project story is about the turn-around of a complex project which was over budget and not delivering on the expected business benefits. It was for a Staff Scheduling system in the Retail Sector with the objectives of effectively scheduling staff shifts, manage staff leave cycles and ultimately deduce staff costs for over 30 000 store staff. The brief to the project manager, Jurie van Heerden, was to finish outstanding Phase 1 work and to complete Phase 2.

Defects, Enhancements and management reporting

At the end of Phase 1 when the system was deployed in production, key management reports which were part of the scope, were not development and implemented. The management reports were key to measuring the system’s effectiveness and staff behaviour.

A list of critical defects and enhancements identified post deployment, also had to be addressed. Upon completion of the Management reports, a national training programme to train and embed the management reports within the store structure, had to be completed.


The Phase 2 of the project was to implement a Proof of Concept for Schedule-to-Clock functionality which would prevent staff from working if they do not have a scheduled shift for that day.

Kick Starting the project

Initially a new communications plan and project structure had to be put in place ….  Read more

Emotional Intelligence as a Project Management and Life Skill

By Linky van der Merwe

Most experienced project managers know the importance of Emotional Intelligence.  Emotional Intelligence can be defined as:

“Awareness of one’s own emotions and moods and those of others, especially in managing people.” Source: Collins English Dictionary

Emotional intelligence is often what differentiates great leaders from the people they lead.

Four Pillars

There are generally four pillars associated with Emotional Intelligence, namely:

  1. Self awareness – ability to recognize and monitor our thoughts and feelings.
  2. Self management – ability to think before acting.
  3. Social awareness – being aware of the emotional condition of others.
  4. Social skill – ability to manage groups of people (project teams), building social networks, finding common ground with stakeholders, building rapport.

For more information about increasing your emotional intelligence, developing social awareness and improving social skills, read “Why Emotional Intelligence is important for Project Managers, from IIL.

For a good explanation of the value Employers place on Emotional Intelligence and how you can improve your Emotional IQ, see the Infographic below.

Created by the University of Maryland: onlinemba.umd.edu

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Please click below to subscribe to Virtual Project Consulting not to miss any future updates!

Virtual Project Consulting

Will we Find even One Honest PMP?

By Dave Fourie

Practice what you preach

Don’t get me wrong – I also firmly believe Project Managers, as all people in life, should always be brutally honest!

But do we practice what we preach? Is it still possible and wise to act with integrity in today’s world?

Can you honestly say as a project manager that you always and under all circumstances conduct yourself with honesty and integrity? To me it seems that taking responsibility, respecting others, fairness, and honesty have become virtues that we only subscribe to when it suits us.

PMP honesty and integrityNone is righteous, no, not one

Sometimes one wonders if even the people that are seen as beacons of honesty and integrity are always that honest. It is so easy to tell a white lie, of course only to save somebody else’s feelings – and most of the time that “somebody else” being ourselves.

Big sins and little sins

It is also so easy to state a half-truth or “forget” to mention the bad news while bluffing ourselves that it is for the best in the greater scheme of things. And what about our duty to understand the truth – when we realise that we acted honestly and in good faith, but that we were mistaken? Does the old saying: ”When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest” then also apply to us?

No good deed goes unpunished

Then we also need to consider the practicality of being honest. What will happen to me if I do act with honesty and integrity? Will I be praised and possibly be rewarded by the powers to be in my company? Or will nothing be said publicly while my future prospects dwindle away? As Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “The surest way to remain poor is to be an honest man.”

PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

How are we supposed to conduct ourselves as Project Management Professionals? Of course we all know that we should abide by our code of ethics. But do we really take it serious? Do we live by it every day or do we only take it out and brush it off when we need to prove to others how just and honest we are?

Let’s take a short quiz to see how earnest we are about integrity:

No. Have you (or will you) ALWAYS and under ALL circumstances: Yes No
1 When you discovered errors or omissions caused by others, communicate them to the appropriate body as soon they were discovered? 1 0
2 Confront others who engage in gossip and make negative remarks to undermine another person’s reputation? 1 0
3 Respect the property rights of others, including not making a photocopy (or any other means of reproduction) of any part of the PMBOK® Guide or any other copyrighted work (including songs and movies) without prior written permission of the publisher? 1 0




3 Marks – You are extremely honest and display high levels of integrity / You were not honest with yourself when you completed this quiz*

* delete whichever is not applicable

Less than 3 Marks – At least you were honest when taking this quiz, and that’s a good start!

According to Oprah Winfrey: “real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not”. Should this not be our guiding compass?

How do you feel about this? Should we follow the world or let the world follow us?


About the Author: Dave Fourie is a dedicated, innovative and people oriented project management trainer with 25 years plus project management experience. For more information about his services, visit his blog, Project Management Training Africa.

5 Keys to Effectively Communicating Appreciation

By Paul White, Ph.D.

“People are burned out. We have to do more work with less people, and for no more money.” All around the world, in companies, schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, the same message is communicated over and over – both from leaders and from employees:  “Workers are becoming more negative, cynical and discouraged. We need to do something to show them appreciation but funds are tight.”

Language of appreciationThe workplace environment can change for the better. Unfortunately, many recognition efforts by managers are misguided and wind up being a waste of time and effort. Why? Because they are not built upon the core principles needed for appreciation to be communicated effectively.



Core Principles for Effectively Communicated Appreciation

#1 Make sure your praise is specific and personal

The most common mistake organizations and supervisors make is that their communication is general and impersonal. They send blast emails: “Good job. Way to go team.” But they have no specific meaning to the individual who stayed late to get the project completed. Use your colleague’s name and tell specifically what they do that makes your job easier.

#2 Realize that actions can be more impactful than words for many people

Some employees do not value verbal praise (the “words are cheap” mentality). For many people, they have grown to not believe compliments from others, expecting them primarily to be an act of manipulation. Other actions can be more impactful for these individuals, like spending time with them or helping them get a task done.

#3 Use the language of appreciation valued by the recipient

Not everyone likes public recognition or social events. One leader stated, “You can give me an award but you’ll have to shoot me first before I’ll go up and get it in front of a crowd.” And for many introverts, going to a “staff appreciation dinner” is more like torture than a reward for doing a good job. They may prefer getting a gift card for a bookstore and staying at home and reading. Find out what they value and communicate in that language.

#4 Separate affirmation from constructive criticism or instruction

If you want the positive message to be heard “loud and clear”, don’t follow your affirmation with a “Now, if you would only…” message. Don’t give them a compliment and then tell them how they could do the task better. They will only remember the “constructive” criticism, and may not even hear the positive.

#5 Absolutely be genuine

Don’t try to fake it, or overstate your appreciation (“You are the best administrative assistant in the free world!”). People want appreciation to be genuine, not contrived.

Negative and cynical workplace environments can be improved. Good things happen when individuals feel truly valued and appreciated for their contributions: employee relationships are less tense, communication becomes more positive, policies and procedures are followed more, staff turnover decreases, and managers report enjoying their work more.

Clearly, when managers and colleagues begin to communicate authentic appreciation in the ways that are important to the recipients, positive results are not far away.

About the Author:  Paul White, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author, speaker and consultant who makes work relationships work. He is co-author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace and The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. For more information, go to www.appreciationatwork.com

To know more about the 5 Languages of appreciation, read the previous article: Project Management Skills: Languages of Appreciation

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