Ahh, September. Whether you’re sending kids back to school or just exchanging summer cotton for warm flannels, autumn is a great time to get organized, prepared and reinvigorated—at home and at work.
On the work front, team projects always benefit from a fresh outlook and renewed enthusiasm. Project managers can take advantage of that great back-to-school feeling to boost morale and get everyone out of beach mode and back into maximum productivity. Here are five tips to help you—and your project team—get back in the game.
Whether your goal is to get your team working as collaboratively and efficiently as possible or to get yourself feeling at the top of your game when September’s early alarm bells start ringing, few things help more than prioritization. If your own personal schedule needs some organizing, start by making a daily and weekly task list. Write it down. Divide tasks into home, work, and family and be sure to build in some downtime.
At work, keep your team focused on overall business goals and vision. If your team feels scattered, hold a meeting that redefines objectives and roles. Stay on top of your numbers, and be sure team members are tracking their time correctly, setting milestones and celebrating successes. Use project planning software to manage project schedules and to keep teams focused and energized about what comes next.
Autumn is the perfect time of year to acquire a new skill or brush up on an existing one. If you spent your summer admiring mobile websites, see if it would be possible to take a design class that takes your company’s website to the next level. Check in with human resources to see if any professional development classes or college courses are available to you or teammates that are interested in building their core skills.
If your team could benefit from personal or professional development, research what speakers or groups might be able to hold an on-site development day. We’re accustomed to learning new things this time of year—it’s back to school time after all! Take advantage of shorter days and crisp air to help your team acquire new knowledge and skills.
Offices and desks seem to mysteriously collect odds and ends. No matter how much of your work you do online, chances are small piles of paper and swag are taking over part of your workspace. Taking the time to clear away the clutter can actually help you feel more on top of things and efficient. Start small. Take a few minutes to focus on one pile of paper. Recycle, file or shred. Move on to the next.
Once your piles are gone, wipe everything down. Get rid of staplers that don’t work, or ask for help sorting through your team’s central workspace supply room. Have a work day for the whole team to see if the office is laid out to its best advantage. Maybe there are unused chairs or desks that can be moved in an arrangement that frees up space and gives you more room to think. Having a space for everything—and removing what no longer serves—is a great way to start the fall season off the right way.
One trait of truly productive team members is maximizing efficiency. If you know that you’re most effective between 9 -11 a.m., be sure to use that time properly. Set those hours aside for the type of focused work that requires the most attention—writing, design or coding. You can schedule meetings, email and other types of social and administrative tasks around your best hours.
Likewise, if you’re a manager, know what time of day is best for your team members and try to work around that. If your best designer likes to create in the middle of night, support it as best you can. There’s no one right way to schedule your work. Stepping back to evaluate what works best for you—and your team members—sets a tone of flexibility, support and makes the most of everyone’s strongest competencies.
Back to school doesn’t have to mean all grind and no fun. Get outside in the cooler air and bright sunshine to play! Organize a project team soccer game or outing to watch your football team (go Seahawks!). Create volunteer opportunities for your team to participate in, or offer free pizza on Fridays to colleagues after a particularly great week.
Creating a workplace culture of team spirit, fun and cohesiveness will build trust, confidence in each other and boost productivity. High morale will pay big dividends when digging in to an upcoming project deadline. Go, team!