5 Steps to Personalizing Your Work Environment

Here are but five smart ideas for personalizing your space and maximizing your project management

Project Managers are used to change. Projects change, people change, and goals change—all the time. When there is a job change, how does a project manager start from scratch? The following five step process will help you make sure your new environment is tailored to your liking.

For me, it all starts with a lamp. All that I need to feel comfortable in any new environment is a small, decorative lamp with a 60-watt bulb. Once I plug that lamp in and flip the switch, all is good with the world, everything is calm, and I’m open for business.

Let me explain what I’m talking about here. There was a time in my career when I was moving from company to company fairly frequently. The .com bubble was rapidly expanding and companies couldn’t find people fast enough to fill technical and project manager positions. I took advantage of the market economy and tuned into the supply / demand curve. As the demand for project managers grew, the supply began to dwindle. There were always offers on the table, so approximately every 12-18 months I would head on over to a new, exciting, and more profitable environment.

Every environment was different, but the one thing they all had in common was newness. There were new people, surroundings, locations, technologies, and offices. And, as exciting as a new job was, it was hard enough finding the bathroom let alone navigate the onslaught of projects that were thrown my way to manage.

I did it with the help of my lamp.

My lamp was the first thing I would set up onthe personal touch can add professional success when managing a project my desk in each new office. It really didn’t throw off that much light and you could barely read anything with the light it did provide. What it did provide was an endless reminder that I could create my own environment. It was the first of many improvements I would make as a started my new adventure.

My new associates would enter the office and comment on its warm light. They experienced a level of comfort, warmth, and shall we say homey-ness, which gave me satisfaction to know that this was just the beginning.

What It Means to Create Your Own Environment

Creating your own environment is important when you find yourself in a new situation. Let’s take the example of starting a job as a project manager. When you join a new company you most likely come in under someone else’s jurisdiction, whether it’s the PMO Director, VP, or even President of the company. The company is a functioning entity that has enjoyed a life previous to you coming on board.

There are already many systems, processes, procedures and schedules in place. These include meetings, report formats, templates, and other project management systems. There may already be an infrastructure in place of a project management application. Unless you are given carte blanche authority to change anything and everything you put your hands on, you may need to work within the existing environment for a while.

But, nobody is going to tell you that you can’t put a nice little lamp on your desk, are they? Of course not. You don’t need to adhere to the lighting parameters someone else before you has chosen.  Go ahead and make that change. Start creating your own environment.

Nobody will complain if you add a column to a status report that provides a bit more relevant information, will they? Of course not. You don’t need to adhere to the reporting parameters someone else before you has chosen. Go ahead and make that change. Start creating your own environment.

You see where this is going, right?

How to Create Your Own Environment

The following are rough guidelines you can follow to create your environment. Each circumstance will be different, so you can decide what will work best for you.

  1. Start with Your Personal Space

    Your personal space is a no-brainer place to start personalizing your environment. It’s also where you can make the most difference immediately. Go ahead and bring in that lamp. Assemble meaningful trinkets on your desk. Hang art on the wall and surround yourself with pictures of your family. You spend enough time at work that you’ll want it to be your home away from home.

    A word about trinkets. I have six items on my desk in addition to my lamp: a tiny rocket ship, a flip calendar stuck on a certain date, a badge, a small decorative vase, a stopped clock, and a miniature orange traffic cone. Each one of these reminds me of profound lessons I learned from past organizations. For example, the calendar reminds me to never let the arrogance of technology overwhelm the common sense of business (the subject of another post). Suffice it to say, keeping reminders front and center so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past has been good for me.

  2. Move on to Meetings

    The next area you can influence in order to create your own environment are meetings. What weekly standing meetings are currently in place? Do they need to be every week? Can they be every other week? Do you even need to have this meeting at all? Maybe it could be combined with another meeting and save everyone a ton of time.

    You may like your meetings in the morning. Or, you may feel afternoon meetings are more productive. Do you like your meetings at the beginning of the week or near the end? One by one, start changing your meeting schedules, times, and days to suit your needs.

  3. Tackle Reports Next

    The next thing you can work on to create your own environment are reports. Every company has a slew of reports with varying degrees of value. Take and make opportunities to tweak these reports. Make some additions (like adding a column), or remove some information that nobody ever uses but takes an inordinate amount of time to pull together.

    Want to try the ultimate test of whether a report is useful? Quit sending it out and see who says something. I’ve seen numerous instances where someone forgot to send a report out one week and nobody said a word. So, he didn’t send it out for another week. Again, not a word. Six months later, he decided that nobody would miss this report at all and never sent it out again!

  4. Go for the Big Stuff

    Your personal space, meetings, and reports will seem like kid’s play when you move into the big stuff. You now have a cozy office, a track record for having great meetings, and are producing useful reports. Start adjusting or creating the project management methodology that is currently in place. Improve how things get from Point A to Point B in your company. How about introducing a new project management software package? (hint – try ProjectManager.com…everyone will love it.) You have now moved from the confines of your comfortable little space and started to affect other people in the company…positively.

  5. Watch the Attitudes

    Finally, make your work environment sustainable by changing people’s attitudes. Surrounded by negative people? Help them see the positive side of things. Work with people that think they are helpless and can’t affect change? Help them get a grip on some small changes that lead to small victories, and watch them grow and thrive. Help others to accept change, find a new direction, or make improvements in an area.

In just a matter of months, you’ll have transformed your work environment into one made just for you. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this will happen and you’ll be ready to try these five steps again in another 12-18 months!

Try ProjectManager.com FREE for 30 days by putting it at the top of your list for creating your own environment. Using customizable Project Tracking charts, you can see your resource, efficiency and completion percentage, at a glance. Only with this Project Tracking information can you ensure that your project remains on track throughout the entire life cycle. This will free you up to go find another nice lamp for your desk!

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