The Project Management field is a very demanding and challenging profession. This is why Project Managers, PMO’s, Project Coordinators, Team Leaders, Program Managers and all in the project management field are keen to build their knowledge and expertise in Project Management to stay ahead and able to deal with the challenges and stresses of the profession. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) talks about knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics as key to a successful career in project management. It clearly states that the project management knowledge is not enough to succeed, but the ability to deal with people and what many call soft skills is key to be a good Project Manager. However, the PMBOK and many in the profession miss three important skills for the project management role, which are physical, mental, and spiritual fitness.
Starting with physical fitness, it is very easy for project management professionals to get absorbed into work and forget about building an exercise routine. Their schedules are usually sporadic. One day they have time in the morning, the other in the afternoon, and every so often they do not have time at all.
To be “fit” as a project manager, one has to try best to take care of his or her health. Playing sports is not a guarantee of good health, but it is an action that one can take in the right direction. All sports are good, and can accomodate the busy schedule of a project manager. It is just that a project manager needs to be smart in managing his or her schedule to include sports activities, not when time permits, but even though time does not permit. I think if we consider sports a must to improve our careers, then we might have a different attitude towards what priority we give sports activities. After all, when you need to take care of your health, other activities need to take second priority. Not because they are not important, but because health is a prerequisite to being able to do a better job at whatever you are doing.
I recommend Boxing, even though I believe all physical activity is good. Why I think boxing is fit for a project manager? A project manager has to have the drive, courage, and ability to deal with tough situations. Standing infront of an opponent whose fists are up ready to plunge into your face or body resembles many of the real life situations a project manager faces. Also boxing requires release of sudden and big bursts of energy which makes one feel better after a frustrating day at work. Finally boxing requires complete focus and attention. You cannot be boxing and have straying thoughts into something else. You have to be present, otherwise you get punched. Very similar to what project managers face at work. They need full attention and focus to succeed.
Another part of being fit is the mental fitness. A project manager needs to stay poised. Need I tell you how difficult that is? To me it is a very difficult thing to achieve. Staying poised. This requires staying focused and centered. Instead of being pulled into feelings of anger, fear, disgust, etc. Yoga, tai chi, and breathing can help a project manager in this area, even though it requires time and patience for mastery. The good news is that one feels more calm and relaxed just by practicing even if one is not a master yet in these areas.
Finally on the spiritual side, Project Managers can be trapped into a controlling attitude. We learn about managing risk, controlling the project, etc. We forget that all are untrue contradictions. “Management” requires control. We all know that you cannot be certain about anything, so how can you control it? So what we do is try to control, but we can never really control. If we forget this fact and we sometimes do, we become control freaks and get angry when things do not go our way. Prayer is a great remedy for this. In addition to all its other benefits, it reminds you that you need to have faith that even though we are not in control, we believe a more powerful one is, and we surrender to his guidance, wisdom, and guidance.