Know Yourself, Manage Better: Part 1 – Daily Self-Reflection
Project management is people management
Project management is part of many people’s jobs. Whether you are a freelancer who works directly with clients or a manager with a team, there will be the coordination of project details, resources, and scheduling. This type of coordination requires a lot of communication and generally relies on the person to have at least basic organizational skills. Regardless of how well a project is planned, the crux, and often an indicator of its likely success, are the people involved. Because of this, I think it is reasonable to argue that project management, more than anything, is people management.
One of the ways that I think you can become a better project manager, aka a better people manager, is by putting time and energy into getting to know yourself. If you are intentional about self-reflection and build self-awareness, it will help you plan and manage your presence, time and energy in ways that will make you more effective and efficient. Before you manage others well, you should learn how to manage yourself. But how?
We make decisions all the time that impact how we feel, which impacts our performance. We do things like:
- Stay up too late.
- Drink too much.
- Overbook our schedules.
- Take too many meetings.
- Adopt an attitude of being “busy”.
But these are all choices. You don’t need to stay up until 2am binge-watching Netflix. You don’t have to go to 15 kids birthday parties every weekend. You can have 2 glasses of wine and stop there.
How do you make better choices about how you spend your time? Through self-reflection!
The Sacred 7 Daily Self-Reflection Exercise
I have written about the Sacred 7 daily reflection exercise a few times already. For more context about where the idea came from you can check out My Sacred Eight: An Exercise in Daily Reflection or for more information on how it relates to self-care you can check out Battling the Culture of Busy: Part 5 – Self-care.
For a recap, the idea is that you identify the 5-8 things in your life that are truly important to you. At the end of each day, you reflect back on whether or not you put time or energy into any of those items. It isn’t expected that you will do all of the things every day, but after doing this for a while, it is easy to see patterns in the areas you put a lot of energy into and the areas that you aren’t, but need to.
The purpose of the exercise is to have some clarity around the answers to these questions:
- How do I spend my time?
- Am I neglecting something that is important to me?
- Am I happy with how I spend my time?
The answers to these will play an important role in the choices you make every day. They also make you stop and think about how the decisions you make impact how you feel. If you are tired and overwhelmed all the time, you are probably not giving the people around you, and your projects, your best effort. The act of self-reflection will help you think in a more intentional way about the decisions you are making and why.
Here are my Sacred 7:
- Spending focussed time with my husband
- Spending focussed time with family
- Spending focussed time with friends
- Working on business strategy
- Mentoring and volunteering
You will notice that the first three are spending focussed time with my husband, family, and friends. This might seem obvious but the key work here is focussed. My husband is my business partner and we live together and work out of the same office, but that doesn’t mean that we are spending engaged, focussed time together. We will have whole days where we are sitting in the office we share but our interactions are centered around when an invoice can go out or discussing a project challenge. People with children might have a similar experience of ships passing in the night as they share with their spouse the daily routine of caring for the kids before collapsing into bed. While you are doing things together, you are not necessarily engaged with each other.
Example Sacred 7 Spreadsheet
You can see in the example image the potential for identifying patterns for things I am not paying attention to. In this case, I have been neglecting my commitment to networking over the past few weeks and need to invest some time and energy back into it.
Exercise: What are your Sacred 7?
Write down the 5-8 areas of your life that are most important to you. Think about:
- The people in your life that you want to be spending time with.
- The organizations or communities that are important to you.
- The hobbies that you enjoy.
- The skills or interest areas that you want to hone.
What are they?
How does the Sacred 7 help make you a better project manager?
Your Sacred 7 are a reflection of your everyday values. Your values alignment with the company you work for and the people you work with is really important in determining if you are happy in your job and the interactions you have each day.
When you are thinking what your Sacred 7 are, ask yourself:
- Where is the overlap in my job?
- If there is no overlap, am I in the right job?
- If there is overlap, what am I doing each day to make them a priority?
Not all of your Sacred 7 will overlap with your job, but if you have to spend 8 hours a day doing something, it seems reasonable that at least part of your job is related to the things in your life that are important to you. By practicing the Sacred 7, you are taking the time to consider if and when you are putting energy in the things that make you happy and fulfilled. This impacts:
- Your body language.
- Your decisions.
- How you dress.
- If you show up on time.
- If you are engaged.
- If you are taking care of yourself.
All of this feeds back into your work, how you communicate with clients and your team, and their expectations of you.
For example, one of my Sacred 7 is working on business strategy. My business is really important to me and a big part of my role is to set direction and evaluate our overall strategy. This strategy impacts everyone involved in the business, from employees to clients to partners. If no one is steering the ship, it probably won’t end up where I want it to! However, it is easy for me to get stuck in the day-to-day weeds and fires or the moment and not necessarily invest time in business strategy for days, or weeks at a time. This can be bad for our business and means I am not paying enough attention.
Tactics to use Sacred 7 daily self-reflection in your life:
If you think that you want to integrate the Sacred 7 in your life, you can start by:
1. Recording your self-reflection in a notebook that sits on your end table, or a spreadsheet tab that you never close. It needs to become part of your routine so you need to keep your self-reflection in a place that you will see it every day and be reminded to do it. If you want to try the online version, you can use this template to get started:
2. Time-block to make sure you are doing the things you value. I know that my life is ruled by my Google calendar and if something isn’t booked, it is probably not going to happen. If you notice an area that you have included in your Sacred 7 is not getting enough attention, schedule it in your calendar to help make sure if becomes part of your schedule. For example, if spending focussed time with your partner is important to you, but you haven’t gone on a date in weeks, find a time that you can go and block it off in your calendar. If health and fitness are important to you, book that time in your calendar so you can fit it into your day.
Self-reflection can be a powerful way to clarify how you are spending your time, and if you are spending it on the things that are actually important to you. The Sacred 7 process is a simple and easy to get started with daily reflection, which can help you be more aware and intentional in how you plan your time.