Project Management Articles

Upskilling in Uncertain Times

by Di Ellis

There are a lot of people being made redundant at the moment. It may be you, or you may be next. And do you know why some people manage to hold on to their jobs in tough times, while others always seem to be the first ones out the door?

It's their skills – or rather their broad range of skills, which means that an employer can use one person for different types of jobs. In this tough economic climate, an ability to multitask is essential. Anyone who can only do one type of job, no matter how well they do it, will be at risk.

So, you have to upskill.

And what's the best type of skill to add to your repertoire? The answer is a skill that makes you more flexible, adaptable, and agile. You need some project management skills.

So what are project management skills precisely? And how do you get them without spending a lot of money (especially if you have just been made redundant)?

Well, one skill that all successful Project Managers have and that most employers find invaluable is organisational skills - people who are well organised. Now, by well-organised, I mean disciplined, able to handle more than one job at once, and keep them all under control.

If you have young children at home, then it's highly likely that you (if you are the Mum) or your wife is well organised. It's no mean feat juggling household duties, child rearing, being a loving partner, and good friend.

Most Mum's don't set out to be well organised – it becomes a necessity. They know that not everything will get done today, so what they do is prioritise, and continually prioritise throughout the day as new situations arise and others develop.

Sound like a good skill to have?

Well, it's very easy to acquire, and all you need is the discipline to keep at it.

The fundamental rule is prioritisation. As an exercise, try to set one day aside to work in an organised fashion.

Start the day by reviewing what needs to be done. Now sort those tasks into those you think you can achieve, those you would like to achieve, and those you know aren't going to get done today.

Now, no cheating and setting the bar too low – your output for the day has to be more impressive than if you weren't doing this exercise!

And by the way – you can do this if you are out of work too. Just think about all those things you were going to get around to and start making up a list.

Now, put aside those things we know aren't going to get done. Put them out of sight.

Then take those you'd like to get done and put them to one side, but still within reach.

Now you are left with those things which you have committed to doing today. You now need to prioritise these. You can prioritise them by size (for example, you may choose to tackle the small items first, then move on to the larger ones), or there may be a natural priority if there are some urgent tasks.

During the day, you will be interrupted, and new tasks will be added to your list. Reprioritise immediately. Don't get sucked into doing something that sounds like fun if it's not essential to get done today.

If you get through your essential list, move on to your hope to get done today list.

At the end of the day, review what you have achieved and how you measured up against what you hoped to achieve. No fibbing to yourself – did you do better or worse than you would have normally? Did you stick to the rules? Did you enjoy it more working this way? Did you leave a complete messy path of destruction behind you?

If you found it very difficult, or ended up with pieces of paper everywhere, don't despair. Keep this up for a week, and it starts to become habit forming. You'll start to do it naturally, and won’t need to keep actual lists.

Organisational skills are invaluable, and will add to your marketability in the workplace. Just keep at it!

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About the Author

Di Ellis is the owner of this site, and author of Manage That Project, a fantastically simple, easy to understand guide to project management.

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