The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

Finding time to stay ahead

Staying with the theme of “Experts Still Research”, the question often arises, “How does one find the time to stay the expert?”

Today’s busy lifestyle and every-changing technology makes it difficult to stay on top (never mind ahead).  If we’re too busy taking care of today’s’ business, how can we find time to prepare for tomorrow?  Granted, this opens a can of worms.  There are many avenues to this discussion.  Today, we’ll try to focus on “how to stay knowledgeable and continue to be considered an expert in my field.”

Whether we own our own business or we are a valued individual contributor in a larger organization, our value is based on what we can consistently bring to the table.  That could be knowledge, experience level, negotiation success, sales and revenue generation, project management and on-time delivery track record, IT skills, etc.

In every case, “sharpening the saw” (Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is a critical step to staying ahead of the game.  This takes time AND right back to the “If we’re too busy taking care of today’s’ business, how can we find time to prepare for tomorrow?”

Keep It Simple, Silly

“If we’re too busy taking care of today’s’ business, how can we find time to prepare for tomorrow?”  Well, just make ‘tomorrow’s preparation’ today’s business.

By this, I mean include a to-do item “today” for this learning and growing. The most effective way is to create reasonable forcing functions and accountability partners.  For instance, I had a habit of creating and submitting seminar abstracts to various software and project management conference. It was quite easy to create a leading-edge abstract.  Once the abstract was accepted, I was now obligated to do my “sharpening of the saw”.  It was a devised forcing function.  It was no longer “when I have time to get to it”.  There is now a deadline to it.

If you wanted to change your career but don’t have any “on the job experience” in that area, volunteer.  For instance, if you wanted to learn more about web-design or setting up websites, volunteer your services to a non-profit organization.  Or you have no construction experience and that is your desire, help at Habitat for Humanity.

You’re developer and on the maintenance of a software product.  You want to get on the new and upcoming software product.  Volunteer to be the Beta tester; volunteer to review (or write) the test scenarios and user documentation, get on the usability studies and focus groups, facility a focus group on the product, etc.  You get the idea.

How do I get my boss to see it this way?

This is all nice, but how do I get my boss to see it the same way?  You make him/her a partner in your plans and a main character in your story.

  1. Include this in your Performance Business Plans and Individual Career Development plans.
  2. Setup regular meetings with your manager to review your progress on these goals
  3. Ask your manager advise on mentors and experts in the areas that you are interested in


You have total control over your career and your life.  Some very simple things you can do right now:

  • Speak at User Conferences or Seminars on a topic that you want to learn more about
  • Commit to writing and submitting a blog or article once a month.
  • Schedule a Lunch’n Learn discussion group on a topic that you want to learn more about.
  • Schedule a Lessons Learned meeting on a product or service that you want to learn about.
  • Volunteer to be a Beta Tester for a new product that you want to learn more about.
  • Offer to write or review the user documentation for a new product that you want to learn more about.
  • Schedule training session for clients on up-and-coming technology
  • Start-up a meet-up or chat group on your new learning topic
  • Check into Second Life virtual technology for virtual meetings and conference on your topic.

About the Author

Laura is a Corporate Exit Strategist for the Blooming Entrepreneur. She is a certified business and personal life coach, specializing in time management skills, project management training and work/life balance strategies. She has been in the software and testing industry for over 20 years. She’s worked with such companies as IBM, Ericsson, Staples, Fidelity Investments and Sogeti in various client advocacy and project management roles. The techniques she uses in her business coaching and client advocacy work saved these companies both time and money, which resulted in on-time, quality product delivery with higher client satisfaction. Laura now uses her client focus, project, quality and people management skills in her personal life coaching career. As a personal life coach, she helps people transform their life by integrating their goals and dreams into their everyday lives. Laura uses creative and practical tools to help her clients realize what really matters to them. She helps others to easily transition into their next chapter whether it’s the next ladder of success within their corporate environment or into the entrepreneurial playground. I am not a fan of choosing to act in spite of fear. Rather, together we will collaborate toward a plan of inspired action. We will develop a plan together that you feel confident and excited about. For us, Taking The Leap will be magical, exhilarating and natural. If you are eager to take that next logical step but are unsure what it is signup for the Corporate Exit Strategy Coaching group. We have books, tapes, training materials, twice-monthly group coaching events, 3-day workshops, and individual coaching sessions to help you on your way toward your freedom and prosperity.
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