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Watery Lessons in Project Management
By Thomas Cutting

Me and my daughters were having contests to see who could make it across the pool underwater without surfacing. That hit pretty close to some of the projects I have been on. What I observed was:

Disorientation. Once under water your senses diminish. Your eyesight becomes limited and your ears are muffled. You think you are heading in the right direction but end up arcing away from the target. In the middle of a project your focus can wander from your objectives, flooded by the Olympic sized pool full of meetings, tasks, resources, activities and all the other objects floating around you.

Go back and revisit your project charter. Look at what you promised the business. Are you still on track? Are you delivering what you said you would? Is your critical path backing up? Check your meetings to see if they are killing time or being productive. Swimming faster won’t help until you get your project pointed in the right direction.

Urge to Quit. While trying to cover the widest length of the pool, I found myself despairing over the distance and wanting to give up. I took two more strokes and realized I could finally see the end. I kicked through and made it all the way.

I’ve bumped into a couple of project managers lately that are wondering if it is time to find another job. Frankly, if the economy was better, they probably would have been gone by now.

If you haven’t already, create your own personal list of tasks and see how far you have to swim. Then, set closer goals. Fight the urge to quit and take it one stroke at a time.

Catch your Breath. At the end of the day, it is only a job. I spent over two hours in the pool horsing around with my daughters. In the greater scheme of life, that was by far more important than the two hours I spent answering work related emails. Go ahead. Take time to catch your breath before diving back in.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge ( 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 (

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