A DAY IN THE LIFE

  • Sep 28, 2018

A day in the life

Article originally published on The Elia Handbook for Smart PMs Volume III

 

Music often plays a key role in the workplace, and many people argue that it helps them focus more on what they do. While working as a Localisation Project Manager, I believed this was true… with some flavour: some background music sometimes genuinely gets you through the day by providing a proper soundtrack to whatever happens, just like in a film.

A day in the life of a Project Manager deserves an insightful analysis, as the everyday routine of a PM can be pretty rock-and-roll sometimes. While skimming through the different tasks a PM has to take care of during a typical day at work, I will share some tips and best practices for each phase, with a suitable song in the background. So here we are: turn the radio on and dive into the typical day of a Project Manager.

 

Setting priorities

Song No. 1, Rome wasn’t built in a day (Morcheeba)

You’ve made your way to the office, you’ve had your (first) coffee and are now ready to start your work day. The first thing you should do is to turn your computer on and open your mailbox, hoping no huge catastrophe happened overnight.

 

The most common mistake made by a PM at this point is to dive into the first email that grabs her or his attention, without stepping back to look at the whole picture. As Morcheeba sang, “in this day and age it's so easy to stress”, so here are a few tips and tricks from some everyday experience that might come in handy while setting priorities, without stressing excessively:

 

  • skim through the unread emails, from oldest to newest, without stopping at the first issue;
  • as you skim through, it’s a good idea to mark as read the messages which do not need your attention at all and to archive them in sub-folders in your inbox: this could be a reply from a translator or a simple “Thank you” from a client confirming safe receipt of an earlier delivery;
  • as for the other messages, it is important to quickly understand what is needed from you: it could be a new project, a complaint from a client, a technical issue on a freelancer’s side, etc. You may find flagging each email with a different colour helpful in this phase.

 

A new project from a top-client will not always need to take priority over a translator’s delivery: everything depends on context, and context is ever changing. If the translator’s delivery must reach the reviewer within 10 minutes, then you have your first priority of the day. A client’s complaint is indeed a top-priority, but a quick, stressful-driven reply might mean making a bigger mistake in the long run. Do not rush on anything, you know exactly what to do: “don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day”?

 

Get yourself organised!

Song No. 2, With a little help from my friends (The Beatles – Across the Universe version)

You have set out your priorities, all you need to do now is to get down to work. Project Managers are never alone, they can rely on the help of colleagues, translators, clients or technicians; but sometimes the PM’s best friends are just some cold-blooded tools and software:

 

  • get yourself organised and store any relevant information in your TMS straight away;
  • do not wait until the last minute to issue a PO to a vendor: TMS are a PM’s best friends, and if you issue POs as you enter new tasks, this will take you less than 30 seconds. The same task might take ages if you wait until the end of the project, as you will have to trace back all the details and information to finally close the project;
  • use unique project IDs: do not start a new e-mail if there has been a previous conversation with either the client or the vendor; always be clear and concise and store everything under the same project ID.

 

Things do not always go as planned…

Song No. 3, I’m going slightly mad (Queen)

You may have managed to plan things ahead of time “with a little help from your friends”, but there is always some unexpected issue coming your way, no matter how big or small. “It finally happened, you’re slightly mad”, but still:

 

  • do not panic: as mentioned earlier, context is ever changing. You may have planned everything down to the smallest detail, but like a house of cards, if one small piece is nudged out of place, all the rest can potentially collapse;
  • priorities need to be re-set, and even if you can count on somebody’s help, the final responsibility is all yours. Take a deep breath, go have a coffee or a walk to clear your mind and only get back to work once you’ve done so. The biggest mistake is to feel chained to your chair, as if taking a break is the worst thing you can do. It is quite the opposite, actually.

 

 

At the end of the day you just need some motivation.

Song No. 4, Simply the best (Tina Turner)

You feel like you have been on a “highway to hell” all day, your line-manager asked you not to “look back in anger” at a vendor who really got on your nerves, you wish you had “eight days a week” to run through the tasks added to your agenda and you just feel “jaded”.

 

This is the moment when you need some motivation. There is always that one song that keeps you going, that one song that gives you the adrenaline to get your act together. In moments of pure and deep work-related stress, I found that hearing someone say to me that I am “better than all the rest” (as silly as it sounds) is motivation enough for me.

Any song works, you just need to find that one song that is right for you, and as soon as you put the headphones on… it’s a kind of magic!

 

 

 

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Daniela D’Amato – Operations Manager at Creative Words, she loves the world of Localization almost as much as she loves music. While looking out for new challenges, she never leaves anything to chance and keeps everything (and everyone) under control.

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"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."   Nelson Mandela


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