Tips from the Project Pro: Ben Howard, MVP

Being a Microsoft Project MVP, share with the MPUG community a favorite tip to using Microsoft Project like a Pro?

The real trick, for me at least, is to is follow a simple method for creating and updating your project.  Don’t make anything more complex than it needs to be, and don’t be daunted by the MS Project – it’s there to help you, so take time out to learn how to use it.

What can readers expect to be able to do better after reading your book, “Microsoft Project 2013 Plain & Simple”?   What is your writing style (i.e. how is this book written to help the audience learn faster, better, etc)?

In the book I set out to de-mystify the complexities of Microsoft Project and hence provide readers with a simple to use guidebook.  I do this by laying the book out in the same manner that I user to create a plan.   The whole style of the book is very graphical, it guides readers through each task by breaking it down into each mouse click and displaying relevant screen shots from Microsoft Project – it’s a very visual and bright book, the style is easy to read and very eye catching.  I write in the same way I run courses, hopefully with enthusiasm and a sense of humor!  If a reader already has some knowledge of Microsoft Project, then they can look up what they want in the index and skip straight to the section and item that they are interested in.

Do you have a favorite feature of Project 2013 that you can share with our audience?

Easy, the best new feature is the re-write of the Reporting section.  You can now create dashboards for each project, each element of the dashboard can show different information, eg the total number of tasks, up-coming milestones, burn down charts etc.  I’ve dedicated a whole chapter to the reporting feature (and run a couple of MPUG sessions on this).

If you could turn one feature “off” what would it be?

What would I get rid of…  that’s a little more difficult… I think I’d rather add a few more features instead!

Managing your consulting company, writing, contributing to the community as a Microsoft MVP and MPUG Leader must be incredibly time consuming.   How do find time (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?

Of course it’s very busy, but I’ve managed to find something that I like doing that I don’t really consider to be work, and that’s half of the battle!  The other half of the battle is to remove distractions, so my biggest tip here is to work offline in Outlook.  This way, Outlook synchronizes every 30 minutes, allowing me to concentrate on the task in hand, and keep up on email, without being continually distracted (to do this, add the Work Offline command to the Quick Access Toolbar in Outlook).  I also disable Lync and Skype notifications, and turn my phone to silent when I really need to concentrate.

Do you have a motto, credo or general slogan that you live by? 

Never eat lunch at your desk, cycle every day and don’t work at the weekends!

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