Zen and the Art of Project Management


Getting projects delivered on time and in budget is a tough task for the project management expert. But getting them in on time while remaining cool, calm and collected while building relationships with your team is the stuff of the project management legend.

So what exactly is this ‘Zen’ business anyway?

Zen is a state of being rather than a religion that needs to be followed. A Zen state is one of being completely in the moment; of really being here now. That means that you are not multitasking, that your mind isn’t doing a million other things when you are in a project management meeting and that you are completely focused on the task at hand. Being completely present brings with it a state of calm because you are not thinking of all the project management and personal tasks you must manage today (a daunting thought indeed), but are instead dealing with only one thing right now (a far more manageable and satisfying idea!) Dealing with one thing really well and completely will save you time and reduce your stress in the long run.

Zen project management is the combination of inner work (mindfulness, concentration and calm) with the outer work (doing what needs to be done to get your project to its end goal).

Project Management and the Zen Mind

Multitasking is not the Zen way. That doesn’t mean you are unproductive; quite the opposite actually! Instead of writing your report, while taking a call and updating the blog site all at once, each task is taken on mindfully. Focusing on the task at hand will make you a more effective project manager. Really listen to your team, really focus on the problems that occur and find workable solutions. Tackling one project management task at a time means you apply yourself and give each matter the attention it deserves.

The result? Your team will feel valued as you really listen to their ideas and concerns. You will get a wealth of valuable information when you start paying attention. Focused attention will mean that you don’t miss anything and that everything is so well done, you won’t have to redo it and it won’t cause problems down the line. Instead of being less productive; your focused action has improved the quality of your project management immeasurably.

Finding the Calm in the Chaos

Such pointed focus is great for improving the quality of your project management, but it takes more energy and concentration. That means that you need to recharge during your day. Taking regular breaks will mean that you remain calm and find ways of ridding yourself of stress. Right now, you probably take a break to check your Facebook, eat junk food from the cafeteria, or do your shopping. None of these pursuits are helping to rid you of project management stress.

Instead, consider reducing your screen time by only checking your personal email and social media sites once or twice a day. Instead of watching videos of cute cats falling off sofas, take a walk outside. Be as mindful during your downtime as you were at work. Be completely present when you take a lunch hour walk in the park, or when you call a friend for a chat. (Studies show that talking to a friend is a great way to reduce stress). Eat a healthy lunch, drink your eight glasses of water a day and do things during your day that you find enjoyable. Taking a break will really help to recharge your batteries and get you ready for the rest of your day.

It’s all in your Head

What you think becomes your reality so watch those thoughts. If you are negative about your project management team or the outcome of a project, you will be amazed at how accurate your predictions will be. People tend to try to fulfill your expectations of them, so have the highest expectations of your project management team.

Your focus and concentration will mean that you are able to cut to the heart of the matter. Being more aware of your surroundings will give you insights into your team members’ abilities, their personalities and their relationships with each other and this will guide your project management strategies.

Focus and concentration will also enable you to sort through all the white noise to get to the heart of the matter. Effective project management is the art of being able to sort through information, to prioritize tasks and not to get weighed down by the details. Keeping your head clear and remaining calm will make you the most effective project manager you can be.

Project management is a delicate balance of managing people and ideas while doing what needs to be done to move your project to completion. The art of Zen is the ability to focus completely at the task at hand—to be undistracted and to concentrate. Dealing well with each task as it arises will make you a more effective project manager. Remaining calm, cool and collected also makes you more focused and, to achieve this, you must take care of yourself. Recharge by relaxing and doing things you enjoy during the course of your day. Exercise, eat well and get outside to enjoy nature as often as you can.


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