Wednesday, 15 October 2014


I went to an APM seminar on 'Mindfulness' last night.  The speaker was Anne Parker.  I'd never heard of mindfulness per se before, but it's an interesting take on the whole neuroscience/stress/GTD/time management thing.

I use trains quite a bit and I've been listening to audiobooks while travelling, so I was familiar with some of the more mainstream work that Anne referenced, such as Dr Steve Peters, but there were some others which I'll look into further.

The basics of it all are this.  We (humans) don't function well when faced with constant streams of work, multitasking and interruptions.  It's no real surprise that in this connected world, we don't get that much uninterrupted time.  Mindfulness is the practice of doing things consciously, one thing at a time, with focus and no interruptions.  Turn off the e-mail notification and just make some thinking time.

I make no secret that I make time to think.  I have regular thinking breaks, make a cuppa, stare out of the window and just think.  Now some might say that this is just being lazy or procrastinating, but I'm a knowledge worker by day and it's how the knowledge is threaded together that's critical to the added value.  You can't really add the same value just by writing more, the thinking really has to be there, or it's just waffle.

The good news for everyone, is that the brain can rebuild itself into a more 'mindful' state over time and with practice.  Pretty much everything can be done mindfully, from eating to washing up.  It's very similar to the 'slow movement' that was popular a few years back.

If you think this is just about life in the slow lane, there are also things that can be done quickly and mindfully, such as driving.  IAM and RoSPA both effectively teach mindful driving and riding, deliberate conscious focus on the task, which gives a better outcome.  As I'd rode to the seminar on my motorbike, I was well aware of the concepts of focussing on the task in hand.  You can't really filter through miles of standing traffic the M6 unless you've got control of your focus.  The deep breathing techniques can also be built into driving or riding, with a quick mindful breath before launching into the 'red mist' to prove that your car or bike is faster than theirs or that you can overtake where they can't.

So, do I rate 'mindfulness'?  I general, yes.  I think it's a good thing to take time out to think, do things deliberately, avoid distraction and focus more.  I guess that I could say that I was always a practitioner, just didn't know what the practice was called.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Why I have a property maintenance company as a 2nd business

Q)  How does this fit in with Business Analysis and Project Management?

Well, every job is a project with requirements so I'm managing micro projects with very clear and defined requirements.  Smaller scope means that you either do what you're asked or you don't get paid - simple.

The great thing about small projects vs bigger stuff is that in a small project you see the end and the benefits very quickly, so it gives you confidence that some of the bigger ones are also going to pay off and be worthwhile - especially if you have a similar methodology and approach for both.

Even though I'm doing some small stuff in my spare time, I still apply some science to the work - e.g. I fixed a leak and took moisture readings before the repair so that I can check that the repair has been successful at a later date.  So basically pre and post metrics on benefits.

With the confidence to operate robustly at a small level - accounts, invoicing, contracts, scope, client management, communications, estimating, installation, etc. it all adds to the delivery on bigger projects, where I feel more confident on calling BS on people who don't complete tasks, paperwork, RAMS, etc.  It's not difficult, you're just being lazy!

Anyhow, it all adds up to a better PM/BA experience for people I work with/for, so what's not to like?

Please feel free to comment.  What do you do that improves your PM/BA role?