Project Practitioners > The Mind and Body of Project Management

The Mind and Body of Project Management

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 4 minutes


I had an English professor my sophomore year in college that said something that will always stick with me. In a rant about athletics, he stated if the people in the gym worked as hard on their minds as they did their bodies, this world would be a better place.

While I may have paraphrased, this disconnect between mind and body was alarming. How did the professor know that people spending an hour in the gym to stay in shape were not reading too? In his world, those two ideas were mutually exclusive.

If you worked out, you did not read. If you read, you did not work out. For a person in charge of young minds as a profession, this dichotomy is dangerous. His nickname was ‘Dr. C’ because he gave everyone C’s (his nickname, not mine). Anyone who nicknames themselves is red flagged in my eyes.


His perception was in a well of academia. He only saw reading and writing as a form of intelligence. He saw no connection between mind and body. Your mind should be strong, and your body can deteriorate. This mindset could not be more limiting.

I relate this to office and field workers. Last week I wrote about mindset shifts occurring when a production worker becomes part of management. This week, I want to discuss the connection between mind and body.

“Physical education is the fundamental discipline of life, but it is actually despised, neglected, and taught intellectually, because the true intent of our schools is to inculcate the virtues of cunning and calculation which make money…” – Alan Watts


Alan Watts describes the importance of physical education. Why do kids get antsy and become difficult over the course of the day? They have energy with no outlet. Solving math problems does not get the blood pumping. Reading a chapter in a book does not build strength or endurance.

Putting these lessons into practice is the real life changer. You can read all about the health benefits of running around and how it can relieve stress. Until you actually lace up your running shoes, go outside, and start moving around, you will never experience the benefits. Reading and having the knowledge is great. Putting in the work and realizing the benefits is the goal.

This distinction can also be made for theory versus practice. Theory (your knowledge) should work in practice (reality). Marrying the two ideas makes each one of them stronger. If you have a theory and test it with similar results over and over, your case for the theory is made. There is no better explanation than showing how it works.

I see disconnects between management and field personnel all of the time. Management designs a beautiful schedule built around plan drawings from an engineer. Estimates are put together based on ideal conditions. All of this is knowledge based.

Enter practicality. The field worker starts to build based on the design and all hell breaks loose. Walls do not line up. Underground utilities are in the way of storm and sanitary sewer lines. All of the brain power in the office did not figure these issues out before the project start. Now the people performing the work become disgruntled with management, and a vicious cycle begins.

There must be a melding of the two ideas. Just like mind and body work best when both are optimized. Projects work best when field and office personnel are high performing. The plan and schedule can be the best, but if the workers cannot perform, none of that documentation means anything.

Reverse the order. The workers can perform the work at an all-time high rate, yet if the office cannot figure out a schedule or allocate resources, the project can be chaos. Again, the ideal conditions are the field personnel working in tandem with management to create a flow. A rhythm is built. Your mind and body work together. You read and workout. You theorize and practice. Your field workers and management see each other as assets rather than detriments.



Ueshiba describes a person who is prepared for battle physically and mentally. A wise person wins before any actions are needed. However, should action be required, he or she is ready. The mind and body are prepared simultaneously.

Management (the mind) and field personnel (the body) need to be working together in harmony. Disconnection leads to poor morale and even worse performance.

Apply these lessons personally (your mind and body) or organizationally (management and field). Neglecting one hurts the other. A disproportionate relationship is not a source of pride. Having a great physique does not make up for the lack of brain power. Having a great crew does not override poor management. And vice versa.

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