(Cross-posting from Geek | Manager)

Principles of Project Management cover I’m pleased to announce that one of my own projects has just come to fruition. My new book, The Principles of Project Management has just been published by SitePoint. It’s a short book aimed at folks like myself who have come from a technical background and are increasingly finding themselves in need of project management skills — whether to officially take that role or to help make the hard work they put in as developers or designers actually mean something, by ensuring the project is delivered properly.

The book was expert reviewed by Kevin Lawver and Drew McLellan who both did an admirable job of ensuring that the content stayed applicable to all sorts of projects and teams, both big and small. They also bravely took on the role of managementese-weeding and survived with remarkably few lasting scars 😉 Drew has written some thoughts on the book on his own blog. I thoroughly enjoyed working with both Drew & Kevin, as well as the team at SitePoint.

If your interest is piqued, then check out The Principles of Project Management book page or download a sample chapter.

In the interests of full disclosure, I would highlight that all the links are affiliate links — i.e. if you buy the book via that link I will both be able to track it and get something back 🙂

There are two main things I’ve learnt since starting up Make Me A Speaker!:

  1. Write/talk what you know
  2. You need to invest in becoming a speaker, much as you would anything else

As a result, you can see me speaking this Friday at the latest Refresh Edinburgh event.
I’ll be talking about Geek Project Management, which is a topic I feel pretty comfortable speaking on. Although it’ll be similar to the session I did at BarCampLondon2, I’ve got a bit more time and so I’ll be going into more details of how to run a successful project without getting overwhelmed by loads of useless documents and meetings.

Which brings me to the other thing I’ll be talking about to everyone over the next couple of days: we’re in the process of setting up the first BarCampNorthEast as well, so sign up if you’re interested!

UPDATE: Talk is done — if you weren’t able to make it and would like to check out the slides, you can download them from here.

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I’ve just launched a new blog — Geek | Manager. In a similar move to Ben, I’ve decided to separate out a “vertical” blog, talking about technology and management. I’ll continue to post the more random things here, along with the blogmarks, but for those of you who enjoy my tech/management posts, I’d suggest you subscribe to the Geek | Manager feed.

The first post is all about how email blitzes can really help to increase your daily productivity. Head on over and take a look — I’d love to know what you think.

When I went to Bucharest, I had quite a lot of travelling, sitting in airports and so on, which gave me the opportunity to read Getting Things Done at last. Reading a hardcopy book offline is something I don’t often get around to these days, which is unfortunate — in fact doing so more is one of my resolutions for 2007!

To be honest, GTD didn’t change my life. Not because I don’t think it’s a great system, but because it didn’t teach me anything particularly new. I have always had something of a … busy … life. During my degree, I was doing a full-time course and working 4 part-time jobs for MOST of the duration. Even at school, I did the equivalent of about 10 A-Levels in my final couple of years, in addition to writing & directing plays, taking part in science, maths and language competitions and playing waterpolo and hockey. That level of different activities to be juggled teaches you very good time management and a host of stress management coping strategies 😉

As a result, I already had a lot of the GTD strategies nailed. However, the two key things I learnt from reading the book were:

  1. Everything I was already doing for work/academic, I should just extend into all areas of my life. Compartmentalising is not always useful.
  2. Contexts are a great tool for making todo lists even more useful.

Taking on those two adjustments, I now have a process I’d call GTD Lite. The fundamental tools are a robust todo list, a rigorously updated calendar (covering meetings, deadlines and future-date reminders), a project list and regular review of all the above. I also use little habits like email blitzes, feed blitzes and urgent/important prioritization to keep it all moving quickly.

All in all, I’m glad I read the book — it was a great reminder of what works for me, what doesn’t and what can bring stress relief even if it can feel like more “process” work.

For others interested in GTD, I’d recommend:


Originally uploaded by meriwilliams.

I love this error message — it tells you so much about the attitude to consumers 😉

Elana has written a great post over on BlogHer about the shift in terminology from “workaholics” to “Extreme Jobs”.

What I find most interesting about this is the shift from personal responsibility (if you’re a workaholic, then you’ve chosen to be so) to situational/corporate responsibility (the job/company REQUIRES that you work crazy hours). On the one hand, it’s an unusual trend to see a move AWAY from personal responsibility. On the other, it’s a very dangerous slippery slope for the organisations creating the types of roles that require workers to routinely work 60-100 hours rather than the baseline 40.

The main reason I think this is dangerous is not because people won’t do the jobs (someone always will) or even because it will severely limit the diversity in those top roles (although it will). The real problem is that research has consistently shown that time worked and productivity are not directly proportional. Working more in short bursts (e.g. for an upcoming deadline) can be useful, but consistently working long hours leads to lower productivity.

Tom DeMarco in Slack: Getting Past Burn-out, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency discusses this in detail. He posits that when workers consistently work longer hours, any productivity gain is lost. Essentially, we are “re-baselined” — achieving the same amount of work in 10/12/14 hours as we would have done in 8.

Overwork can cause burn-out or even death. Selecting executives who have already lived through years or even decades of overwork, hoping to win the tournament are arguably the most at risk. So if your method for choosing your top executives is not who is most productive or effective, but really who can best withstand extremely long working hours, is that really smart?

This latest comic graph over at indexed is absolute genius:

graph showing that sleeping audience members increase proportional to the number of powerpoint slides