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Decisions, Outcomes, and the Project Manager
By Thomas Cutting

I bolted awake at 5:11 this morning…heart pounding, mind racing…to the sound of rain. Living in Southern California, it isn’t a sound I hear all that often, but it is one that strikes fear into my heart. Lest one think that I suffer from Ombrophobia, I actually enjoy a good rain storm. I miss the huge thunderstorms we had growing up south of Buffalo, NY. My true fear of rain rises from the list of my belongings sitting outside that are not intended to get wet.

Today it was the seat from our van, removed a month ago to make traveling easier for my daughter and her sprained ankle. Originally placed in the garage, it was sitting, exposed, on the patio where she had dragged it to sit in the sun.

It was indeed an “Oh [INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE]!” moment. Your mind, body and soul leave their peaceful ignorance and arrive, adrenaline pumping, heart stopping, in total awareness. I’ve had a few of those moments:

  • Calculating the cost of sending my daughter to college next year
  • Reading the scale the last time I weighed myself
  • Opening the email telling me my team lied to me
  • Checking the deadline on the project
  • Getting called in to your manager’s office on the day they announce layoffs

I was reminded again that these moments are the result of choices we make every day. It usually isn’t the big decisions that trip us up. We tend to put a lot of thought into those. It is the little ones that nail us.

How many times did I walk by that seat and think, “That needs to be put back in the van” and did nothing about it? How many pieces of chocolate did I eat between Thanksgiving and New Years? Why didn’t I put either the dog or the garbage out before leaving the house?

Those haunting questions have driven me to take the Choice Challenge. By following these 5 steps, I predict you can drastically reduce your number of “those” moments.

  1. Establish Priorities. Without priorities, nothing is important. You may think it is the opposite (i.e. everything becomes important), but life doesn’t work that way.
  2. Define Achievements. Set bench marks for yourself and head toward something. All great non-goal examples begin “perhaps this is the year I will…” or “wouldn’t it be amazing if….” Drop the “perhaps” and dreaming pieces and establish some real goals.

    Having a happy, involved, and loving family would be a great achievement. Is it something you are going to leave to chance or are you willing to work at it?

  3. Recognize Your Choices. When your phone rings, you have a choice: interrupt what I am doing or allow the caller to leave a message. Your reaction to a situation or individual is a choice: do I immediately yell and throw a fit or take time to plan my revenge… I mean response? Should I watch reruns on TV or work on my book?

    Waiting until after you have eaten a candy bar to think about your diet doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve been there.

  4. Evaluate each Choice against your Priorities and Achievements. Many things are not bad, they just don’t get you where you need to go. Doing your timesheet is a good thing, unless you have a Director waiting for a report. Staying late at work to get ahead is great, unless it is your anniversary and your wife is waiting for you.

  5. Make the right choice. Nine times out of ten you know what the right thing to do is. Have the courage and strength to pull the trigger on the right choice. You could avoid having another “Oh…” moment.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge (http://www.cuttingsedge.com/) and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (http://cuttingsedgepm.blogspot.com).

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