The Most Popular Project Management Hacks Articles of 2016


A news screen at the gym informed me that there are less than 30 hours left to go in 2016! In that spirit, it’s time for me to write my final article of the year.

I’m going to revisit the most popular articles of the year. All of these articles attracted over 2,000 readers this calendar year. It’s great to see that many articles in the archives continue to attract attention including a few from 2014. I still remember the urge to create the business after reading “The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss for the second time.

As I write this entry, I’m currently reading “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferriss. It’s outstanding and one of my favorite Christmas gifts.

1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Meetings

This is my most popular blog post of all time. It lays out exactly how to get the most out of meetings as an attendee and as the chair person.

I was inspired to write the article as I reflected on a terrible corporate meeting I had one Friday afternoon that just kept going and going!

2. Project Manager Salary: 4 Key Insights To Earn $100,000 Per Year

Many readers are interested in earning more money as a project manager. This article answers tells how to put the odds in your favor to earn $100,000 per year in project management.

Here’s the bad news from the research: you are unlikely to earn over $100,000 until you have ten years of experience. What if you’re determined to get there faster? Well, read the article to find out more!

3. Conflict Management Techniques From the PMBOK Guide

What comes to mind when you think about conflict? For me, the first mental image is war. Fortunately, conflict in the workplace doesn’t take the form of bullets for most of us.

In this article, I explain the fundamental techniques for managing conflicts. As project managers, you are changing  the organization. That will upset some people! That’s why you need to develop conflict management skills.

4. 6 Steps To Successful Vendor Management

As a project manager, you will end up working with vendors many times over the course of your career. Do you know how to work with vendors effectively?

Once you read this article, you will be better equipped to avoid common vendor management mistakes like getting surprised by the use of sub-contractors.

5. How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps

When it comes to tools and techniques, most of us think about buying a new app or some other piece of technology. That’s not always the right solution however.

The simple checklist is one of the best ways to improve quality and reduce errors. Did you know that many of the world’s best surgeons, nurses and pilots rely on checklists to avoid life threatening mistakes? It’s true!

The best news? You can build a checklist in 6 steps!

6. 51 Training Resources For Project Managers

If you have the PMP certification, you are obligated to earn PDUs. But what will you learn? What resources are available?

Read this resource to discover the wealth of resources available on the Internet. One of my favorite suggestions: #19 (the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen)

7. 10 Books To Become A Better Project Manager

You’re looking for project management books? Glad to see you. Everybody knows about the standard texts in the field like the PMBOK Guide. What do you read next to keep growing?

Dive into this list to expand your skills and horizons in the new year. “The Effective Executive” by Peter F. Drucker is a gem – you can read it multiple times and profit from the effort each time.

Tip: Your public library (especially if you live in great city like Toronto) is a great way to explore books like these for free.

8. How To Improve Quality With Standard Operating Procedures

If you have ever worked at a large company, you have probably encountered standard operating procedures. They’re often mandatory for high risk activities (e.g. working on a nuclear reactor).

Here’s the key – you can write YOUR OWN standard operating procedures. I have created several over the years to improve the quality of financial reports. I can’t recommend the practice highly enough.

9. 6 Success Principles From Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors)

Reading biographies of successful people offers unique insights on the world. As a long time science fiction fan, I was delighted to learn about the struggle to build SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space company.

His thought process and determination to achieve incredible goals like settling Mars are inspiring. Learn more about the methods and mental models Musk uses to achieve his success.

Tip: Musk recommend thinking from first principles, rather than by analogy, to solve complex problems. It’s a harder path to follow because it will be unnatural for many of us but there are great merits in that approach.

10. 16 Podcasts To Grow Your Career In 2016

A recent survey I read claimed that about 1/4 of Americans listen to podcasts regularly. That means millions of people have yet to discover this incredible medium.

Are you tired of TV style “sound bite” interviews? That’s one area where podcasts shine. For example, Russ Roberts, author and economics expert, has published 60+ minute in depth interviews on his podcast EconTalk for a decade.

For details on which podcasts are best to develop your career and get you promoted, check out the article.

11. How To Develop Business Acumen

If you came up through the ranks in a technical or corporate area (technology, engineering, human resources etc), then your business acumen probably has some gaps.

In order to make understand the business decisions being made around you, use this article to develop business acumen.

News Hack: For a quick yet comprehensive briefing on what’s happening around the world, I recommend reading an issue of The Economist. It’s one of the world’s best news magazines.

12. 12 Ways To Use Email Better

To round out the list, let’s work at doing email better. Here’s one principle to start with: make clear requests.

For example, do you want somebody to approve a request? Make it crystal here: “Please approve the attached business plan” or “Please approved the attached project change request as discussed at the governance meeting.”

15 Best Books of 2015: Productivity, Perspective & More


President Truman said it best with his famous quip about the link between reading and leading. It’s the same principle that has powered a popular business podcast: Read To Lead podcast by Jeff Brown.

Looking back through my reading list for 2015, I read 54 books. Some of those books reflect my long standing interest in science fiction (The Martian by Andy Weir, Redshirts by John Scalzi and The Beam Season 1 and The Beam Season 2). Other books reflect a focus on marketing such as Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World and Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port which help me to grow

As you plan your professional development in 2016 and beyond, I urge you to make reading a key part of your program. In this article, I will highlight book suggestions for you to consider.

Become More Productive With Habits, Mornings and Checklists

The art and science of productivity is an excellent area to learn and practice. As project managers and knowledge workers, we have considerable autonomy in how we run the day. That means we have the opportunity to create results or drift through the day. Use these books to make the most of your working hours.

1. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers by Patrick Lencioni

I wrote about this book in December: The Truth About Employee Engagement. Lencioni’s approach of writing business fables makes it easy to learn new principles through story. At first glance, that may seem a strange approach for a book. Yet, I found it highly compelling. Lencioni makes a great case for the merit of being measured in a meaningful way.

2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

An outstanding book about the power of habits, those actions that we do over and over again. Duhigg discusses both individual and organizational habits. As a New York Times journalist, Duhigg is well suited to present this book. I enjoyed the book’s and Duhigg’s explanation of habit formation (the habit loop). The book also explains the interesting link between marketing and habits.

Tip: Read Duhigg’s guide “A Guide To Changing Habits” to get started.

3. Getting Things Done by David Allen

I know that I have mentioned this book a number of times. That’s not by accident. This is one of the best productivity books I have ever read. A new edition of the book was published in 2015, so the book is well worth revisiting. It is one of the rare business books that delivers results over multiple readings.

Tip: Discover how to use The Weekly Review practice from the book – it is a game changer.

4. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Are you happy with how you start your day? I have found that that I’m happier and better at my work when I start the day on my terms. In this short book, Elrod explains how to redesign your morning routine. The book proposes a series of habits to start your day each day including reading, silence and exercise. Waking up earlier is great, but it is not enough. You need to fill that time with good habits.

The book has over 1,100 Amazon reviews. That’s impressive!

5. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Did you know that experienced, highly educated medical professionals make mistakes? Some of those mistakes result in dire results. Gawande, an American surgeon, noticed these problems and looked for solutions. His insight: checklists, a simple low cost tool, make a big difference. I have found checklists an outstanding way to prevent errors.

Tip: Want to create a checklist? Use this article to get started – How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps.

6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

There are many roads to becoming more productive. Using apps and technology is one approach. Delegation is another approach. McKeown makes the case for elimination and making difficult choices. One of the book’s best chapters explains how and why to say no to other people to maintain focus on the essential.

Lessons from Entrepreneurs

You may want to start a business. Or you may simple be inspired by those who have started companies. Here are some observations I learned from these individuals. My reading focused on technology entrepreneurs because their products and services impact my daily life to a great degree. That said, I’m aware that they represent only one part of the business world. Innovation is often created by mixing and matching ideas from different industries, so consider these books even if you are not in technology.

7. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

As the legendary co-founder of Apple, Jobs has attracted a great deal of media attention and several books have been written about him (e.g. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo). There are different lessons we can draw from Jobs’s experience. Here’s one key career lessons: you can achieve great success in an industry despite a lack of traditional credentials (i.e. Jobs was not an engineer). His contribution came from management, bringing consumer friendly design to computers and a willingness to take risks.

8. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston

As a long time fan of business interview podcasts – Mixergy and Entrepreneur on Fire – I was excited to read this book. The book covers an earlier generation of business founders in the technology industry. For example, we have Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), Caterina Fake (founder of Flickr), Max Levchin (Founder of PayPal) and
Mike Lazaridis (Founder of Research in Motion).

9. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

This was one of the shortest books I read in 2015. Through his success with PayPal and as a venture capitalist, Thiel has attracted significant attention. He has an interesting explanation for why so many young people seek careers in management and finance – they seem like safe bets that make assumptions about the future. Thiel also makes a creative analysis about innovation and the decline of “world changing innovation” in favor of small, incremental change (he sees that shift as a legacy of the Dot Com Crash).

New Perspectives On The World

From time to time, I think it is valuable to see out new perspectives on the world. That’s one of the reasons I have enjoyed attending Hot Docs documentary film festival over the years. In this section, I highlight a number of books that inspired me to ask new questions.

10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This well researched book makes an outstanding case for the value introverts. If you have long been frustrated by open office environments, then this book will help you understand why. What I liked most about the book was the practical suggestions on how to thrive as an introvert. I hope that the book’s insights will influence future office designers and managers to take a broader view of management and related matters.

Resource: I presented a training webinar at based on this book which was highly popular (1500+ views and over 30 comments): How To Succeed As An Introvert Project Manager.

11. Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

Did you know that there are different kinds of thinking? In this book, de Bono presents six ways to think. This is a great book that solves two kinds of problems. First, you can use this book to improve personal creativity. Second, you can use this book to improve results in meetings and collaboration. A key insight from the book is to treat the types of thinking as distinct activities (e.g. restrict Black Hat thinking to the proper time and place rather than using it all the time).

Here are two examples of thinking hats (quotes from The de Bono Group)

  • Yellow Hat: “The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit.”
  • The Black Hat: “The Black Hat is judgment – the devil’s advocate or why something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.”

12. The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

This modern personal development classic came out with a new edition in 2015. The book provides a set of foundation principles (e.g. personal responsibility) and then provides additional principles. I also found the Success Principles Resources (e.g. the one year planning guide and the victory log) helpful. If you are embarking on a significant challenge or goal, you will find this book helpful source of encouragement and advice.

13. Washington A Life by Ron Chernow

This was the longest book I read in 2015 and it was well worth the effort. After all, it was the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. As America’s first President, Washington has attracted significant attention over the centuries. Chernow points out that many Americans tend to venerate Washington and fail to see him as a whole person. In this sweeping biography, you will learn about Washington’s early life, his family relations and many insights about his varied career (e.g. farming, surveying, military and political). I found the sections describing Washington’s time as President particularly interesting – he had to set expectations and traditions that would shape America for centuries to come.

Resource: We can improve our careers by taking inspiration from Washington: Career Hacks From Young George Washington.

Wine Books

“Good company, good wine, good welcome,” – Henry VIII, Shakespeare

On a lighter note, I am also interested in wine and enjoy studying the topic. Wine books weave together history, culture, travel, business and culinary pleasure. To that end, here are notes on two wine books I benefited from reading in 2015.

14. Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean

In this book, you will find an enjoyable introduction to the world of wine. MacLean covers various aspects of wine including the business (e.g. wine retail and serving wine in restaurants). MacLean does well in providing an excellent survey of wine. I think this book would make a great textbook for a beginner’s wine course.

15. Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines by Natalie MacLean

Learning about new parts of the world? Check. Discovering “undiscovered” gems in wine? Check. Fantastic end of chapter wine suggestions? Check. In her second book, MacLean tours the world and brings back reports on wine makers and suggestions for us to enjoy without breaking the bank. My favourite chapters covered Australia, Ontario (i.e. Canada), and Italy. I have tried several of the wines recommended in the book and enjoyed them! On a more serious note, I also found it fascinating to discover how the wine industry has evolved and changed over time (e.g. the resurgence of Sicily).


2015 Lifehacks Year In Review


In 2015, I wrote dozens of articles for It has been an interesting project for me. Writing for Lifehack has brought many visitors to this website and other opportunities for me. They have been a good organization to work with and I expect to continue working with them. In this post, I will highlight a few of the articles that I wrote for them. If you are interested in leadership, productivity, books and success, you will enjoy today’s article.

Book Recommendations Articles

I love to read books. It is one of the best ways to learn, relax and explore the world. Like Ryan Holiday, I also like to share book recommendations with my readers. Whether for leisure or education, books are outstanding. Later in the month, I may write a recap list of my favorite books for 2015.

7 Books Sheryl Sandberg Recommend You To Read (Only If You Want To Succeed At Work)

As a noted executive and the author of “Lean In,” Sandberg’s recommendations are well worth considering. In this article, I summarize her suggestions and point you to the books. It’s interesting to see some unusual book selections on her list including Michael Lewis’s fatherhood memoir. Her varied selection of books shows a broad view of the world is helpful.

12 Books Recommended By CEOs That Will Help You Succeed At Work

What do executives read to stay informed on the cutting edge of business? In this article, I explore book ideas from some of the world’s leading CEOs. I have read several of the books on the list including the Checklist Manifesto, The World is Flat and The Ascent of Money. In fact, I think “The Ascent of Money” is an excellent book for those interested in the history of finance and banking.

8 Inspirational Productivity Books To Change Your Mindset Forever

Learning the productivity strategies and techniques is a great way to reach your goals faster. Of course, this list includes David Allen’s Getting Things Done. You may not have read some of the other recommended titles such as The Four Hour Workweek or Essentialism yet. This reading list gives you the big concepts and inspiration to become more productive. Once you have that mindset in place, you will have the motivation you need to learn the details.

15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss

Becoming a more effective leader is a lifelong practice. There is no single “silver bullet” approach to becoming successful. One approach is to study leadership research and successful leaders. In this article, you will find outstanding biographies of the world’s great leaders including Churchill and Washington. The list also includes practical and classic books by Peter Drucker and Jack Canfield.

Productivity Articles

Productivity improvement is a recurring theme on this blog. Like so many others, I was inspired by David Allen and Tim Ferriss. Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to meet Mike Vardy, founder of Productivityist, at a conference. Later on, I wrote an article on lifelong learning for his website – a practical guide for developing a productive approach to your learning plan.

Watch These 12 TED Talks To Be Much More Successful

New ideas and inspiration are an important way to become more productive. We may not be able to attend the TED conference. Fortunately, the TED organization has done great work in filming and publishing recordings of TED talks. The Matt Cutts presentation on the merits of trying something new for 30 days is a great way to experiment with new ideas in a short period of time. Given the popularity of my webinar – How To Succeed As An Introvert Project Manager– I have to mention Susan Cain’s outstanding TED talk: The Power of Introverts.

Tip: Want even more TED talks? Subscribe to the TED Radio Hour podcast by NPR so you can listen on the go.

16 Skills To Make Your Reading More Productive

There are many different approaches to reading. You can read a short story collection, enjoy a novel or experience a play. Reading for leisure is a great way to relax and it often prompts new ways of thinking about the world. In contrast, reading for a course or to learn professional skills calls for a different approach. In this article, I explain how to take notes and engage in critical reading. There’s no need to agree with everything you read in a book. Many of us learned critical reading skills in school. However, those skills can fade if you do not actively use them.

Tip: Do you only read non-fiction books? If so, you’re missing out. Consider The Top 10 Fiction Books for Non-Fiction Addicts for recommendations (I have read and recommend three of the science fiction novels on the list: Stranger in a Strange Land, Ender’s Game and Dune.

Fundamental Theory of Productivity: Less is More

When it comes to productivity, we need to consider first principles before we dive into task management details. In this article, I discuss the key principle of focus and setting priorities. If you feel overwhelmed with appointments and work, it may be time to say no and cut back. Here is one specific recommendation to start with: seek to use a fixed work schedule. I understand that many of us have many projects and it is easy to keep working all the time (it happens to me).

Need a case study to convince you? Consider Cal Newport, computer science professor at Georgetown University. In addition to his academic research, Newport is the author of several books and the widely successful blog Study Hacks. How does he get it all done? Among other strategies, Newport recommends the fixed schedule productivity approach. It is an approach that is well worth considering.

Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months

We all go through different seasons of the year. I first heard this concept in a Jim Rohn audio program and then encountered it again with Michael Hyatt. In this article, I explore how to make the most of the ups and downs of the year. For example, winter can be a time to get ready for the rest of year – e.g. get ready for tax returns or diving into a big book. In contrast, many of us plan vacation and travel for the summer. Given that reality, it may make sense to plan less work for the summer. The details of your approach will depend on your season of life.

2015 Year In Review With

2015 Year In Review

In 2015, I have written a monthly article series for It has been a great experience and I look forward to continuing. In today’s post, I will present this year’s articles and give a brief overview of each article. In addition to articles, I also present webinars to which are available as recordings. If you a PMI member, you can view this webinars, learn and earn professional development units (PDUs). Note that you need to login to to read these articles.

Risk Management for Program Managers (Jan 26, 2015)

Managing risk effectively is one of the hallmarks of professional project managers. How do you manage risk when you land in the program manager’s chair? In this article, you will learn about the state of program management and what risks program managers face. The article also includes program risk management tips to get you started. If you are seeking a promotion to program manager, get started today by reading this article to improve your risk management skills.

Beyond Eliminating Defects: New Frontiers in Quality Management (February 26, 2015)

In the early years of the quality movement, eliminating defects was the number one priority. As Six Sigma and other approaches became popular, many of the easy quality improvements have already been made. In this article, I describe how quality practices have gone beyond manufacturing. Quality improvement projects are now becoming important in the healthcare sector. The article concludes with quality management techniques for project managers.

Leveraging the Best Knowledge Management Practices (March 30, 2015)

As project managers, the knowledge we bring to the table is key contribution. However, our knowledge contribution goes far beyond our personal education. In this article, I show how knowledge management practices from IBM, BP and NASA are worth studying in closer detail. In addition, I also cover how to obtain maximum value when your project draws on expert consultants.

Getting Started in Sustainable Projects (April 8, 2015)

Project managers do their work in a broader context that includes the environment. Did you know that Google’s data centers are designed to optimize electricity usage? That’s one of the insights I learned in preparing this article. Ensuring a sustainable project starts early at the project selection and design stage. It is also interesting to note that sustainability can reduce project costs (e.g. using local materials limits transport costs). I conclude the article with five sustainability tools and techniques you can use.

Learning From Success and Challenges in Change Management (May 11, 2015)

Working effectively with people, especially when going through a major change, is a valuable skill when you embark on major projects such as M&A. Lack of change management planning and activities is a key reason why many technology projects fail. It is not enough to develop and deploy technology to an organization – it is vital to support and train people through the change. In this article, it was my pleasure to interview Phil Buckley, a noted change management consultant based in Toronto.

Adding Value with Big Data Projects (June 8, 2015)

Big Data continues to be a topic attracting a lot of buzz. Yet many project managers are unclear on the concept and why it matters. In this article, I explain how project managers can use Big Data tools and techniques to add value. The “recommendation engine” used by Amazon is a well known example of Big Data in action. Big Data can also be used to detect fraud and understand customers better.

How Government Fosters Innovation Projects (July 8, 2015)

I was delighted to see all the comments and discussion sparked by this article! Whether and how government has a role to play in innovation remains an open question. If we look at history, we find several examples of government successfully encouraging innovation. The Apollo space program comes to mind. The 18th century quest for longitude is another case. In addition to direct innovation support, government plays a key role by supporting research through programs such as the Canada Research Chairs program and the National Science Foundation.

How to Grow Your Business Awareness to Be a Better Project Manager (August 10, 2015)

I enjoy writing skills based articles so creating this article was fun. The article covers both how to inform yourself about your organization and develop a broader awareness of the industry. The challenge with awareness is two fold. First, how do you decide how much information is “enough” to be informed (we can’t read news and articles all day). Second, how do project managers translate that knowledge into business value? It all starts with reading and understanding your organization’s goals. I was delighted to see over 30 comments on this article!

Exciting Projects: The Unsung Hero to Attracting Talent (September 14, 2015)

The people you have in your organization matter. How exactly can you help you organization recruit and retain top notch professionals? A key recruiting tool is the ability to offer interesting and exciting projects to work on! Learn how to work with human resources and other units to support your organization’s talent strategy. In addition, project managers can help with talent by proposing and leading HR projects (e.g. develop a training program to help newly hired/promoted managers become effective in their roles).

Better ROI with Benefits Realization Management: Pre-Project and Post-Project Strategies (October 12, 2015)

Did the project actually deliver benefits? That’s an uncomfortable question that many executives and project sponsors are starting to ask. Project managers tend to speak in code and cite the PMBOK Guide in their work which makes them hard to understand. There is a better way. You can define benefits at the front end in terms make sense to your sponsor (e.g. cost reduction, time savings or shipping improvements). As a case study, I discuss Toronto’s 2015 Pan-Am Games .

PMI Congress 2015: Lessons Learned (October 28, 2015)

This year, I attended PMI’s annual conference for the first time. It was a fantastic experience and I learned a great deal. In this article, I share my notes from education sessions and keynote speakers. I also interviewed a number of conference attendees and exhibitors about their products and experiences. For example, it was interesting to learn that Wiley is starting to offer online products and programs – an interesting example of a publisher offering new products. I was delighted to attend the event as a career expert.

How to Improve Application Delivery With Agile (November 12, 2015)

Agile is attracting more and more attention. Can it be used to improve the development and delivery of applications? I show how the short timelines and emphasis on customer interaction is well suited to application work. Specifically, I like the common agile emphasis on “two week sprints” to deliver new features. That’s a great way to sustain morale and momentum!

Making the World A Better Place Through PM Philanthropy (December 7, 2015)

With the holidays approaching, it makes sense to reflect on the year. As project managers, we have powerful skills and an interest in change. With those skills, why not seek out a volunteer role? For example, you can volunteer with Doctors Without Borders to run logistics in the field. Closer to home, there are many organizations that need help with managing events, developing websites and other areas. Start by identifying causes that resonate with you and then look for a way to get involved.