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15 Ways to Stay Organised at Work During 2015

15 ways to stay organised at work

This post is part of a blogger link up with my friends at Elite Blogging Academy, which is a blogging course I’m currently taking (and that’s my affiliate link).

Start 2015 as you mean to go on with these tips for getting organised at work. Make this your most organised work year ever! Well, you can try, can’t you? Who knows what state we’ll be in by February…

Organise your diary

1. Block out half a day a month
Book a meeting with yourself for half a day a month and call it ‘process review’. This is your reflection time for how things are working. Think about what you could be doing differently to get more done. Refine your processes. I use a Wednesday afternoon for this as Fridays are too liable to be spent dealing with last-minute tasks for the week.

2. Book time to write reports
Book a recurring meeting to schedule the time in your diary for reporting. I have to write weekly project reports and I have half an hour every Thursday morning set aside for this. This works for any recurring tasks such as updating project risk logs or anything else that you might ‘overlook’ if you don’t have time deliberately set aside.

3. Set up calendar reminders
Forward-schedule anything you need to be aware of this year such as conferences or team members’ birthdays. You can set alerts to remind yourself that these dates are coming.

4. Create a To Do list
You’ve probably got your last To Do list from the end of last year, but rewrite it. What has been stuck on there for the last six months that you have no intention of doing this year? Ditch it. Streamline as much as you can and put your priority tasks for January at the top. I put longer-term actions in the back of my notebook so I can split them off the daily To Do list (and because I’m not wired enough to have an online task management system).

Organise your team

5. Book team meetings
Yep, get them in the diary now. If you don’t, you risk de-prioritising them in favour of plodding on with the work. Put them in and invite the right people. You can always cancel them if they aren’t required.

6. Review your resources
Have you got everyone you need to make your projects a success in 2015? What other resources do you need to secure? Review your resource gaps now so you can put forward a plan to either recruit or ‘borrow’ people from other departments so that you can achieve your objectives.

7. Book training
Actually, you can do this for yourself as well. While everyone is still thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and there is a training budget, get yourself and your team booked on the relevant courses. Even if they aren’t happening until much later in the year. Organise it now, pay for it and then forget about it until your pre-course work turns up. Otherwise you’ll never get round to scheduling that training.

Book your meetings, training and time out to reflect and catch up now.

Organise your projects

8. Agree your priority projects
Do you know what your priority work should be for 2015? Think about all the projects you have on the go or know are coming your way. It should be clear which is the priority but if not take advice from your manager. Knowing what is a priority will help you focus on the right tasks this year.

9. Sort your filing system
Set up your project filing systems for the year. Create new folders labelled with project names and dates. Grant access to new members of the team and remove access from old folders for people who have moved into different roles.

10. Check your templates
Many organizations update their financial templates from time-to-time. Check that you have the most recent templates for raising purchase orders, creating capital expenditure requests, preparing business cases and reporting accruals.

11. Put key project dates in your main diary
This might sound like duplication of effort – after all, you have a prpoject schedule to manage your critical project milestones. Why put them in your diary too? I put major events like training courses for end users in my Outlook calendar. It means I don’t double-book the resources required and I’ve got another reminder of what’s coming up on the project.

12. Book your meetings
As well as scheduling your team meetings, book all your Project Board or steering group meetings for the duration of your project. Project sponsors and senior executives are busy people so give them lots of notice for your upcoming meetings and decision points.

Organise your environment

13. Sort out your tech
Don’t start the year with a phone that doesn’t work. Upgrade your phone, get the IT help desk on speed dial, buy a new charger so you can always keep one in your bag. Gadgets are an essential part of office life now so make sure they work for you and don’t hold you up. Oh, and review these pointers on gadget etiquette so you don’t make a faux pas at work.

14. Give your team the tools they need
Make sure that your team members have the tools they need to do the job. If you don’t know what they are, ask the people involved. You could speed up a lot of tasks if only they had the right piece of kit. Get it on the procurement radar before the budgets run out later in the year.

15. Tidy your desk
Chuck out the Christmas cards, the novelty freebies you got from your last conference and the glossy brochures from suppliers you aren’t going to use. I found some receipts that should have been included in my expenses when I did this. Shred any confidential paperwork and put anything else in the recycling. Start the year with a clear workspace, ready to face the challenges of your first days back in the office.

Are any of these part of your New Year’s Resolutions? Let us know in the comments.

how to make 2015 the best year ever


HTML Code for EBA New Year Blogger Collaboration

1. How to Set and Keep Goals to Make This the Best Year Ever | Jen @ Girl in Garage

2. 15 Ways to Stay Organised at Work During 2015 | Elizabeth Harrin @ A Girl’s Guide to Project Management

3. How Personal Style Will Help You Achieve Goals Faster in 2015 | Cherene Francis @ Aura Image Consulting

4. Completing Those Unfinished Projects in the NEW YEAR | Angela Lerew @ Unexpected Elegance

5. 42 Ways to Practice Perfectly & Become an Expert at Almost Anything | Amy Garro @ 13 Spools

6. Easy Exercises to do on a Cruise Ship | Amanda Woods @ Adventures All Around

7. 10 Simple Ways to Eat Healthier This Year | Dawn @ Reveal Natural Health

8. 31 Days to a More Fabulous You | Julie Bonner @ Mom Fabulous

9. How to Make This the Best Gardening Year Ever | Kendra Spencer @ a Sonoma Garden

10. 5 Ways to Make this Your Best Monarch Season…Ever! | Tony Gomez @ Monarch Butterfly Garden

11. 12 Scriptures for Goals and Guidance | Julie @ Loving Christ Ministries

12. How to Build a Starter Emergency Fund in 30 Days or Less | Jackie Beck @ The Debt Myth

13. Family Verse of the Week Challenge for 2015 | Jamie Yonash @ Life is Sweeter By Design

14. Hot Work at Home Jobs for 2015 | Holly Hanna @ The Work at Home Woman

15.  A Year of Intention | Hilary Bernstein @ Accidentally Green

16. 2015: Our Best Year Yet | Ashley @ Leaving the Rut

17. Create a Better Life Story | Bronwen Warner @ Tummy Time and Beyond

18. Get Ready to Get MDfit | Tom and Anne @ Eat & Be Fit

19. 5 Free Ways to Learn Something New This Year | Sarah Fuller @ Earning and Saving with Sarah Fuller

20. Healthy Leek Soup | Mirlandra @ Mirlandra’s Kitchen

21. Health Resolutions: Baby Steps to a New You | Ellen Christian @ Confessions of an Overworked Mom

22. 5 Ways Busy Moms Can Get Motivated to Work Out | Diane Nassy @ philZENdia

23. Be Prepared for the New Year | Jennifer Dunham Starr @ The Memory Journalists

24. 3 Steps to a Healthier Life in 2015 | Joe Goodwill @Average Joe Cyclist

25. New Year’s Resolution: Cook More Often! | Kim Pawell @ Something New for Dinner

26. I Should What? 28 Ways to be Happier | Karen Young @ Hey Sigmund

27. 9 Ways to Get Healthier In The New Year | Amy Maus @ Home and Farm Sense

28. In 2015 Resolve to Take Control of Your Money | Kristia @ Family Balance Sheet

29. Eucharisteo: A Year of Thanksgiving | Lani Padilla @ Simply Fresh Vintage

30. No More Tears at IEP Meetings: Make This Your Best Year Ever! | Lisa Lightner @ A Day In Our Shoes

31. Learn to Save Money on Groceries | Melissa Buckles @ Everyday Savvy

32. How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution – For Real This Time! | Michelle @ Dishes and Dust Bunnies

33. 52 Weeks to a Better You: Week 1 – Go to Bed Early | Mindi Cherry @ Moms Need to Know

34. Food Street: How a Community Has Joined Forces to Start a Street Farm | Sam Walker @ Bubble ‘N Squeak

35. Organizing Coupons with the Binder Method | Sara Steigerwald @ Sisters Shopping on a Shoe String

36. How to Make This Year the Happiest Yet | Shambray @ Shambray.com

37. A New Year, A New You | Sharon Rowe @ How to Get Organized at Home

38. 5 Ways to Get Paid for Losing Weight This Year | Anna @ Real Ways to Earn Money at Home

39. Tips for Successful Whole30 | Deanna Michaels @ From This Kitchen Table

40. 75 Ways to Be Healthier in 2015 | Maryea Flaherty @ Happy Healthy Mama

41. How to Make 2015 the Best Year Ever! | Jennifer @ My Boys & Their Toys

Bonus links:

Fashion Resolutions: How to Add Style to Any Outfit | Ellen Christian @ The Socialite’s Closet


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A Christmas break – see you in 2015

Season's Greetings from A Girl's Guide to PM

We’re taking a break for Christmas and the end of year festivities. Normal service returns on 5 January.

Best wishes to you over the holiday season and see you in 2015!


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Giveaway winner: Supercommunicator

Congratulations to Sarah, from East Sussex (UK), who wins the Supercommunicator book giveaway. The book highlights how you can communicate even difficult subjects so that your audience can understand and is perfect for project managers trying to communicate more effectively with stakeholders.

Read my review of the book here.

Sarah, your book is in the post so you should have it in time for post-Christmas dinner reading!


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9 Project communications you should have sent this year

9 project communications you should have sent this yearA few weeks after I started back at work, one of my long time stakeholders sent a message to someone pretty high up the hierarchy saying ‘project communication was so much better when Elizabeth was around’. It’s nice to hear people say I was doing something right, although it was a bit of a shame that she hadn’t realised I was already back at my desk. I guess I didn’t do much communicating during those first few weeks.

Good communication on projects is so important, and something that it is useful to reflect on at this time of year as we establish areas for improvement in the coming 12 months. Did you send any of these project communications during 2014? You should have done.

1. We have uncovered an issue but…

When something goes wrong you should ‘fess up as soon as possible. However, senior stakeholders like it when you can tell them what you are doing about the problem.

If you faced a problem this year you should have presented the issue along with your solution or recommendation.

2. We’re on track for…

You should have kept stakeholders informed at all stages along the way. Letting them know that things are on track helps them feel confident that the work is progressing as planned.

This is different to the ‘reporting by exception’ model. In my experience, that only works for a short time. When people stop hearing positive noises after any length of time they attend to assume the worst, even if you’ve told them that you will report by exception.

3. I’m sorry…

How many times did you apologise this year? Lots, I hope. (OK, not that many.) You can cut through a lot of conflict and office politics with a well-placed, sincere apology.

4. The current status is…

I hope you used regular project status reports this year. You should have used them as a tool to communicate status on your project, at least once a month, at least to the project sponsor. Preferably more.

Need some help improving your project reports for 2015? Take my online project reporting course and get people to actually do something as a result of reading your status updates.

5. I saw this and thought of you…

Make connections. As a project manager you are well placed to see what is going on in various areas of the business. Link people together, make introductions, pass on information that you think others would find useful.

If you didn’t do this during 2014, read these 6 reasons why networking is important and see if I can change your mind for next year.

6. Thank you for…

For coming to my meeting, for giving up your resources to help with testing, for passing me that great contact, for being such a great project team member.

There are dozens of reasons why you should have said thank you to the people you worked with this year. I hope you took every opportunity.

7. That didn’t meet my expectations of…

Sometimes we have to communicate the bad news, and if you don’t speak up you won’t ever seem improvements. When a team member doesn’t perform as expected, talk to them about it (and not via email). It’s not personal. You had expectations, they didn’t meet them. Discuss how you can both get a better result next time.

You should have done this with suppliers as well. Don’t put up with bad service because you are too worried to say something.

8. I need…

Did you get the resources you needed to complete your project tasks successfully? No? Did you ask for them?

Don’t expect your project sponsor to be a mind-reader. If you want more people, more money or more time, ask for it. You might not get it but at least you have tried!

9. If…then…

You would have made a lot of decisions this year. Did you always take the time to explain why you put forward that particular recommendation? You should have explained the consequences of your decisions in business terms, so that stakeholders and project team members understand why you’ve opted for that route forward.

Which of these phrases will you aim to use more frequently in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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UK Project Management: The Year in Review

Review of UK Project Management 2014Last week I looked forward at the hot project management trends for 2015. This week I want to look back.

The last 12 months have been a busy time for the UK project management scene, and that was just the bits I was able to take part in. I had 7 months off on maternity leave and it feels as if there has been a step change forward in the way that project management is regarded. Here’s my review of the year for project management in the UK in 2014.

Project roundup

There were some humongous projects undertaken in the UK this year.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games came to fruition after years of planning.

Care.data, the project to create electronic patient medical records, was in the news a lot, not least because of a small clause in the documentation that seemed to imply that the NHS could share your confidential medical history with commercial organisations. I’m not still not 100% sure who will have access to this huge database.

Crossrail, Europe’s largest construction project, plodded on, delivering small wins in anticipation of the first services through central London in 2018. This is a project where delicate stakeholder management is needed, and it’s doing its part for getting girls into STEM subjects too by partnering with local schools and offering apprenticeships.

Awards roundup

The big project management awards in the UK are awarded at the APM’s glitzy November event. The winners this year were:

Dawlish - the original breach

Dawlish – the original sea wall breach, February 2014

Project of the Year: Dawlish Sea Wall Emergency Works to reopen the railway line that links Exeter with the rest of the South West. I remember seeing this on TV after the devastating bad weather left tracks suspended in mid-air with no ground underneath them. Excellent communication on this project too, with a webcam reporting live from the site, daily updates on the website and photos updated every 6 hours.

Programme of the Year: Wylfa Extended Generation Programme to extend the life of the only operational Magnox power station in the world.

Project Management Company of the Year: Shell Projects & Technology

Project Professional of the Year: Steve Walters from Magnox

Young Project Professional of the Year: Luke Streeter from Atkins

Social Project of the Year: Anderston Phase 3 Regeneration, which regenerated an area close to Glasgow city centre to provide community housing and a shop and involved relocating residents while this work was undertaken.

Mike Nichols, APM

© APM, no modifications made https://www.flickr.com/photos/apmevents/11288350475/

Women in Project Management

Women in project management did not go unrecognised this year either. Dr Lynn Crawford took the APM’s coveted Sir Monty Finniston award for ‘remarkable dedication to the profession’.

The Women in Project Management Special Interest Group celebrated their 21st anniversary in London in October as well. Watch my video of the event here.

In memoriam

In January I reported that former APM Chair Mike Nichols had passed away. Mike takes the credit for moving the APM towards Chartered status and for creating a huge learning legacy as part of the Olympic Games, ensuring that what was learnt through the Games’ project delivery was not lost to new projects. He’ll be sadly missed by the UK project management community.


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Jeff FurmanThe PMBOK® Guide v5 refresh introduced new topics for students taking the PMP exam. Jeff Furman, author of The Project Management Answer Book, has just released a second edition of his book, covering all that and more. It’s a weighty book to support students preparing for the PMP exam and also more generally in their working lives as project managers, but it’s not your typical test prep guide.

I caught up with him to find out more.

Jeff, why did you do another edition?

I realized that a second edition would be a great help to my readers and PMP students, especially because:

  • I wanted to update the entire 1st Edition to V5, covering every change to all affected processes, to best help my readers toward the PMP and CAPM exams.
  • Since the book first came out in 2011, I’ve taught more than 50 project management classes using my book as a text. So I’ve come up with a lot of new PMP test tips. And to and to make them easy-to-find, I put them all in “call-out boxes” throughout the book. It feels great adding all these tips into the second edition!
  • Scrum has been catching fire the last few years, so to help my readers, I’ve added a robust new “Intro To Scrum” chapter. This will give readers an exposure to Agile, and also will help them on job interviews (where hiring managers are NOT bound to ask “Waterfall only” questions!). My chapter also provides info about Agile certifications that project managers might want to pursue to boost their resume.

Great. So let’s pick up on your first point? What’s changed in the PMBOK Guide since your first edition?

One big change is that many process names have been improved for clarity. And some new processes have been added which finally “give a home” to several project artifacts where it had been a bit of a mystery where they were supposed to be created.

But the most significant change is that after many years of the famous nine PMI Knowledge Areas, PMI has now added a tenth knowledge area: Project Stakeholder Management.

Why did they do that? Tell me why you think stakeholder management so important.

Everyone agrees that customer satisfaction is key to project success. But many project managers and teams treat customer satisfaction kind of passively, e.g. “They’ll see what a good job we did for them, and they’ll appreciate it.”

The new Stakeholder Management knowledge area helps project managers shoot for customer satisfaction proactively, just like going for high quality, or fast delivery. And also, with an emphasis on strategizing and planning for stakeholder engagement (beyond just stakeholder management).

To that end, I provide templates in my book for two new PMI-recommended tools: the Power and Interest Grid, and the Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix.

What did you learn as an author from preparing the second edition?

Writing a second edition was like being in “Groundhog Day Heaven!” From the vantage point of learning a lot of new best practices over the past few years, it was very satisfying to take each chapter from the first edition and “spike it up,” while also adding three new chapters.

But while adding in the new material, I also had the challenge of trying to keep the length close to that of the first edition. So I learned the discipline of going through my first book and cutting every three paragraphs down to two wherever possible, without losing any key content (not easy!).

Project Management Answer Book 2nd EdThat sounds like a challenge. On my books, I’ve always found it useful to have the extended team around me as it’s a collaborative effort. Did you find that too?

Yes. For example, two students in my recent PMP Prep classes (Beth Horrigan, PMP®, and Corey Wilson, PMP®) both came up with very clever “mnemonics” which they shared with their classmates. Beth’s was to help her learn the five PMI Process Groups, and Corey’s was to help him learn the 10 Knowledge Areas. It was a great pleasure to be able to include both mnemonics (along with both Beth and Corey’s names) in the book.

Thanks again to both for granting permission.

Some of your students are in the Army, aren’t they? What is it like working with them?

When I teach Army project managers, they often are exceptionally eager to learn. And so what often happens when I present a concept is it triggers one of the soldiers to share a related idea from their military training.

I then wind up using these pairs of similar (PMI vs. Army) terms in my next Army classes, because they help me get the points across faster. And I even use them sometimes in all-civilian classes, because civilians appreciate the analogies also. A couple of quick examples would be:

PMI Term Army Term
Scope Creep “Mission Creep”
Lessons Learned AAR (After-Action Review)


Thanks, Jeff. How can we get hold of a copy of The Project Management Answer Book?

You can get it from Amazon (paperback and Kindle). Or direct from the publisher, Management Concepts Press.

If you are in New York, pop into the NYU Bookstore in Manhattan, 726 Broadway, in Greenwich Village, near the corner of Broadway & Waverly Place.

Well, if I’m ever passing, I’ll go in and see it on the shelf! Thanks very much Jeff.

About Jeff: Jeff Furman, PMP® has 15 years experience managing IT projects for Fortune 100 companies in the NYC area. He currently teaches six different courses in PM for NYU’s School of Professional Studies, and also an Advanced Project Management / PMP Prep class for the US Army on bases in Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky.

This post contains affiliate links which may generate a small commission for me. Thanks!

Photo credit: Michelle Wild.

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