Suitcases and sunhats at the ready: holiday season is here! Everyone deserves some well-earned time off over the summer — but what does this mean for our projects?
Whether or not you are planning your own getaway over the next couple of months, there is a good chance that many of your colleagues will be heading off for at least a week or two. Meanwhile, back at the office, many of our projects must keep moving apace. How can we ensure we all get to make the most of the summer while flexing around holiday absence and keeping things going smoothly?
Here are seven ways we can enjoy the best of the warm weather and longer days, while keeping our projects and objectives on track.
- Identify which people or teams your project outputs depend on: for small projects this may be easy, for larger projects it may mean studying the project schedule. Who is going to be on leave and when? If it helps, create or validate an annual leave tracker. Include yourself, your team, other interfacing teams, any reviewers or approvers, and your clients or customers. If you rely on others to guide your workload, make sure you know when they will be away and pop some catchups in the calendar before they go so you’ll be clear on what’s needed while they are away.
- Check back on project milestones and make a plan: do you need to move any milestones forward to keep things on track — and is that achievable without creating stress? Could you agree to push any elements back without affecting the critical path? What are your client’s or customer’s priorities over the summer? Can tasks be delegated — and are the delegates available at the time they are needed? By scheduling any handover meetings or briefings well in advance, you’ll be better placed to ensure information and knowledge are shared and not forgotten in the rush to turn on the ‘out of office’ message and rush to the pool.
- If you or your team are facing a high workload of your own this summer, try to take the pressure off where you can: could any less critical activities be postponed? Can the number, length or frequency of meetings be reduced while fewer people are around? Consider blocking out some ‘focus periods’ in your calendar — or ‘no team meetings’ periods for your team — to create some time when you and your team members can get on, undisturbed.
- Be disciplined when you are working: summer can bring a different set of distractions, from televised sports events to hanging out washing in the garden to gazing at a sunny view out of the window. Plan when you will do non-work activities and when you are working, be focused. Prioritise your most important tasks each day and dedicate the time when your concentration is greatest, to getting those things done. Be mindful not to disturb the train of thought of colleagues as well — save non-urgent conversation for the natural breaks in the day.
- Switch off as fully as possible after work: turn your laptop and work phone off and pack your equipment away out of sight. Whether in a drawer or under a cloth, the less we are reminded of work outside of working hours, the more our brains can restore themselves. If you are in a bad habit of checking emails out of hours, commit to breaking the habit by putting something else nearby — a good book, a sudoku pad, a Rubik’s cube, some knitting. Something you’d rather do when the temptation to check your emails strikes. Family members may also appreciate having our more focused attention outside working hours.
- If your summer workload is looking light, make the most of any quiet time: think about how you could boost your career, for example watching online training and webinars, improving your social media profile, working on a blog or thought leadership paper or catching up on chartership paperwork. If you don’t know where to start with career development activities, speak to your manager or find a mentor who could help give you ideas of how you can get from your current career stage to the next level. APM members can access the APM mentoring programme for free.
- Soak up a bit of summer every day: feeling stuck indoors in the summer isn’t great for our wellbeing. Build in more walking, whether as part of your commute or a lunchtime stroll. Leave the office for a coffee catchup with a colleague, for a change of scenery. Join a webinar from your phone so you can walk or sit somewhere outdoors while you listen. Provided the weather is good (not always guaranteed of course!), planning how you can spend a bit more time outside every day is a great way to boost wellbeing and help us offset the pressures of our projects.
Making the most of the season while effectively managing project deadlines needs some planning, however, we in the project profession are well known for being organised, so this should be a challenge we can easily rise to! I hope you and your project teams have a fabulous summer.
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