Struggling with managing your projects, clients, and teams? Productivity Coach and Asana Certified Pro, Sarah Ohanesian, founder of SO Productive, on how you can get more done and feel better about yourself with smart project management.
Hosted by Grant Crowell, the creator of Youisms.
Hear from Sarah Ohanesian with Grant Crowell, Host of Youisms. Different Games for Different Brains on this LinkedIn Live. For more from Grant, check him out on his Youtube channel or connect on LinkedIn.
Transcript of the LinkedIn Live
Please excuse any transcript typos since this came from a live conversation.
And here we are! Hello LinkedIn mates and anyone else who is skipping their lunch just for us, at least I hope so.
I am Grant Crowell, your creative learning facilitator twisted wordsmith, and your LinkedIn live lunch break, depending on where you are. So this show is called Youisms. Youisms is communication games for different brains. It’s where we invite a special guest in their field of expertise and passion and wonderful experiences, where we take a work frustration, and we find the word creation to turn it into a possible business solution and have some fun and laughs along the way. And my guest today is also a friend of mine who I’ve known for some while on the subject of productivity and project management.
Because I like project management but sometimes it just really sucks. And I do that because I said when you don’t know where to start, other people avoid it or other people don’t really understand how to do that and they can use a helping hand. So today I have Sarah Ohanesian and I know I pronounced it wrong, she will correct me. That is a very important thing to do on The Youism Show where you get to have a say. And by that I mean, you also get to join us live on webcam. If you want to. You can put your questions in the live space they show up here for our guests, Sarah, you know, I should just simply bring Sarah up on screen. That’s kind of an important thing to do. Sarah All right,
And how are you?
I am incredibly average, I got my second Pfizer shot and I still feel around a lymph node here. But I don’t know if that counts as too much as TMI in the business casual space. All righty. Oh, good. That’s how I am. How are you doing? Sarah?
I am great. And don’t worry about my name. I say if you say, “Sarah O,” that’s me. I respond. It is “Oh-han-e-sen.” But no stress about that.
Well, okay, we are going to go right into something that I think is important. And that’s a topic of burnout. Because you talked about it with me earlier on your favorite, your twisted word, which we’re going to get to and it reminded me of this article that I’m going to share here that actually just appeared in The Guardian today. And this was on burnout and called is the exhausted call to productivity finally over and I read it and I found it really interesting about how it was a common should talk about the hustle culture or something really interesting where people could make you think that if you’re working for a purpose for another company, that somehow that should be your identity so we can get you to work a lot more hours. And now we just call it work life. But when your work is your identity, is that really a distinction? Does that become a kind of burnout especially when companies expect you to be working 100 120 hours crazy but Goldman Sachs in its article is talking about? Well, we installed in our washer and dryer for our young executives so they never have to leave the office. And I think this is just crazy. And people were coming out with words like family money or the idea of Oh, a company is like family. No, I’m sorry, a company fires you, and a family rarely fires you. So I thought this is a little strange, but it’s also the idea of people leaving their workspace and wind to find something with a purpose especially around COVID where they feel like and make a difference. Now where I think this comes interesting where Sarah can come out or can come to talk with us and especially in the realm of project management is this subject is being a burnt a Holic
Sarah, tell us what is a “burn-out-aholic?”
Yeah, so I actually came up with this term with our mutual friend Jeff Gibbard. And we were just talking about this concept of how burnout is so relevant in the workplace, we are stressed we are burned out we are working all of the time. And I said you know in a way I feel like in my past career, I was a “burned-out-a-holic” I felt like it was okay. Just a little bit more if I just stay at the office a little bit later. You know, these are things that are really detrimental to our overall health. And when I thought about it, I was like, I’m kind of addicted to being busy. And that’s leading me to being burned out all of the time. And truthfully, I loved what I was doing, I had a really wonderful career that I enjoyed, which is kind of where that term came to be, you know, I, I’m loving this, but I can’t get enough of this, I can’t stop working.
In a way doesn’t, it sounds like, I mean, addiction is something you typically enjoy. I mean, sure, there can be cases where you don’t, and you just have feel like it’s otherwise you go through whatever withdrawal, but what you’re talking about, is, you love what you’re doing. But somehow it takes away from other things that should be there should be a priority. But you also love that. You know, you probably shouldn’t be working as much as you are like, there’s an awareness, but you really can’t stop.
I can’t stop. And that’s interesting because I think we’re gonna see is short term, it feels fun long term, where are your priorities, but also in the sense of things you also want to do and wind up in the only if, or maybe when that feeling is attached to something that’s external, like working for another company, what happens if you get fired, but I think there’s the other type of burnt-out-a-holic, which is, go go go, let me add more things, or I’m spending all day on email. Or I feel like if I add more tasks, then the more I have to do, the more important or the more value that I have for myself, not just what I want the company to see of me. But I think on the other side of that is, well, can you just see everything you have, prioritize, and then are organized and decide what do I need to do now? And what do I need to do next? And that probably is where project management comes in.
So as, as someone who is a productivity coach, and you’re also certified in Asana, project management, which I use and really enjoy my team, he says, Tell me Tell us, why is project management important? What exactly is that compared to just other things you got to do in the workplace to be organized?
Well, I think though, the issue is, all the other things you have to do can get in the way of your major projects. So it’s really a great point to start with. Because our email can often be confused with our to-do lists, we open our email and think, Oh, those are all the things I need to take care of right away. Today, they’re feeling very urgent, but they’re not necessarily important. So when you have the ability to manage your projects, well, you can really lay them out clearly. So that these other tasks, these other emails, or slack or text messages, these things that are coming in are really just distractions from your bigger projects. So what I recommend to people is setting your priorities, knowing what projects are on your plate, what you can accomplish, and then breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. That’s really fundamentally what project management is. So often, we get kind of twisted with, oh, these big, big projects, and I’m overwhelmed. And there’s all these things I have to do. When you start to break it down into simpler tasks, you start to see, oh, I can accomplish this actually, in the next few minutes I can I can work towards this larger goal. So project management is so important because we have to be able to take big concepts, big goals, big ideas, and break them down into smaller pieces. The other big part of this is that we have start dates, end dates, and we’re assigning these tasks to a particular person, even if that’s ourselves. So that’s kind of overall project management concept there. But why it’s so important.
So it’s a way of kind of pausing to see, what’s our goals? How do we get there? Now based on Okay, we have the strategy. Now let’s organize ourselves into what are all the tasks, what’s the workstream or workstreams, who does what and when, and if, and what some things are dependent on and project management can be simple. I mean, it doesn’t even have to be something that requires a computer, although it’s a nice idea. But maybe you have a really large whiteboard and a bunch of sticky notes. There’s what you do for yourself that works. And I think it’s just a matter of what’s effective for you. I think the challenge becomes more of also when you have to work with other people, whether our clients or their colleagues, and maybe their brains work differently, or they’re not used to that of working a certain way that requires project management. Some people might be Go, go, go, go go. And that was maybe their old job. Now they have to get in a way where they actually have to think about what they’re doing and communicating with other people. So they don’t overlap or some people do the same thing. My question from that is some project management I can say sucks. Part of it is maybe it’s not the right tool, or maybe people really don’t know how to do project management and it can end up being more causing more problems or people some people are just stuck on email. It’s almost like you have to duplicate the work to be in a second space.
So let me ask you this, when does project management when can it actually suck, when can it be harmful rather than helpful and make things worse for people?
Yeah, well, I can suck, it can, it can start to suck quite quickly. It doesn’t take a long time. But basically, when it sucks is when things are unclear when projects are unclear when tasks are unclear, the people involved with the project aren’t really sure what they’re supposed to do next. So what do they do? They procrastinate. And so they say, I’ll work on that later, I’ll work on that after lunch, I’ll work on that when I don’t have a headache. Whatever it is, they find excuses for the reason that they’re not going to work on that particular task. And it’s most of the time, people don’t want to procrastinate, no one wants to be a procrastinator. But what I found is they tend to procrastinate when they are unclear on what the task actually is. So project management is really just a way to break down these larger projects into tasks that makes sense to people. The other thing that I say is, when things are vague, it really does paralyze us, and we’re not sure what to do. So tasks that are part of a larger project should be actionable. And that’s something people miss, often, if I have a bunch of tasks I’m supposed to complete, but I don’t have the tools or the resources or the skill set to complete them. I’m never going to get those tasks done. And so as managers and as people on teams, it’s really important that if I give you a task grant that I know you can, you have the ability to execute on that task, otherwise, I’m really setting you up for failure. Nobody likes that I’m gonna feel bad, you’re gonna feel worse. And so that’s really when project management can suck. As
Let’s say you’re talking about giving me a task. Alright. Well, that’s a really good point. And I’ve noticed some people that they might fall into the role, but they don’t really have an understanding of how to do the role. Like, I remember, when I might be given a really large Excel spreadsheet. And then there’s not even a column for notes. It’s just okay, you do this. And I’m asking, Well, what is this about? And someone says, I’m just doing what I’m told. So that’s not project management. That’s just make creating anxiety. And I think that’s a really good point is, can the person do this stuff? Is there a way also to have a conversation around that particular item? I don’t mean like emails back and forth, especially with people who aren’t part of that, but something directly around the tasks that’s assigned. And is it? Is it also manageable? Or is it also something that maybe you can say, Well, I can’t do it this time, I have all these other things going. So part of seeing the larger picture, because you’re right, I do see that sometimes things aren’t really tasks, they’re just plopped on there, like as a post-it. And I’ve also seen people that don’t even use Asana for projects, they just use it as a dumping ground. Like, here’s my backlog, and everyone else in the team has to see that.
for sure. I mean, one of the things that I say all the time is, I think the forward button on email should be removed. Because what happens is I get an email that I don’t really want to deal with. So I forward it to someone, and then I think, Oh, it’s off my plate now. Now, I forwarded it to Grant now he has to deal with it. And I think the same thing happens within product project management tools as well, I assigned it to someone so it’s off my plate. And that’s not really effective communication or project management.
That’s a good point. And it’s, it’s sometimes it’s just the, I’m forwarding you, my stress is what I want to say, yeah. My stress,
I don’t want to do.
It’s like and, and I see all kinds of ways that people think they’re doing project management. And when all they’re doing is they’re adding noise, like somebody might even add a chat space, say, Oh, I need to do all these 10 things, or they might be in a meeting and think that’s project management. And I’ll give an audible Ryan a spot. And sometimes it’s a challenge when there isn’t a dedicated project manager, or there aren’t people, it doesn’t necessarily have to have someone who’s always a project manager, sometimes it’s you. Or sometimes it’s part of a small team, and you have to delegate, but it does seem like sometimes, a lot of people need help, whether they’re just for themselves as solo, or it’s part of their responsibilities.
So this is where I want to ask Sarah O., where do you come in, like weird? Where do you come in when a company or an individual says, I need help with project management? To help me I don’t want to be a burnt-out-a-holic. Exactly.
Well, the biggest time that people tend to hire me is when they’re struggling, right? So hopefully, we can be proactive and you can bring me on your team so you never get to this point of stress, burnout, and overwhelm. Unfortunately, a lot of people are there right now. So companies will hire me when they’re, you know, they’re paying for a software like Asana. And they’re saying we’ve been paying for this every month and half our teams using it. Some of them aren’t using it at all. We didn’t really get a lot of buy-ins. So that’s when I can come in and help companies And really turn these systems around for them. If you’re paying for a software, by all means, let me help you get your team to actually be using it and using it efficiently. So that’s really one way. Another great time is when you’re thinking about setting up a productivity system, thinking about onboarding a new tool, and it’s especially important also when your business is scaling. So I work with a lot of businesses that are small, and they’re, they’re kind of medium, and now they’re getting to be bigger businesses. That’s really when processes procedure and project management is more important than ever, you know, we’ve really seen a lot of undermanagement happening. And I always say, if you’re about to hire someone new on your team, it’s really critical that you’re able to manage that person and manage them well. So systems processes and definitely project management tools can help with that. Because, you know, people need to be managed. So that’s really a time when businesses can work with me.
That’s good. So let’s just say you’re in a typical scenario, where you’re just starting to work with a business. What do you find? as an expert? You see companies need the moat, or entrepreneurs need the most help, initially, like if somebody you want to, like prepare them early on, are their typical mistakes, assumptions, you know, people are off the bat, they might have assumptions about what they need to do. We’re, what do you usually see that you have to fix?
Yeah, well, one of the things that I definitely think is pretty uniform, is that people don’t write down their process and procedure. So they’ll say we always do this, well, that is a great thing to write down, I send out quick wins in my emails on Fridays, and the one I had last week was very actually fundamental, but it is what is a system. Because a system is really just writing down a process that you are going to repeat, then you have a system for it, if you’ve done it twice, and you’re good at it, you probably have a system, I have a system for how I buy my groceries, right. So having these systems is something that I often see missed, the companies really have them, or they wouldn’t be as successful as they are, but they haven’t written them down. So what happens is, when they have another project come in, you might do it one way, I might do it another and it’s really inefficient. Also, you might miss something or something might fall through the cracks. So one of the first steps I do with companies is to help them develop that procedure, this is how we’re going to do this, and then use a tool like Asana to help them clone that process and do it over and over and over again, it makes them more efficient, it makes them look great to their clients, and really nothing’s gonna fall through the cracks. And it reduces the amount of communication between team members that need to happen because we’re being more consistent. So that’s one of the things I see really across the board.
It seems like people just need to dedicate time without distractions, to thinking about what do they do. And I couldn’t agree more myself, sometimes I’ll mindmap things out. Because I’m that’s just a representation of a central idea. And when you have all these ideas about what could be happening, you feel comfortable with where the offshoot and then you can build connections later on. But then it’s about quantity over quality or thinking that things have to be exactly in order, right from the start. And I think that’s where people get stressed out. And I agree, I think if people who are working on a team, they write out their systems, and then they have to be able to communicate this. Ideally, they can show this and if you’re working virtually, you can show things on a shared zoom call or whatever your shared chat is. So it’s more like show, not just tell and if you can answer questions, it will make you think about how to explain things better because there’s what you know, but there’s the communication aspect so that other people don’t become a burnt-out-a-holic or they get messy tasking where they’re busy doing the wrong things because that’s the other part. You could be efficient with certain tasks, but you’re not effective. If those aren’t the tasks that need to be done or you’re a burnt-out-a-holic, if you have no more energy rested day, because you mean that’s the other part. It’s its energy. And when what gives you energy, there’s passion, but it’s also you can love what you do and still feel really burnt out by it. That’s, that’s unavoidable. So I want to just share with people now you got some goodies we got, we got some goodies here. This is the talk. Let’s put the link up here for people to get this free guide talks about this free guide 10 questions to ask when setting priorities.
Yeah, and it’s I see this, this is really probably the thing I hear more than anything else is I have so much to do, but I can’t get anything done. So I say what did you do all day? Well, I had 500 emails today. Okay. Well, part of the problem is we’re getting sucked into these things we think we’re supposed to do and our priorities are really going by the wayside. Or we don’t know what our priorities are in the first place. So this is a guide I created. It’s 10 very simple questions that you can add. So when something new comes across your plate, you can quickly scan this guide and say, Oh, nope, yep, nope. Okay, that is not a priority, or Yes, it is a priority. This aligns with my bigger goals, this is going to advance my career, this is something I have the tools to to actually accomplish. So these are ways that you can just sort through because there’s so much coming at you all the time. And you know, a lot of us are people pleasers, we want to say yes to everything. This is a way to help you kind of figure out what you need to say no to. So that’s a great resource.
I’ve also put up you have a space where people can reach out to you for some consulting, let’s check. Let’s switch it to your contact area. People can schedule a call, he got a pretty handy, you got your coaching sessions, you got a productivity Power Hour, let me change this to here. I want to hear about that. So I’m going to switch it to here. Yes. What’s a productivity power hour?
Well, again, a lot of people say they don’t have time to get anything done. I also say to people, have you blocked out time on your schedule to work on those priorities? Well, no, I have not. That’s the answer, I guess. So Productivity Power hours are kind of a very, it’s a very simple concept. But it’s one that blocks time on your schedule physically. So when you book a productivity Power Hour, you’re committed you pay for it. It is non-refundable. It goes on your calendar. And you also tell me, what are you going to work on during that time, and then I help hold you accountable to it. So very simple concept. But it’s one that I just hear from people again and again, that they’re not taking time to work on their priority. So this is a way to help you block out that time.
I mean, I look at this and it’s like what I would see at a gym, if there was a trainer or peloton and here’s, you know what you’re going to get. And here I mean, you’re in a way this is managing what the steps are going to be for someone while they’re learning project management, at least while they’re learning how to be productive. I mean, project management is one type of productivity, but it seems to me like it’s about focus, it’s about taking your passions, and now putting them in a zone. And ideally working with a coach. Yes, making sure you’re staying true. And that’s just like a coach, whether it’s a tennis coach, you know, there’s so many you can be a great, great player, but they can see things that you can’t or they I mean, they are looking at you It’s very, you can’t really look at yourself. And I can see these things have been incredibly helpful for people. And I mean making productivity fun. You also are as far as our good friend, Jeff Gilbert’s superhero Institute, Hero council podcast, and they’re so productive. Tell us about that.
So this is so much fun. We livestream it and then it gets turned into a podcast after it’s every Monday at 2 pm, which you can find right here. Also on LinkedIn, it is great. We have four different people with four different backgrounds and perspectives on business. We are all entrepreneurs. So we talk about running businesses, leadership, marketing, sales, productivity, of course, working with clients, we’re addressing all these different business topics. But again, coming at it from four different perspectives, because we’ve all worked with these issues in different ways. And so we have great conversations, sometimes we have guests, and very similar to what we’re doing now you can ask questions right in the comments, and we’ll get back to you live. So it’s really, really fun and color format.
Well, that’s all really good stuff I love. I’m biased because I’ve listened to a few shows of it already. And I think part of this is the idea of having fun, or find the fun even in things that may not necessarily be fun now, but I think that’s where you turn your struggles into a game just like where we have the idea of come up with a word to name your struggles, it will give you a laugh, it will put you in a better mood of energy, you can talk about it. And you can even come up with it’s a fun way of having a growth mindset. Think of solutions to the problems you have and like playful mindfulness. So now I have, we’re coming, we’re winding down to the half-hour, I have my twisted word for this. Based on project management that sucks it is called task call. A task call is someone who loves to assign you stuff never explains themselves sometimes really doesn’t even know what you do doesn’t pay attention to what you already have on your schedule and priorities. Many things that make them seem like they are not the best type of colleague, or maybe the best type of client or maybe the best type of person to work with if they just like throw them out like candy because they want to feel important or maybe it’s something that they should be doing themselves or find out is this for you. So that to me is a task call. So that’s my rant is Don’t be a task Hall. Also, don’t be a burden to Holic. It’s like, be a master Tasker work with or someone like Sarah, I mean, just talk with you. Sometimes it’s good people are just able to talk. And I think you make people think about things that they haven’t thought about, but in a way that makes them feel, oh, I have the energy to do this now, because you’re also very supportive. You’re not like a stodgy. You gotta do this, you have an excitement about what people are going to be able to do and grow. And I think that is really great. So I think, what is one final thought you might want to leave for people? And maybe that is, of course, that relates to project management productivity and how not to be a burnt-out—holic? Yeah,
well, another thing I hear a lot is that people feel as if they should do so many things. So the word should that can be very harmful. I feel like I should do this, I feel like I should make a healthy organic, carb-free dinner, I feel like I should learn Japanese, I feel like I should learn salsa dancing, like all of these things that we think we need to be doing or we need to be perfect at, we need to get all these projects done at work. And can be really harmful. So I really try to encourage people when they say I should be doing this, I say why, why should you be doing that? And do you need to be doing that? And so I really encourage people listening today to just evaluate, you know, what are you doing? And why are you doing it? And can anyone do that besides you? And that’s where you might want to work with a coach to kind of get through those things, but just really evaluate how much you should be doing and how much of that you’re putting on yourself because you might be taking on more than you need to be making things you know, too hard, too hard on yourself. We have a lot going on.
That’s a good point. You should didn’t be too hard on yourself. And I think, you know, in my closing, it’s the words we choose affect our perception of ourselves. And I think it’s really important to think of, like you said, instead of saying should that maybe there could be a better thing that puts you in a positive light I the answer isn’t to look at yourself negatively. It’s like don’t take being a burnt-out-a-holic as a badge of honor. It’s more of being better to yourself and you’ll be better at other people and you will actually get stuff done so you’ll have more time for the things you love and the people you love. And that would seem to me like a good master task. And so in closing, for anyone who is watching this on the replay, please include your questions in the comment space and Sara or myself like to just make something up but I wouldn’t be very good to help you with Project Management Sarah and we can get back to you with an answer because we know people are busy it’s lunch break dinner break. It might even be LinkedIn after dark for you. But once again want to remind people to check out Sarah’s free guide to many things to do the 10 steps to ask when setting priorities and I have that right here I do have that there we go there’s the link right there whoo Thank you stream yard my nice little LinkedIn program SO Productive calm priorities. Do check Sarah, her energy is vibrant. It is something that you will just enjoy. Listen to the show. Thank you very much for being my guest on Youisms Communication Games for Different Brains. This has been fun.
Thank you, Grant. It’s been a blast. And I love you all of your youisms. Um, they’ve helped me so much. And I love your book as well. So thank you for being a good friend.
Thank you. I do have a book called Grant Essence. Twisted credit words are cool people and Sarah is definitely a cool person. Bye, y’all. Signing out.
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