Being a project manager is a tough gig. If you do it well, people will ask why they even needed a project manager in the first place. And if the project goes badly… well, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s your head on the chopping block. Every. Single. Time.

I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to relate to this video – it’s an oldie but a goodie.

Here are a few tips for getting (even better) at your project management job

#1 Plan your week on a Sunday

Don’t pretend you aren’t already working all weekend and then spending any leftover free time (ha!) watching TED Talks about productivity. So since you’re already elbows-deep in work on the weekend, plot out your week on a Sunday so you can dive right in when you get to your desk on Monday. I’ve done this for years and it works brilliantly for me. Remember to include at least one goal for the week so when Friday rolls around, you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete your tasks.

#2 Get all project details up front

That’s right, all of them. If you’re the kind of person who only reads the instructions once you’ve screwed the legs on the wrong way, this is going to be a challenge. But this step is critical – hear me, critical – to successful delivery. Take the time to do it, then make sure there’s zero scope creep once you get started.

#3 If Jeremy’s cat just died, don’t give him the most stressful task

Taking a task from launch to completion requires the full commitment and skill set of every person on the team. So don’t give the hardest task to the weakest team member, and don’t waste excellent skills on trivial tasks. And of course, if anyone on your team is having a wobble, consider allocating their work to someone in the right headspace at the time.

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#4 Be empathetic

This doesn’t mean being a pushover; it means being a good manager. As a PM, you’re constantly dealing with lots of different people, each of whom has their own stuff going on, personally and professionally. That means sometimes you have to be a boss, but other times you have to be a parent, a friend or a really good barista because terrible coffee will only make the situation worse. Geoff Crane for gpmfirst.com has written this excellent piece on empathy in project management.

#5 Have a mentor

Having a mentor is like having a cheat-sheet to professional life. That means you should definitely get yourself one. They’ve been there, they’ve made the mistakes, they have the insights, and they’re willing to share (and guide, and listen). A good mentor can help you become a great leader, so choose wisely.  Check out this insightful Forbes.com piece on the importance of both having a mentor and being a mentor.

Now you’re ready to rock it – and I know you will.

If you found this post valuable, share it with your network. Alternatively, pop me some feedback in the comments – I’d love to hear it.

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