Zen? And Project Management?

Zen? And Project Management?

“Zen and the Art of Project Management.” Not an original thought. Not even an original title. But it’s a glorious October Sunday evening and I am sitting on the front porch watching the last light hit the turning leaves before it goes behind the brow of the hilltop I live below. Right now there is nothing to manage except completing this short beginning note and I’m doing my best to give it my full attention. A Zenny occasion if ever there was one.

Paying 100% attention to anything isn’t easy, even this. My wife is asking me if I’m ready for supper. The beagle is trying to eat the napkin from my¬†pre-meal snack. A couple of neighbors passed by a moment ago and beeped the horn, so I couldn’t help but wave at them.

Our work as project managers is the same way, only much more so. 100 things at once clamor for our attention, yet the human mind is only capable of dealing with one thing at a time. Even those who claim to be multi-taskers are really rapidly switching between tasks, not actually attending to them simultaneously.

I believe that the more we are able to single-task, the more quality we’re able to bring to our work and the less stress we add to it. I also believe that as we are single-tasking, it’s vital to do so with great concentration and a loose hold at the same time. If our grasp is loose, it’ll be much easier to change direction when a pressing demand–the unanticipated scope change, the last-minute crunch meeting–arises, as it inevitably will.

What I’m talking about here are the qualities of presence–single-tasking with full concentration–and non-attachment–holding loosely to the matter at hand. It’s paradoxical, but mastering these qualities–not that I have–can mean the difference between working effectively and freaking out, or giving up.

I think now I’ll go meditate on dinner. It’s steak night.

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