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A young female business woman is sitting at the airport waiting for her flight and using a tablet computer.After a few years of working in my first project management role I was pleased that I had finally found a role while appealed to me and which I didn’t seem to tire of. I was fed up of starting new jobs and then realizing after a year or so that I was bored of them.

However, even the knowledge that I was in the right sort of job for me wasn’t enough to stop the idea of traveling from crossing my mind. In fact, I put a lot of my desire to see the world down to my move into the project world. It wasn’t until I started in this sort of work that I came across Australians, South Africans and other foreign colleagues. Many of them had traveled extensively and this gave me the idea of doing the same.

After a few months of living out of a backpack I realized that I kind of missed my job and that traveling had given me a few pointers on how to be a better project manager as well.

Avoid Preconceptions

I had a few preconceived ideas about the places I visited and I have to admit that I was wrong about almost all of them. I discovered the places I wasn’t looking forward to all that much were the ones I ended up enjoying most. The same can happen with projects, as one which looks too easy or too boring can turn out to be great to work on. Leave the preconceptions to other people and just stick to enjoying the projects which come your way. You will appreciate your job a lot more this way.

First Impressions Are Usually Wrong

I am not sure if this is just me but the cities I hated at first sight were the ones I ended up spending most time in, while the ones which looked good when I arrived turned out to be a bit too dull for my liking. This got me thinking about how often my first impressions about projects, team members and stakeholders are so often wrong. It seems like it is a better idea to suspend any judgement until you have all of the information you need.

It’s Not All about Work

Before I went traveling I had worked constantly (well, not constantly but you know what I mean) for about 13 years. This is an awfully long time and an extended break was long overdue. When I look back at it now I definitely came back fresher and raring to go again. Clearly we all have different situations and you might not feel that you have the possibility of taking so much time off work. However, I believe that we can all make more of an effort to do something different, even if it is just trying to get away on weekend breaks more often throughout the year.

You Aren’t In Control of Everything

There was one night when I was on a long bus journey in South America. It was raining heavily and I woke up when the bus came to a skidding halt. As we all piled out we saw that it was perched on the edge of a cliff with a giant sheer drop below us. This incident left me shaken and it reminded me that we don’t always control everything around us. A project you lead could veer out of control for reasons entirely outside your control and beating yourself up about it isn’t going to do much good. We can only control the things which are within our control. That might sound obvious but it is worth bearing in mind.

Freedom is a Good Thing

The overriding memory I have of my time traveling is of the freedom I felt. It is an incredible sensation to wake up in a foreign city and not have anything to do or anywhere to go. A day is an incredibly long time when you have absolute freedom to do whatever you feel like. Normal life can’t ever be like this but we can try our best to limit our freedom as little as possible. What I mean here is that we shouldn’t tie ourselves to our work desks or only live for the project we are working on. You will be a much better project manager if you feel free and happy both inside and outside of your office. Remember that you are doing the job because you want to and that if you didn’t like it then you would be looking for something else.

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