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How to travel for work

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Office Goddess

  • Don’t arrive hot and bothered.  It’s OK to take off your coat and jacket on public transport. Honestly, you don’t have to sit there baking, although people on the Tube seem to think there are laws against undressing.*
  • Know where you are going.  That means maps!  And/or an accurate postcode for GPS.  Plus phone number of anyone you are meeting, and the reception of the place you are going, and perhaps a local taxi firm.
  • Scout out a parking place – book one at your destination if possible.  And if you don’t know exactly where you are going to park, allow adequate time for driving around in a panic and then walking to your meeting location.
  • And know how to get back.  It’s not always the same…
  • Charge your technology before you leave home.  It’s no fun being stranded somewhere with no mobile phone battery, and a laptop on its last legs.  Going overseas?  Take an adapter.  It’s surprising how many times I have forgotten that electricity is different when you land.
  • Make up:  I did my make up on the Eurostar for 2 years.  It is possible!  Be discreet though, no one likes to watch.  Avoid tunnels – the light won’t be good enough.
  • Choose your shoes:  flats or trainers if you are doing a lot of walking or will be on a plane.  Heels if you can cope or if you can’t change on arrival.

A note on shoes:  I attended a seminar about personal style that said you shouldn’t use eco bags as they don’t look professional. Instead, pop all your stuff in a leather bag or briefcase. Like that’s practical.  It’s more about where you are going.  If you are going to a meeting off-site you don’t want to turn up with a whole gym kit, but if you are just going to the office you can take a shoe bag with you.  Or leave your shoes under your desk, in your locker, or in the bottom of your filing cabinet.  Or all of the above, like me.

  • Use your travel time.  Review your emails on your BlackBerry, return calls (if you can get a signal), catch up on reading trade journals or listen to podcasts.  Choose carefully if you are driving!
  • Arrive all ready:  wherever you end up, be ready.  You can probably get away with a quick trip to the ladies, but you don’t want to spend hours in there brushing crumbs off your shirt, doing your make up and fixing your hair.  Besides, the receptionist has probably already made a decision about you.  Be extra-specially careful if you’re going somewhere for an interview.

Remember, when you’re working away on business, you are likely to be judged even more than in the safety of your office:  both as yourself and as a representative of your organisation.  So be prepared, be organised and be on time!

* There are laws against undressing in public.  But you know what I mean.  Coats, hats and scarves are all unnecessary underground, people!


Save time: tidy your desk!

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Office Goddess

Yesterday I had a clear out at work and took home three pairs of shoes that were in my office drawer and tucked under my desk.  After all, it’s practically winter now and those strappy linen heels are not going to cut it in the persistent rain.  It got me thinking about tidying up in general, so, in a break from Software September, today I’m bringing you a guest post for the Office Goddess series from Nicolas Soergel, CEO of the Japanese subsidiary of T-Systems (a Deutsche Telekom group company) – and it’s all about cleaning up.  Over to you, Nicolas…

In today’s world many of us spend much of our time at work, at a desk. And there’s a lot of debate going around as to whether a clean desk enhances productivity, or not. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, one thing is certain – a clean desk is the hallmark of an organized person. So if for no other reason than it makes you feel (and look more productive), apply these ten simple rules to quickly establish and maintain a clean desk.

1. Have an inbox and an outbox
Organize the document traffic on your desk by placing all new items into your inbox and keeping them there, until you are ready to start working on them.

2. Clean your desk everyday
Reduce the maintenance effort on your desk by making cleaning it a daily end of day exercise, rather than a once per week or month event. Another benefit is that you will enjoy a clean desk every morning when you arrive at work.

3. Don’t use post-its
Post-its are a great invention. But when overused and scattered all over your work place, you run the risk of overlooking the item or losing it. Instead keep a notepad on your desk, where you can input all notes and reminders. Then from time to time during the day, go through the notes and update your to-do list, striking them out as you complete them. If you really can’t live without post-its, use the electronic version available on your computer.

4. Don’t collect newspapers and magazines
A lot of piles I’ve seen in other people’s offices are made of magazines and newspapers they plan on reading latter. In fact the height of these piles often correlates with the feeling of desperation from thinking of getting through all that stuff. If you see an article you want to read later, take out or copy the page and don’t keep the entire magazine or newspaper.

5. Take your books home
Many people keep a large number of private books on display in their office. Much of the time, these are for display, but never really used. Go through the books you have on your desk and move the ones you don’t use to a bookshelf, donate them to a library, or take them home.

6. Handle each document once only
A major source of documents cluttering up your desk, is starting something and then not finishing it. When you work on document, try and process it to done, so that you can move it to the outbox, filing or delegated area, rather than sticking it back into the ‘to do’ pile.

7. Reduce the number of pens
Did you ever compare the number of pens in and on your desk with the number of pens you really use on a daily basis? Throw away all the pens you don’t need or don’t like and keep your 2 or 3 favorite ones. The same accounts for markers – in general two or maximum three colors are sufficient.

8. Staple documents, don’t clip them
Documents that belong together should be stapled, rather than clipped. The problem with paper clips is that they can come loose and you will have to spend time sorting papers a second time. Buy a high quality or electric stapler and keep it on your desktop.

9. Don’t store files for others
If you are storing materials or files that other people have to access frequently, move them to another place, other than your desk.

10. Do this for four weeks
Research shows that it takes about a month to make something a habit. So practice these tips everyday for four weeks and keeping your desk clean will take no time at all. In the end, you may wonder how you ever got along with a messy desk in the first place.

More about Nicolas

Nicolas Soergel is the author of Happy About An Extra Hour Every Day. As the CEO of a multi-national corporation, had the opportunity to interview successful executives all over the world about how they manage their time. His book help readers save time negotiating various aspects of their lives, including working, travelling, and housekeeping.  You can buy the book on Amazonor read more time-saving tips on his blog.


Book Review: Beyond the Boys’ Club

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Office Goddess

I’ve reviewed a lot of books this summer.  Have I become better connected to my scattered team?  Hardly.  Have I become more lazy as a project manager.  No (but I’m trying).  Have I rethought my entire approach to work?  Yes.  Step forward Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris.

Beyond the Boys’ Club presents career strategies for women working in male dominated fields like science and engineering.  I wasn’t expecting there to be much for me, as neither my area nor my team are particularly male dominated.  However, I wasn’t too many chapters in before I started to note down things that I needed to do differently and I hadn’t finished it before I recommended it to someone else.

Yes, the cover is kind of flimsy.  Yes, the title is way too long (take a breath:  Beyond the Boys’ Club: strategies for achieving career success as a woman working in a male dominated field). It’s the first business book I have read for a long time that is making me do things differently.

Doyle-Morris has interviewed a number of senior women in male dominated fields including the Diplomatic Service and archaeology, and recorded their career paths, advice and lessons.  This, combined with her own experience as an executive coach, means the book is full of interesting stories of what other women did, sometimes well, sometimes wrong.  Each section ends with top tips, things that you can put into action immediately or write on the inside of your notebook cover to glance at when you need a boost.

The book covers a vast amount.  I felt like I was reading the seminar material for an executive career course – and that’s really what it is.  Regardless of the field you work in you need to be aware of how you come across and what it really takes to get on.  Women in all sectors, and men (if they could overlook the female focus) would take away a lot from the topics covered – there is bound to be something of interest for everyone.

Doyle-Morris considers how to raise your profile, how to connect to the right people and take calculated career risks, giving presentations and coming across professionally in meetings.  She also devotes a chapter to image, and while styles come and go I doubt her advice will date.  The book is heavy on what I imagine are key topics that come up in sessions with her clients or in her public speaking: the value of networking internally and externally, mentoring and coaching.

What I found particularly good was the easy tone with which Doyle-Morris writes.  She presents good career advice, hints and tips and then is clear with the reader that these are only suggestions.  The book is never dictatorial.  Instead, Doyle-Morris tries to ensure that women are making conscious decisions about how they come across, what they do and what they say.  The bottom line is that you can do whatever you want – turn up to work in ripped jeans, for example – but do it knowing the positive or negative impact it will have on your career choices.

The main problem is that there is so much in here that it is hard to know where to start.  My plan is to read it again (I won’t be loaning it out, that’s for sure) and take plenty of notes this time to properly prepare my career action plan!

Ten gold stars!


Preparing your exit strategy

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series Office Goddess

This month for the Office Goddess series, I joined in with Krissy Jackson’s webinar about preparing an exit strategy from your current role.  Jackson is The IT Girls Coach, so I was keen to find out what she had to say.

Jackson started off by explaining why we need an exit strategy.  She said that even if your job is great now it might not be in 6 months.  As the company downsizes and jobs disappear, you will end up taking on more work, perhaps to the point where you can no longer cope.  You might end up with a different manager, one that you don’t like so much.  With so much organisational change going on, you might not have a job in six months.  Or your circumstances might change and you might decide you want a more challenging position.

Jackson said that even if it seems difficult or time-consuming, it is worth investing the time in preparing a graceful exit.  “It’s not nearly as daunting as it appears at first,” she said.  Being prepared sends a clear message to the people who matter (or it will, when you start telling people) about who you are what you offer and, “why you are the best woman for the job,” she added.

Jackson presented the results from  the 2008/9 salary.com survey which had about 7000 respondents.

  • Nearly 65% of employers do not believe their employees are looking for job opportunities.
  • Nearly 80% of employers do not believe their employees would initiate a job search in the next three months.


  • 65% of respondents said they were looking around
  • And 60% of those said they would intensify it over the coming months.

So there’s a big gap between employer belief and employee reality:  lots of people are passively job hunting, and if you’re doing it too you are not alone.  But what happens when you get a bite?  Are you ready to jump ship straight away?

According to Jackson, your exit strategy is like money in your career bank account.  It covers several things:

  • Maintaining your CV
  • Personal branding
  • Mentoring your successor
  • Reviewing your employment contract
  • Networking
  • Being clear about your career paths
  • Keeping up with industry trends.

The best way to start preparing your move is to think backwards from your goal. Once you know that you want a great new job you can start plotting it from that point, back in small steps (like ‘work out notice’, ‘hand in notice’ ‘go for interviews’, ‘find job opportunities’ etc).

Two things that should be towards the top of the list are training and checking your employment contract.  Before you tell anyone that you are leaving (and perhaps before you finally make the decision yourself) do any training courses, or other development opportunities that you’ve been wanting to do.  “Time appears for things when they are scheduled into your year plan,” Jackson says.

Your employment contract contains all the details of how you can resign and what you can expect when you do.  Even if you don’t have plans to move right now, use your next performance review to check your contract is up to date.  You can be checking now what the restrictions are, like whether you can work for a competitor, as that could impact where you could apply for jobs.

You may find that you hand in your notice and you’re told to leave the building straight away – even if you got on well with your boss.  With that in mind, make sure you are ready to go.

  • Delete cookies, web forms, saved passwords and any personal emails from your computer.
  • Delete personal contacts and text messages from your phone or BlackBerry.
  • Save any personal documents that you need on to a USB stick or email them to your personal account – then delete them.
  • You don’t want to give the impression that you are clearing out your desk, but if you have lots of personal things (shoes, in my case) at work, then start taking a few bits home.
  • Check that you have contact details for anyone that you might need to get in touch with.
  • Get anything you subscribe to (by email or post) that’s delivered to your professional address redirected.
  • Make sure you are up to date with your work – whatever circumstances you leave under you must make it easy for the next person to pick up where you leave off.

“You only want to keep what’s relevant and necessary to the person who’s doing your job next,” Jackson said.

When the time does come to walk out the door you want to leave on a good note, so:

  • Hit deadlines
  • Don’t up and leave (shouting ‘I quit’ and just leaving is the worst possible thing you can do)
  • Make sure your files are in order
  • Have accurate and clear to do lists
  • Create documents about what you were doing and what you were planning to do
  • Leave on good terms with co-workers
  • Think positively about the company you are leaving and don’t gloat about your new job
  • Give all your new contact details to supervisors
  • Don’t give constructive criticism in your exit interview; state problems in a positive way and leave the interviewer with the impression that you have effective interpersonal skills.

“As your world expands it also contracts,” Jackson said.  You know more people and therefore more people will talk about you.  Even more reason to exit gracefully!


Now in Spanish!

I’m pleased to say that I’ve begun a collaboration with Think Like a Project Manager, the blog from La Salle University in Barcelona.

I’d like to take the credit for doing the translations myself, but sadly my Spanish only extends to ordering churros and chocolate caliente.

The first piece that La Salle have chosen to translate is Gadget Etiquette, which is going to appear in two halves.  Read the first bit – in Spanish – here and keep an eye on the Think Like a Project Manager blog for other pieces by me!


Keeping up to date: the value of training

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Office Goddess

This month in the Office Goddess series, I’m talking about training.

I meet a lot of dynamic, switched on women doing what I do. After all, most people who attend conferences and networking events, or who get in touch with me through this blog, are people who are already aware that it takes a bit of effort to get on. Sometimes though, I meet people who forlornly say that they would be more successful/confident/financially secure/[insert any other word here] if only their company would pay for them to go on a training course.

Training courses are great – I should know, I’ve been on plenty over the years. Training courses paid for by someone else are even better. Of course, it depends on the quality of the training company and the efficacy of the trainer, but if you pick well you can get a lot out of a training course.

The problem with training courses is that they are just that – courses. You sit in a classroom, learn stuff, go back to the office and do things the way you always have. It takes a serious degree of action planning at the end of the course, follow up with your manager and personal commitment to make training course lessons really stick. So while training courses are good, they aren’t the only way you can learn things.

Frankly, that’s just as well. Companies are cutting back on courses. I can tell that because I get more marketing emails from desperate training providers now than I ever did, and not because I have asked to go on their mailing lists. Training providers are struggling and companies are investing their money on things other than sending their employees on courses. All this adds up to the fact that if you are in the ‘if only I could go on a course’ school of thought then you’re unlikely to get lucky.

However, training is not all about training courses. There are plenty of other ways of learning things if your company is cutting back but you know you have areas that you want to develop. How about:

Workshadowing: want to work in Marketing? Call someone up and ask to follow them around for the day. You might have to make a couple of calls before you find someone and a convenient time, because everyone’s busy. Frame it as if you really want to find out more about what they do – which, of course, you do. People are generally flattered that you’re interested. (As an aside, I learned this lesson during the summer holidays one year temping at a management college. One of my tasks was to help the Research department by ringing up people and asking if they wouldn’t mind speaking at a conference the college was organising. I dreaded each cold call, but every single person said yes.)

Mentoring: have you got a mentor? If not, get one. It’s free and it would be a cold manager who wouldn’t support this idea. If you already have a mentor, try mentoring someone else. It’ll help develop all kinds of skills and will introduce you to some other people.

Industry press: do you even read your industry press? And not just PM Today in paper format and PM Forum online. Put project management aside and read the press related to your company’s main focus: insurance, law, construction, whatever. If you aren’t a member of your professional body (like the Chartered Insurance Institute or the CIPD etc) then find someone who is and get them to donate you their society magazine once they are done with it. You can pick up a stack of information by reading – print or online. Many online publications have forums, and you can get training and development hints from the experts who haunt those virtual coffee rooms.

And if those ideas don’t take your fancy, try these:

  • Online courses/workshops
  • Industry webinars or virtual conferences (like PMXPO)
  • In-house run training events – talk to your HR department
  • Networking events and conferences: broaden your horizons by listening to expert speakers
  • Volunteering: want more experience in leadership? Then join a club/sports team where you can practise leading!
  • Trial and error: get a copy of the software you want to learn, and sit down with the manual and learn it
  • Colleagues: ask a more senior colleague if you can go to a meeting with them so you can see how they do things
  • Feedback: you might not be as bad at something as you think; ask people how they see you

See? You do need to keep continually develop and keep your skills up, but you don’t need an expensive residential course to do it. Anyone got any other ideas? I’d be interested to hear them.


Susanne Madsen on Project Leadership [Interview]

Last month I read Susanne Madsen’s book, [amazon text=The Power of Project Leadership&asin=0749472340] (and I have a copy to give away in April too). I was struck by how practical it was. Often we think that leadership is about character and attitude (read my take on the traits of good leaders here) and forget that you… Continue Reading->

Ace the PMP Exam [Book Review]

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10 Things I love about managing projects

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Free project action log template

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What George Orwell Can Teach Us About Project Management

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