Meditation for better Project Management?
I know what they say about meditation - that it enhances your cognitive skills and maturity. I know it sounds real, alluring and downright boring. So with my years of experience of managing IT projects, mitigating risks, human psychology, mind hacking and eastern philosophy - do I advocate that you should meditate regularly to improve your cognitive functions and hence better manage projects? Well Yes and No!
It's a No as in I do not want you to join the 5 AM club and spend 20 minutes sitting in the lotus position, closing your eyes and observing your thoughts. I mean, if that's something you wanna do, by all means - do. Meditation is way beneficial for me to refute. In any case, that's not the kind of meditation I wanna talk about in this article. It's a slightly different kind - one that if practiced right and with diligence, will have a direct beneficial effect in the way you are planning and managing your projects.
The Back Story
About 2 years back, I was overwhelmed by the number of projects which I was managing. A mixed bag of different niches and with clients belonging from Australia to Singapore and from UK to US to Dubai, I was really at the end of my wits to manage the projects, expectations, communication and risks. I had tried different approaches - both conventional and unconventional to fight the stress and manage the projects better. But even though I was somehow managing to pull through the work, my stress level was surging like the mercury in a thermometer dipped in boiling water. Something was not going right - something needed to be done.
One day, I was so flustered with the work that I became despondent. I pushed away my laptop and let my head fall backward and closed my eyes. I was thinking about the futility of it all. But I was also thinking about some of the few projects which demanded more of my attention and which stood the risk of failure. My thoughts, haphazard as they might have started, slowly swirled towards one of the project and before long, I was thinking about this one project only. The difference was that I was not thinking deliberately with an intention to fix! I had anyway surrendered to the situation and was now more like an audience witnessing the project rise or fall, without either my intervention or my emotion.
Something funny happened at this point. The idea of the project which was all tangled in my mind like a 20 feet ear phone wire all messed up with itself - started uncoiling. Now remember that I myself have been trying to do just this for months now without much avail. But now, when I started thinking about the project holistically, taking a few steps back and un-associating my emotions from the project, the tangled wire itself started uncoiling - like a serpent stretching out of it's ball of slumber! I was so surprised and astonished by this strange phenomenon that the spell broke before the entire mess could untangle itself in my head.
Meditate on the Projects
But I had already figured out an genuine way to manage and plan the projects better. I realized my mind is already designed to plan and solve problems better than I had figured. So I scheduled 10 minute windows, a few each day over the next few days to just think or meditate on the projects. The difference with this kind of thinking is that I didn't about the project with a deliberate intention to control or change. I was more like an observer, unbiased, unaffected, at least for those 10 minutes. I sat in a realistically quite place, sometime just my desk, would close my eyes, lean my head backward and think about the project.
- What is going on in the project?
- What are the biggest concerns?
- When did we share an update with the client?
- What is the client expecting? Are we moving towards it?
- Has the last payments been realized?
- How likely is the project to succeed?
The questions in themselves were not that important. It was a hindrance to do this exercise with a pre-set of questions. What was important was to think about the project as you would casually think about a movie or a book.
As I participated in this exercise, my clarity on the projects enhanced almost miraculously. I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but I am not selling anything here and you are not buying. So you can take my word for it that the clarity was in fact miraculous. What also changed was y projection of the threat or challenge. Not only were the projects being now planned and managed better, an appreciable amount of my time was now available and my stress levels took a dip. Wow!
How to Meditate on Your Projects?
Wanna give it a try? Here's a simple pointer to get you started:
- Decide on a time and place. A 10 minute interval at your desk will suffice.
- Decide on a project you want to think about. Do not think about multiple projects on one go.
- Just sit down, close your eyes and think about the project. No need to start with specific questions, but if you do, that's alright as well. The entire point is to not control your thoughts - reason why I call this meditation.
- If ideas and clarity come, which inevitably will after a few practices, do not hurry to jot them down. Trust your mind to remember them. If you don't - that's alright. The idea will come again.
- If a soft music playing in the background helps, you can plug an ear phone and play a symphony. I personally find a music playing in the background a little distracting, but if it's your style, it's your style.
An over zealous approach to control is often a blinder for clarity and blurs logic. In our profession, that is unfortunately how we must think most of the time. But plug in your 10 minute meditation time here and there and think about projects from a neutral, unemotional stand point and you will do more help to the project and yourself than you can imagine.
Worth a try, won't you say?
Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Abhideep Bhattacharjee