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DPM Podcast: Project Management Best Practices: What You Should Be Doing Each Month (with Joanna Leigh Simon)

By 07/08/2017DPM Podcast
project management best practices

Audio Transcription

Ben Aston:

Thanks for tuning in I’m Ben Aston and this is the Digital Project Manager podcast. Today I’m joined by the truly wonderful Joanna Leigh Simon and we’re going to be talking project management best practices. And this is all about what you should be doing every month. It’s been a massively popular article this week so I’m really excited to be discussing that.

But first Joanna, why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself, we haven’t really met before. And I don’t actually really know anything about you. So tell me a little bit about your deal. Where are you? And what keeps you busy?

Joanna Leigh:

Well it is very nice to meet you digitally. I’m in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on the opposite side of the continent I guess from you. I live in a neighborhood called Kensington which is sort of northeast Philadelphia and I work in a neighborhood called Callowhill which is just north of center city sort of near our Chinatown.

Ben Aston:

Nice, good stuff. You’re an agency there as a producer. Tell me a bit about your gig.

Joanna Leigh:

I am just shy of two years working for a graphic design studio called the Heads of States that has been here in Philadelphia for I guess about 12, 15 years, something like that. Small and mighty, very busy agency but a very tight knit team. I am a producer which as I recently listened to the episode where you talked about different titles in project management. So we all know that means a bunch of different things. But we’re all doing the same which is making good stuff happen. We specialize in mostly graphic design branding, illustration, any kind of visual bringing to life of projects and really run the gamut in terms of clients and sizes of clients. Everything from small businesses to arts and cultural projects, to large corporations. You name it.

Ben Aston:

Nice. It’s more on the kind of UX designing and dev and coding?

Joanna Leigh:

Exactly. Which is why I hesitate. I pretty much never, I’m about to expose myself as a fraud. I pretty much never refer to myself as a digital project manager and I’ve sort of wormed my way into this community because obviously digital is so prevalent in the creative services industry that a lot of my colleagues and people who I’ve met who are in project management are proper DPMs and so I’ve sort of forced my way into these groups in order to find support. But I come from a background that’s actually more in traditional media and advertising and branding and now working in a studio that specializes in branding and graphic design.

Ben Aston:

Good stuff. Cool. Tell me a bit about some of the work you’re doing at Heads of State then. Firstly, what’s the toolkit that you use? You’re not doing digital projects directly so how do you manage your projects?

Joanna Leigh:

One of the ways in which I do, I joke sometimes at meetup groups or when I’m talking to other people who are project managers who work more in the development side of things, I guess one of the ways in which I am digital project manager is because even though a lot of our products aren’t necessarily digital forward, a lot of our tools are. So we use a lot of the same tools for project management and process as digital agencies obviously email and Slack and Trello and Flow and Harvest and all of this amazing software that exists now to keep track of documents and processes and there are not many jobs out there in creative services even if your actual physical product is something that you do with an ink as paper as the designers I work with sometimes do, our toolkits are mostly digital. And thank god.

Ben Aston:

Although I do remember working with job bags, I don’t know if you ever worked with job bags but when I was starting out in, I was in traditional ad agencies as well and we would have job bags and the creative director would go around and the first thing he’d say is, “Where’s the job bag for this?” And it was an enormous brown envelope. And in the brown envelope, we’re talking, I don’t know my paper sizes anymore, but like an A3 size. Do you have an A3, I can’t remember.

Joanna Leigh:

We have it. It’s not the most common, I think we usually, our A3 is an A4 I believe. I know you guys do things a little strange up there north of the wall.

Ben Aston:

In Canada actually they’ve gone crazy. They have four different paper sizes. Anyway the point is we used to have to go around with these job bags, these big envelopes and that would contain all the stamps and all the artwork and everything related to the project. And even though we did things digitally, everything had to be printed off and put into a big brown envelope. And that was just the way we did things.

Joanna Leigh:

Honestly I am actually a very analog in a lot of my practices. I try and stay as current as possible just to make everyone else’s life easier. But man, a job bag. That really appeals to me in a sick way. I might have to bring that into practice. Here’s your folder.

Ben Aston:

It’s terrible. The amount of paper, the amount of stuff you have to print out is insane. Imagine every time you’re having a meeting. It’s like, okay, well let’s print out the latest version again. You spend all day at the printer, it’s terrible. Don’t do it. There’s a tool for that I’m sure.

Are there any tools, any killer tools that you’ve come across recently or added to your toolkit that you were like, “Oh my gosh this is amazing, everyone should be using this.”

Joanna Leigh:

I don’t necessarily think that I have anything that is sort of under the radar. I think I’m evangelical about tools that a lot of people are. Trello is the first thing that I built into my practice that I feel like I truly couldn’t live without. Everybody obviously uses it differently and I think that it’s kind of cool in its simplicity that way. You can make it your own. Obviously Slack has been a game changer at our agency. We only use it internally, I know some people use it with clients. That is not something that we have delved into as of yet.

Oh actually I do have something. Again nothing revolutionary here but have just started using, we use Dropbox, we lean on it very heavily just to manage our digital assets and send works in progress back and forth, especially big files. But Dropbox has a product called Dropbox Paper, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to check it out.

Ben Aston:

I’ve seen that it’s a thing but I haven’t played with it yet.

Joanna Leigh:

I was skeptical but one of the partners in our firm, one of my creative directors actually came back from a conference and he had met someone who was singing the praises of Dropbox Paper and we have started to implement it and it is awesome. I was skeptical at first because I like things the way they are and I don’t like introducing, oh another thing that everybody has to learn and get onboard it and learn how to do it. But it’s really great because it’s basically a document, like a Word document or a Google document but it’s a living document and everybody can edit it and you can add files and the way that they display, it just imports everything directly from Dropbox. It’s really easy to use and share and definitely recommend it to anyone.

Ben Aston:

So it’s like a Google Docs meets Dropbox. So it’s like a… What’s your use case been? You’re using it to share and keep a track of all the stuff you’re sharing with clients?

Joanna Leigh:

Yeah, so we are using it primarily, we’re actually not using it in a client facing capacity just yet although I think we might start to. Right now we’re using it mostly for two different purposes. One is to create project summaries or reports which I guess is kind of the digital version of the job bag envelope. Your main document, the hub, the nucleus of the project, this I what the project is, this is the timeline, this is the team, here’s the tools and the files that you need to get started, who’s doing what. And then there’s all these little things that you can create within the document like checklists where people can actually go in and tick off, okay, I did that. And a calendar function where you can allocate a deadline to a certain task and you can also tag people in the document. @Steve you need to get this done by this time.

So we’re using them as project summaries, living project documents which we present at kickoff and then we also use them to write up recaps of client meetings and calls. Whether it’s a new business meeting or we’re getting feedback and revisions and work and that way it’s really easy to share with everyone and we can update it as we go along.

Ben Aston:

Cool, so it’s kind of like a project Wiki.

Joanna Leigh:

Yeah. Okay, that’s a really, really good way of putting it. Next time I’m just going to say that. That’s a really good way of putting it.

Ben Aston:

That’s cool. Cool, good stuff. Well let’s go on to talk about the article that you wrote. As I said, if you haven’t read it, go and check it out on theDigitalProjectManager.com. It’s called Project Management Best Practices, Ten Things You Should be Doing Every Month. As I said, it’s been really, really popular. It’s actually got more views than the homepage this week. And loads of shares as well. So it’s obviously something people are really interested in, probably largely a big part of that might be because it’s the beginning of the month and people are thinking, hold on what am I supposed to be doing this month?

Joanna Leigh:

That was good timing on your part.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. If you haven’t checked it out, go and have a read. There’s some really, really good advice there on what you should be doing every month. And a lot of it is actually is about pressing that reset button to keep things on track at the macro level. And I think it can be so easy for us to be consumed with the daily grind of project management, we go to our daily scrums, writing briefs, creating project documentation and we’re busy juggling loads of different things and often with conflicting priorities. So for me one of the big takeaways really was just really making time for those important but probably not urgent tasks. At least I don’t feel they’re urgent. And in the article Joanna covers off everything from personal administration to project administration to team cheerleading and support there as well. Let’s talk about some of these 10 things that you talk about in your article.

Now one of them I thought was, I didn’t realize people did this, but inbox zero. You make the bold suggestion that you should get your inbox to zero which is something that I haven’t done. I think I gave up on it about 10 years ago when search became usable. And I was like, do you know what? I’ve got so many emails there’s no way I’m going to, I used to file everything, I used to put everything in files. I used to put them in files and try and have this zero inbox policy. But now I’m like a, I’m a search kind of guy. So how do you, for someone like me now who’s got 9,000 emails in my inbox, what’s the, how did you start on this path to inbox enlightenment.

Joanna Leigh:

Well you might be beyond help. You might have reached the point of no return. But I’ve seen every different type of inbox in my life. That makes it sound so dramatic. I think I definitely have a natural inclination to keep mine pretty spare. On a busy week I might get to 20 or 25 threads but my number one tip to keeping your inbox clean is to archive. If you do the whole filing thing and you have different folders for different types of emails, that’s great and I salute you. I’m not quite that advanced. I archive things when they’re done. When they no longer require a response and they no longer require action from me then I archive them and then if I ever need to dig them back up, I do rely as you said, on the search function. God bless the search function.

So my two tips are really just, once you don’t need it anymore, an email thread should only be in your inbox if it’s there because you need to respond to somebody or it’s to remind you of an action that you need to take and once you no longer need it, archive it, say goodbye and I just think that I feel so good when I can get to that elusive inbox zero. It’s not frequent, I try and do it about once a month. Try and identify maybe I have a slow afternoon or an hour with no meetings, no calls and just focus. Not necessarily on archiving things but just taking those actions. Responding to those emails that I’ve let linger ’cause they either weren’t super important or I just didn’t know how to handle it at the time. Really just saying, okay, get through this, you’ll feel better and then it’s like addictive. Once you get three or four of them out of the way, you’re like, I can do this, we’re going all the way.

Ben Aston:

Nice. I will never have that feeling but I salute you for your … I used to have that feeling, I remember having, I would actually try and do it every Friday. I would try and get to inbox zero by Friday. But invariably that meant staying really late on Friday. So it’s like stuff this, I’m going home.

Joanna Leigh:

No way.

Ben Aston:

Cool. The next thing that cover off in the article is taking inventory. You talk about reviewing scopes statements or project outlines to think about how the projects are progressing. I wonder if you can dig into that a bit more. When you say you’re reviewing statements, what does that kind of review look like? What are you looking for? How might someone do this inventory taking?

Joanna Leigh:

I think it really depends, I guess I should, so something that I think applies to all of these 10 tips is I truly believe that there are as many different types of project managers as there are people. Everybody has their own style and everybody has their approach. There’s also a lot of differences among PMs and producers of how many projects you are handling at a given time. Between external client projects and internal agency projects I could have between 30 and 50 different projects that I’m sort of keeping an eye on at any give time in various stages.

And so I have this magical list, I just call it the master projects list and it’s very simple and it’s just a list of all of them. Doesn’t get into detail, just lists the project by name and at least once a week, I try and do it more than that, but at least once a week and I suggest that if you’re not in the habit to try and do it once a month. Just going through that list and just mentally greeting the idea of the project, checking in, this is very new agey I suppose, but just checking in with how it’s going, a gut check if nothing else. Okay, things are good, I don’t have to worry about that.

Just the process of identifying, going through your inventory and saying, that’s in good shape, that’s in good shape, oop, this one has a few red flags let me jot them down and then you dig deeper. Okay, so how am I going to deal with this one? How am I going to deal with this one? You don’t have to face everything at once but just that process of letting them come into your mind and thinking about what kind of shape you’re in I think breeds a lot of familiarity with the projects that we may take for granted. Just giving yourself that time to think about your list.

Ben Aston:

I think that’s great. I we can, often there’s some kind of reporting that we’ll end up doing every week. You keep churning out the same reports and can be a bit, in the hurry, Wednesday might be your weekly status report day and you have to quickly update the numbers and the timeline but you’re not actually looking at the projects from a bit of a broader perspective so I think having that, taking that time to regularly take a step back on the projects that you’re working on and really look at okay, is this, how are we doing from a, are we really going to meet the strategic objectives of this project? Is this really heading in the direction that it needs to? Or what kinds of adjustments do I need to make to the timeline or to the process to make sure that this is going to deliver on what we were hoping it would deliver at the beginning of the project?

Joanna Leigh:

Absolutely. And I think a real wildcard with this particular task is how many projects are we talking? I know people who work on one project at a time and it’s probably gigantic and has a bunch of moving parts. So I think you can easily adapt this. If you only have one or two projects at a time and they’re much bigger and more complex and longer, breaking them up into compartments or phases and then checking in on each of those phases rather than just top level because I have some projects that don’t need a lot of attention on a weekly or even monthly basis. So sometimes it might be as simple as no, still no movement on that or we’re good and then onto the next thing.

Ben Aston:

That’s great. Next up, one of the things that I think that was really helpful is just keeping on top of lessons learned. You talk about capturing the lessons learned as you’re on a monthly basis so that you’re not continually making the same mistakes again and again. What do you do with those lessons learned? How do you capture them and keep track of them and actually make sure you’re learning from them, not just writing them down?

Joanna Leigh:

This is something that I definitely do try and do on my own just constantly be identifying things that we can learn. I think verbalizing lessons learned is really important and that’s a place where I think I really also rely on my team. It’s not just an individual job or task that I do in solitude. I really like to point out to the project team, okay, this is a great example of something we can learn from and next time we can do it this way or that way or we can come back to this and unpack it a little bit more but I also really like to hear from other people what their experience was and what they’ve learned from a particular moment on a project.

I think a lot of it is about just writing it down and again just keeping a mental and somewhat physical, even it’s pretty rudimentary list of things that you want to come back to. I’m a real kind of pen and paper kind of gal. And I think not to generalize, but I think a lot of project managers are. I think we like lists and stuff like that. If it comes naturally to you. If I had a dollar for every list.

Ben Aston:

Good stuff. One of the, you kind of carry on in the article to talk about dealing with some of these problems and I’m wondering as project managers there’s always issues and things, there are always underlying problems that we’re having to deal with of one kind or another. How do you, in the article you give a couple of examples of things that you might try and want to fix, how do you prioritize those or pick and choose what your ongoing problem is so that it doesn’t, you don’t get too snowed under with it or that it becomes a distraction?

Joanna Leigh:

Absolutely. I think there’s two phases in which I personally approach the picking a problem to solve and then solving it. Picking a problem to solve for me, is usually about the thing that’s giving me most grief and something that I think is affecting other people on my team or affecting the work or affecting my clients. So basically the bigger the impact, the more important it is to me to solve the problem. Nobody can solve every problem at once and if you have a lot of things that you’re working on, obviously you have to prioritize.

I typically try and identify a couple things during each quarter that I want to fix. So basically break it into 90 day chunks and say, okay, this quarter I want to streamline kickoff meetings and I want to find a better way to store my files and I need to get a better pen. Just trying to give really basic examples. And then it gives you something to really focus on and you have to figure out in your workflow what the best way is to keep that list organized and in priority order. But it’s a lot easier to accomplish instead of just like, oh my god, every day there’s something new to deal with. It’s like, no, you know what? I’ve given myself permission and my team permission to focus on few things in this 90 day period and not set unrealistic goals.

And then as for fixing the problems themselves, honestly I think it’s mostly trial and error. There are certain things in my personal practice that I have struggled with a lot and the only way that I fix them is just by increments. One, I think that this is something that a lot of project managers struggle with, but finding a good allocation and forecast thing software. That magical gantt chart the everybody wishes existed but it just totally doesn’t. And there’s some great programs out there and I’ve tried them all but no one program does all the things you want it to do. So just trying different things, setting aside the time. I think a lot of people may not realize that problem solving, even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going solve the problem, trying to find a solution counts as work. I think people feel guilty for, oh I’m researching or I’m going to educate myself about this. It’s no, that’s contributing to you getting better and stronger for your team and your clients and it’s totally allowed.

Ben Aston:

And failing is part of the process.

Joanna Leigh:

Yes, oh so much failure.

Ben Aston:

The trick is when you say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to find a new forecasting tool. The reality is it’s going to, to find a tool and configure a tool and trial a tool that works for you, it’s going to take a lot of time, it’s going to take a lot of failure til you get the point where you either come to the revelation that you just need to make your own or that you somehow chance upon one that does actually do everything that you need it to do.

Joanna Leigh:

Absolutely.

Ben Aston:

But when you were talking about the problems about every PM faces I thought you were going to go back to your pen. I’m wondering have you actually found a pen that that’s all you need it to do?

Joanna Leigh:

I certainly have. I think most people, I would not consider myself a stationary fetishist, I know a lot of people, I work with designers and so I know a lot of people, both designers, project managers in all sorts of roles who are straight up stationary fanatics. The people who go into an office supply store and just need to inhale the carpet because they love it so much. I’m not quite on that level, I’m very easy to please. I like a ballpoint Bic Clic Stic with the soft grip in black ink. I do not like blue ink, I’ll use it in a pinch but if I have my way, it’s a Bic Clic Stic with the soft feel and the fine ballpoint. That is my pen of choice and if anybody who’s listening has never had the pleasure of writing with this implement, send me a tweet and I will send you one.

Ben Aston:

Whoa, hold on. Our first Digital Project Manager giveaway. There are pens.

Joanna Leigh:

Yes I have about 10 million of them and I snap off the holder. You know the thing that you’re supposed to slip into your pocket, I snap them off, it’s just a tic, I can’t help it so you can always tell which pens around the office are mine or were mine.

Ben Aston:

And those are the ones that are available for the giveaway.

Joanna Leigh:

I will pre snap it off and I will send to you in a envelope. Pre detached.

Ben Aston:

It’s a genuine Joanna pen giveaway. What a deal. What a deal. That’s nice. So actually this leads a beautiful segue into our next point which is decluttering your space. Is this actually part of your ruse to declutter your space?

Joanna Leigh:

Yes, I’m going to ship my pens out, distribute them. The space decluttering is so important for everyone. Obviously not specific to producers and project managers, I just think it’s important, both in your home life and your work life. I’m not necessarily a very clean nor tidy person but I do like to make an effort at least once a month to declutter my space. And it just feels really good. It’s easy, it’s something you can do in five minutes and it makes a big difference.

Ben Aston:

I’m totally down with that. I’m a, I’m more of a weekly desk clean kind of guy. I love coming to the office on Monday morning and being like, Ah, I’m good to go. This… effect. That definitely helps. Let’s talk about checking in with your team and in your article you had a great list of questions that you ask people in terms of how you check in with them. But one of them is what are you excited about? And so I thought I’d ask you the same question, I think it’s a great question when you’re checking in with the team. Is there anything that you’re excited about personally or professionally? What’s getting you excited?

Joanna Leigh:

I guess personally, well I can do a hybrid at the moment because one of my coworkers who I love very dearly is getting married next week. And so I’m very excited to attend the party and everyone from the office will be there. I think it’s something that’ll be really fun. We’ll all be together outside work, getting to celebrate our colleague and his beautiful bride.

Ben Aston:

Awesome.

Joanna Leigh:

Very excited about that.

Ben Aston:

That’s cool. And then your next point is saying thank you. And I think this is such a good point. It’s something that I personally, I know I’m very, I’m terrible at this. I’m always focused on the next thing and forget to say thank you all the time. I think it’s great, celebrating successes like even small ones. There’s such a good, letting your team know that you value you them and what they’ve done is such a brilliant thing for team morale and so that team can have a sense of momentum. So I think that such an important thing. And I love the way you talk about having a stack of cards on your desk ready to go. That’s brilliant.

Joanna Leigh:

For those of us out there who love office supplies and rue the day that the computer came in and started to do away with all of our folders and cards and envelopes and stuff like that, it’s an excuse to treat yourself to some nice stationary. Everybody likes to get a handwritten note. I definitely don’t do a handwritten note thing as much as I wish that I did. But I really do try and let people know that I appreciate them because I just think it’s so important. Work is people. Anything that anybody works on is all about people.

Even if you work on your own there’s people who you’re working, making things for or doing things for or you’re working with things that you couldn’t have or use without other people who work on them. And all those little things add up and I think it’s just really important to let people know that you appreciate them, whether they’re your peers or your bosses or your clients. Clients sometimes they make us want to tear our hair out but we couldn’t do what we do without them. There’s always something that you can find to thank somebody for.

Ben Aston:

I think that is a brilliant point actually. We as project managers tend to complain that the job we do is thankless and clients never say thank you. But when was the last time that you thanked a client?

Joanna Leigh:

Exactly.

Ben Aston:

It’s a challenging question that we should ask ourselves too.

Joanna Leigh:

And it’s not a totally selfless endeavor because I think I might have said this in the article, but it might have also been on the next one. Gotta rack up those karma points. You want to be remembered as the person who was gracious and who said thank you because that could mean another job or that could mean somebody’s sticking their neck out for you or something the next time around. So gotta get the karma points wherever you can get them.

Ben Aston:

And clients want to work with people who they like and who feel like them too. It’s a win win. I think another great way of saying thank you for those who are scared off by the idea of writing, handwriting cards, maybe it’s ’cause I’m a boy and not to be sexist but the amount of card writing I do is limited. Donuts are an excellent alternative. Although it’s not as heartfelt maybe, you can’t quite express yourself in the same way. But for someone who finds it hard to put words together on paper, donuts are a excellent way that most people enjoy to show your appreciation.

Joanna Leigh:

I fully cosign on the donuts.

Ben Aston:

Good stuff. One of the other points you talked about is lending a hand. You touched on this a little bit I think, I love this idea that as project managers we can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking, hey that’s not my job, why should I help with that? That’s not what I’m supposed to do. But I love the idea that you talk about really which is something, servant leadership, it’s as project managers we’re enabling a team to do their best work and we lead them by providing vision but ultimately we’re there to serve and we’re there to help people. So getting, tearing down the mountains that are in their way and forging a path ahead of them I think is so important. But serving them and making everyone’s life a bit easier I think is so important. I don’t know if you’ve got any examples of things that you’ve been able to do lending a hand with your team recently?

Joanna Leigh:

I don’t know if I have any specific examples. I certainly try and be as helpful as possible. I’m sure some of my coworkers past and present will have plenty of anecdotes about how I was more of a hindrance than a help because as a producer you get a reputation for being the person who makes the stuff happen but the person who also sometimes has to make the stuff not happen. I don’t know if I have a specific example but I will say I think this is my favorite part of the job and why I’m compelled to continue on this career path.

You’re so right about what you said because project managers are called upon to do so many different jobs it can be really easy to get tunnel vision and say, “You know what? That’s not my responsibility, that’s not what I’m here to do. Somebody else can be doing that.” I just try and remind myself, I’m actually here to do whatever needs to get done to make this project happen. Some of my responsibilities are maybe more primary, scheduling, traffic, allocation, interacting with clients. But at the end of the day if somebody needs me to pull photographs from the internet or somebody needs me to call one of our vendors and straighten something out or somebody, you know whatever I can do, if I can do it, I want to do it to help people make the good stuff happen.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, totally. I’m totally with you with the stock image searching. That’s like we can’t find an image that represents whatever it is.

Joanna Leigh:

Isn’t it so funny the things you have to search for sometimes? I’m sure that you have a great, there are so many times, I should start keeping track of, oh today I’m looking for barbecue sauces. Random, there’s always a time.

Ben Aston:

But from below. Barbecue sauces from below or something like that.

Joanna Leigh:

And it needs to be a panorama or barbecue sauce.

Ben Aston:

With loads of white space attached. That’s so true. I think also can be as simple as, I think sometimes our teams can just get tunnel vision themselves and be like, oh yeah. They have problems that are actually easy for us to fix if we just understand what their problems are and get them fixed. My classic thing that I always run into is people haven’t got the right software or their machine needs an upgrade, if only they used a particular tool that they’re aware of that costs 20 bucks a month or something, they’d save hours a month. It’s like, well hold on a second, let’s subscribe to this tool or let’s get you a new machine or let’s make stuff happen so that you can do your work better. Just be their own cheerleader and personal assistant just to make their life better.

Joanna Leigh:

Absolutely.

Ben Aston:

Cool. One of the other things you talk about is considering the future and something that you think about on a monthly basis. I was just curious really what skills that you’re trying to learn or what kind of goals that you set yourself. I know it’s goal setting as a PM to come up in Slack and we’ve had a bit of a discussion about that but I was just wondering if there’s any skills you’re trying to learn or goals you’ve set yourself that might inspire other people.

Joanna Leigh:

I think I mentioned this to you in an email but one of my goals for 2017 was to be on a podcast.

Ben Aston:

This is it, this is your …

Joanna Leigh:

Thank you for making all my dreams come true. It’s everything I hoped it would be and more. That was a good one. Definitely for me personally I think the future is all about figuring out something that’s come up a few different times during the course of our conversation and something I know that you talk a lot about on your blog, just all the different types of roles there are. Project management is such an umbrella and sometimes I just, when people ask what I do and say, “Oh I’m a producer.” Oh well what does that mean? I just feel like a Dilbert cartoon. Just random work, office worker.

But really trying to figure out which roles within that gigantic umbrella of project management I am best at and where my skills are the most, make the most impact and what I enjoy the most. I’ve been doing a little bit more strategic work lately and I really like that and I want to do more of that and get better at it and obviously the endless uphill battle of just getting scheduling and allocation down to a science. That’s something that may be lifelong for me but I would love to get better at it this year and yeah.

Ben Aston:

Nice. Cool. Finally the last point in your article’s treating yourself. I wondering if you’ve bought anything exciting for yourself recently. What’s your most recent treat yourself?

Joanna Leigh:

My most recent …

Ben Aston:

Treat yourself treat.

Joanna Leigh:

Treat myself treat.

Ben Aston:

It’s a new month so should have just happened.

Joanna Leigh:

I should, you’re right, thank for this reminder. So we actually just moved into a new office, a new space and it’s wonderful. It’s very exciting, already seeing all the great things that the new space is doing for our team. One thing that I’m trying to do is make sure that we always have fun drinks and snacks around the office so I’m trying to, mostly with seltzer and flavored carbonated water. I’m trying to treat myself by making sure there’s always at least a case of lemon lime seltzer in the fridge for everybody to partake in. Now that I’m saying that, I guess it’s kind of like a disappointment.

Ben Aston:

I thought you might be talking about buying a new car.

Joanna Leigh:

No I haven’t quite gotten to that yet.

Ben Aston:

A big vacation. It’s canned beverages.

Joanna Leigh:

Canned beverages.

Ben Aston:

It’s the little things.

Joanna Leigh:

It’s the little things. I think I need a massage. I think I might treat myself to a massage sometime in the next few weeks. That’s something to look forward to. The canned beverages for now.

Ben Aston:

That’s a good start. Solid start. Of all these things that we’ve talked about, what do you find the most valuable? I think for me it’s probably the taking the, what you talked about, taking an inventory and really trying to take a much of that guesswork and risk out of your project by getting comfortable again with the complete project rather than just looking at it from a day to day perspective. But I was wondering for you what, of all these things if there was only one that you were going to do from it. What do you find the most valuable?

Joanna Leigh:

I definitely agree, I think from a technical standpoint that taking inventory is certainly the most important to doing the job consistently and doing it well and without that check in which I know I’m recommending people do it monthly but we’re being really real I probably do it daily. That’s how much I lean on that particular practice of just going through the list. But from a more high level abstract perspective I think checking in with my people. No man is an island and just being able to perceive whether it’s through asking them directly or just chit chat or just doing a little flyby. How people are feeling and what’s on their mind. I think as project managers we’re so lucky that we get to have access to all of the teammates in a way that not everyone else does and I just don’t want to take that for granted ever. I feel privileged to be able to be at the center of the project and I want to give back whatever I can by making sure I know what’s going on with my peeps.

Ben Aston:

That’s awesome. Cool. From an ROI perspective, if someone’s looking at this list of 10 things and saying, “Hey that might be the most valuable, but hey I’ve only got, I’m already slammed as it is and you’re telling me to do all these things.” From an ROI perspective, what’s the winner for you? For me it’s the desk cleanup, it’s a five minute job and all of sudden you get a fresh perspective. But what’s your, if there was from an ROI perspective, what’s the biggest bang for your buck?

Joanna Leigh:

Definitely treat yourself. Definitely.

Ben Aston:

If it’s just a can then yes maybe you’re right. Maybe that will be the fresh perspective you need. Some carbonated beverage in you.

Joanna Leigh:

Definitely. If you only have 30 seconds and you need to feel in control, I’m telling you. Pop open a fresh, cold can of seltzer and you will be a whole new person.

Ben Aston:

Are you responsive?

Joanna Leigh:

I need to have some more excitement in my drink choices. I think treating yourself and it’s okay to need a five minute break and then you’ll get back to work.

Ben Aston:

That’s awesome. Cool, Joanna thanks so much for joining us, it’s been great having you with us today.

Joanna Leigh:

Oh my gosh thank you so much.

Ben Aston:

If you’d like to contribute to the conversation, comment on the post and head to the community section of theDigitalProjectManager.com to join our Slack team. Where you’ll find all kinds of interesting conversation going on there. But until next time, thanks so much for listening.

Ben Aston

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and VP of Client Services at FCV, a full service digital agency in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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