Since my first yoga class, I’ve been so grateful that I discovered this ancient activity and philosophy. Through breathing and posing practices, I have become much calmer, especially when I’m under stress.
I also came to an understanding that yoga is truly for everyone: each one of us is able to find our inner peace and strength. In fact, over the past two years I have convinced many of my friends to join the yoga community, all of whom have experienced the benefits yoga brings.
Yet, when I started to write for Capterra’s project management blog this summer, it still surprised me when I realized how much project management relates to yoga practice. These two subjects share so many connections that I believe every project manager could benefit both personally and professionally from practicing yoga.
Doubts? Questions? Hesitations? Let me tell you the top five lessons I learned from yoga that are absolutely essential to every project manager.
1. Set an intention
Each yoga class starts with a few minutes of breathing practice; the instructor might ask you to bring your awareness inside and set an intention for the day’s practice. Your intention could be someone or something that you want to send your love to, such as yourself, your families and friends, or your pets and plants. It could also be something you want to cultivate yourself, like patience or positivity. No matter what it is, it is a powerful act to motivate your body and mind so that you can keep your effort focused throughout the practice.
Setting an intention is also very important for project managers to plan and execute any project. In reality, a project might have multiple objectives, so it’s even more important to clearly state each one and develop effective metrics. This way, team members can direct their efforts to the desired outcomes and achieve better performance.
2. Keep the big picture in mind
If you ask your yoga instructors how long it will take until you get a six-pack you probably will be disappointed. Because unlike other types of workouts, yogis do not worship a “perfect” body image; rather, yoga focuses on connecting the mind and body together so that the whole body can move coordinately.
Project managers should also focus on the whole of a project. As business problems become more and more complicated, you need to zoom out from the minute detail to see the big picture. Stubbornly focusing on the details will likely waste your time and energy that you could otherwise use to think about the difficult, high-level questions.
3. Breathe through change
We have all experienced change in our lives; it might be as complicated as a new job or a breakup; or as simple as your favorite cafe no longer making your usual breakfast croissant. No matter what it is, most of the time, change is not welcomed: it breaks the pattern we are used to and brings stress to our body. What’s worse, due to our inability to think clearly under stress, when something goes wrong, other parts of our lives typically will be affected as well.
In the project management world, change is more frequent; even with extensive planning, no one can predict the future perfectly. However, there are ways to manage that change.
As Goethe once said, “knowledge is not enough, we must apply.”
To successfully apply these best practices to deal with changes in real life, project managers need to stay calm and mindful.
Mindfulness is not just a popular buzzword, it actually helps your brain to make better decisions. Yoga teaches mindfulness through deep breathing and meditation.
Pause your reading for a moment, and follow me: In-ha-le through your nose, ex-ha-le through your mouth, hoo~ Doesn’t that feel good?
A clear mind allows you to observe and analyze change more carefully; rather than rushing through decisions or getting stuck on unexpected difficulties, you are able to focus your time and energy on the most critical issues. More importantly, when you are calm, you are more likely to see stressors as a challenge rather than a threat and that alone increases your probability to do better work. Yoga is one of the most effective ways project managers use to de-stress.
4. Take small steps to overcome difficulties
Like other sports, there are beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels for yoga practice. When I first started, I wanted to be perfect at every pose but I was always told to take small steps. Later, I realized that only through those small steps did I learn how a pose moves through variations and find the essence of a pose.
As a project manager, you might encounter all kinds of difficulties: conflicts between team members, changed requirements from the stakeholders, or the lack of necessary resources for deadlines.
No matter what kind of difficulty it is, it is important to take small steps and focus on delivering value constantly instead of trying to achieve everything at once.
This is also the underlying principle of the Agile methodology which is a project management process focused on communication, work efficiency, collaboration, and quality. A key concept in this process is to learn from the small steps and the mistakes so that you can accumulate knowledge and experience to move forward.
Take small steps. Small steps make a big difference in the long run.
5. Be patient and persistent
The biggest lesson that yoga has taught me so far is to be patient and persistent. I can’t remember how many times I wanted to quit because I could not do a certain pose or I felt frustrated with my practice. But soon, I realized that I needed to acknowledge and accept my imperfection. It’s part of me. In fact, nobody’s perfect but everyone has the potential to learn and improve.
This is extremely important for project managers because it’s almost impossible for a project to be perfect all the time. And you need persistence and patience to take your team a long way. In particular, you want to set achievable goals based on your team’s real capability; and as your team grows and the project progresses, you can lead your team to achieve more and more objectives.
Deal with your capacity, my friend. Don’t rush things. Be patient and believe in yourself. When the time is right, it will happen.
Ready to jump onto a yoga mat?
Have you practiced yoga before? What are your thoughts on its connection with your profession? Share your insights in the comments below. And remember,
Don’t peek. Look inward, and stay mindful. Let your inner light shine.
Source: Business 2 Community