I spent a very long time, writing down the tasks I wanted to do each day in a notebook as the main part of my workflow routine for a long time. I finally realized a few things one day that made me question my approach. I would forget to do things that I have to do on a regular basis, and there was a lot of chance in my approach which assumed I would remember everything. [Read more…]
One of the challenges I hear about from a lot of engineers is how to stay focused when there are so many distractions vying for their bandwidth. I can relate, the same problem exists for me! I think that any engineering professional today is going to have to come up with ways to protect their “space” so that they can generate quality focus time on the tasks before them. This is really important for doing work that requires the minds full engagement. I remember doing design work early in my engineering career and how frustrated I would become when I was interrupted by a phone call or someone stopping by to chat. It became even worse when later in my career when I sat in a cubicle farm. Trying to concentrate on writing a report or putting a presentation together with ringing phones, conversations all around and unfettered access to anyone walking by nearly drove me insane. So how do you create the space necessary to be focused?
Before I get into the five things you can do to increase focus in your engineering career I have to ask: do you want to increase your focus? I ask this because some of these suggestions will require you to not be immediately responsive to another person’s desire to communicate with you. You may also have to learn how to tell people “no” when they want to stop by to chat. And you will also need to train yourself to be focused on single tasks. If you’re willing and able, then here are the five things you can do to increase focus in your engineering career: [Read more…]
There is a stereotype in the engineering world that I would like to disprove and that is, to be successful in your engineering and project management efforts you have to work a TON of hours. I think this is totally false, and I think that this stereotype is causing a lot of engineering and project management professionals to burn out.
I recently had a discussion with a very successful engineering company owner and he actually told me that he tries to do the opposite. He hires really good staff, so that he can work less and enjoy life more. Yes, he actually said that.
I believe that one way to improve the quality of your engineering and project management work is to work less. Yes, work less. Here are 5 reasons/steps why and how you can improve your engineering and project management work by working less.
Normally I end my articles with a quote, but this time I’m starting with one instead. We’re focusing on, well, focus this month. This quote does an awesome job of reminding us of the importance of prioritization in our lives. Most days we’ll have a challenging or tough task that we need to accomplish. When one of these is on our task list, Twain’s reminding us to knock-it-out immediately.
When we do the hard stuff first thing in the morning, every other task we have to deal with becomes easier. I believe there are two reasons for this:
- We’re rested and better able to concentrate on tasks/matters that require our full mental attention and energy.
- Emotionally, once the hard stuff is done, everything else is a cakewalk in comparison.
Boosting Your Focus
I am a fast mover to say the least, and over the past few years, I think this has hurt me some. Don’t get me wrong, I get a lot of stuff done; however, I think at times I rush decisions just to keep a fast pace, and some of those decisions don’t best contribute to my goals.
To remedy this, as of recently, I have started to attend a lot of in-person conferences and training events. In a short time, this has proved to be career and life changing. While the events have contained some very valuable learning sessions, most of the big takeaways for me have come from conversations with successful people. Here are some lessons I have learned about learning, and most importantly about applying what I have learned: [Read more…]
This is totally understandable. Our job as engineers, from a technical standpoint, is to make sure that all of the details are addressed. Not doing so could potentially result in catastrophic failures. The challenge becomes avoiding that mindset in our career- and personal-development efforts when it will hurt us.
Examples of Thinking Small [Read more…]
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I often write about efficiency and productivity in the workplace, as I believe lack of these things is the leading cause of engineers working too many hours.
I believe that one of the most important aspects of being productive is the ability to focus for a long period of time, which can be difficult in a world full of distractions. Two different systems allow me to sharpen my focus, work more productively and generate high-quality results.
First, I set aside a certain time of the day or week to do certain tasks. For example, I usually write blog posts early Friday morning, at 5:30 a.m. By doing this consistently, I know that that is my time to write and only write. I focus intently on that task and don’t let anything else get in the way. [Read more…]
I recently read a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The book details the daily routines of the most successful authors, screenwriters, and painters of all time. One of the recurring themes for most of the artists in the book was that they did their most productive work before noon. Some of them would write 3,000 words before lunchtime, then they would spend the rest of the day relaxing, exercising, or gallivanting out on the town.
Yet most engineers I know today spend the mornings checking e-mail, making phone calls, or participating in unproductive meetings. I understand, because this is what I did as an engineer. Now, I am not trying to compare engineers to writers—the workplace settings are certainly different—but my goal in this post is to give you a strategy to be more productive in the morning and subsequently overall in your approach.
Your Preparation [Read more…]
JULY 2014 UPDATE: Since I wrote this post in October of 2013, the feedback from engineers has been amazing. This is a very long post that is meant to help you throughout your engineering career, so please bookmark this page. I have also created the following table of contents to make it easy for you to read about the topics you most need help on at this time. The original post begins immediately after the following table of contents:
The Engineer Career Guide
The One Thing You Must Do Before Developing Your Non-Technical Skills
Video 1: Setting Clearly Defined Goals
Video 2: Obtaining the Right Credentials in Your Engineering Career
Video 3: Finding a Mentor
Video 4: Become an Effective Communicator
Video 5: Networking/Building Relationships
Video 6: Being Organized and Productive
Video 7: Develop Your Leadership Abilities
Developing my non-technical skills while practicing engineering was one of the best things I have ever done in my engineering career and life. Since I started Powerful Purpose Associates in May of 2009:
- My ability to set clear goals has helped me to understand that my mission was and is to inspire engineers.
- Obtaining the right credentials in my engineering career as well as my coaching career has helped me to be able to rapidly advance my career and grow my business.
- Finding a mentor was a key component for me being able to become a partner at the age of 27 in a reputable engineering firm.
- Improving my communication skills has allowed me to write daily and weekly e-mails to engineers that inspire them to grow personally and professionally. They have also helped me write my book Engineer Your Own Success.
- Improving my public speaking skills has afforded me the opportunity to present in front of over 5,000 engineers, many of whom have told me that my talk changed their lives.
- Developing my networking skills has allowed me to build relationships that have brought me so many of the opportunities mentioned above and also so many rewarding friendships.
- Increasing my productivity has allowed me to develop Engineering Management Institute (ECC) brand and The Engineering Mastermind community, now serving thousands of engineers every day — including two podcasts that have been downloaded over 1.5 million times.
- Developing my leadership abilities has given me the confidence to start to coach engineers one on one and subsequently start my podcast, where I coach them on the air.
Most importantly, developing my non-technical skills has enabled me to build stronger relationships with my audience – much stronger than I could ever have done if I failed to focus on my own personal development, like many engineers do. The phrases that engineers use when they describe their experience with my coaching or one of my seminars include: [Read more…]
This is a guest post by Githal Pathirana.
Managing projects in any industry is a challenge. Project managers must have the ability to listen thoroughly, think quickly, and delegate properly, all while
tracking results and making necessary adjustments. To say it requires a level-headed person capable of organized multi-tasking is an understatement. A project manager in the engineering industry has the extra challenges of dealing with creative minds that tend to wander as well as those who aren’t necessarily creative, the minds that can get specific jobs done on time but don’t always think outside the box. A successful project manager in the engineering industry will tell you there are five requirements for success in the field. This are especially important to understand and start to implement for those of you currently experiencing a design engineer to manager transition.
Without a solid plan, nothing gets started, much less done. Determine the overall goal, and then break that goal down into parts. Study and research each element, including cost, of each part of the plan. After all, the ultimate goal is a plan that will lead to a finished project on time and within budget. List materials needed and look into what skilled expertise will be required for each step in the process, again including cost, from A to Z.
After laying out a plan, a good project manager will set that plan on a schedule. Of course, most projects take longer than expected due to an incredible number of issues, but a project manager who understands the parts of the plan will be able to craft a reasonable schedule that shouldn’t leave the project running too absurdly late. A project manager constantly unable to meet reasonable goals won’t be a project manager very long. [Read more…]