Published on Wednesday, September 20, 2017
As a project manager, or aspiring project manager, you know that doing the work is important. Task completion helps keep our projects moving in the right direction.
But too often, we focus more on managing the work itself than on the time it takes to complete the work.
Does that sound familiar to you?
It’s essential to manage the work. We have to do a whole lot of task juggling as project managers.
For example, you’ll be involved with monitoring and controlling everything to do with:
All of this is important activity that relates to managing the project work. But when your time is limited it is also important to balance your efforts in managing the time too.
There is only so much time in the day. Being able to manage your time effectively means you get more of the important tasks done.
Time management is always a balance: something is going to come up this week that you didn’t predict and that you can’t avoid.
Your sponsor will ask you to prepare slides for an important meeting or something – and while it would be lovely to be in the position to say no so that you can focus on your project delivery work, often you aren’t able to do that and manage the office politics!
That's why knowing how to best manage the time it takes to do the tasks is as important as managing the tasks themselves. Here are some tips on how to do that.
You can set deadlines, even if these are arbitrary. Get team members to set their own deadlines for tasks and hold them accountable.
Set your own personal deadlines and hold yourself accountable. Deadlines act as a way to measure our progress. If it helps, give yourself a reward after the deadline is achieved. Track your progress on your Gantt chart or project schedule.
The best way to make sure this happens and that you don’t find yourself procrastinating is to make your deadlines public (even if they are simply dates that you made up).
Ask your team to hold you to them. Be clear about the consequences of what happens if you don’t achieve those deadlines, both individually and as a team. Help each other as necessary so that you get everything done that you need to.
This might sound counter-intuitive. And I don’t recommend slashing your project requirements when you are working on a project – you can’t do that without the appropriate change control processes and permission from your sponsor.
You can, however, make sure that for your own work you are doing the requirements in the slimmest, smallest possible way. By that I mean: don’t gold plate your own work. Yes, you need to create a good looking, comprehensive project initiation document.
But it doesn’t have to be a work of art that takes you a whole week. As long as it is fit for purpose and meets the standards, that’s good enough.
Think about where you can save time by trimming the effort required to complete some of your activities. You might not be able to save a lot of time, but there is normally something you can slim down here.
It’s hard to stay focused. There are so many distractions in a normal working day: your inbox, people who pop round to your desk, urgent queries from your sponsor, that meeting you forgot about or got invited to at the last minute.
Do what you can to stick with your daily task list and work through the activities that you planned to do. If you can accomplish what is on your list today you have the ability to do that every day and stay strong in the face of distractions!
Be diplomatic when distractions come up during the day, but be prepared to say no if you have to in order to preserve your own focus and ensure you get everything completed.
Tasks take less time when you own your focus and work in an intentional manner.
Finally, prioritize the time that you spend on activities. High urgency, high importance tasks should always be the first on your list (and you’ll feel better for having got those out of the way).
Then comes highly important tasks but those that aren’t urgent. These are the big jobs that are critical for the project but perhaps you have been putting off because the deadline hasn’t yet come around. Don’t wait for them to be urgent: do what you can to complete them today.
Finally, low important tasks: the ones that are urgent, at least. Anything that isn’t urgent and isn’t important could be dropped, couldn't it?
By prioritizing your daily tasks and the time you spend on your tasks you are better managing your availability for the urgent and important work.
The natural conclusion for being more focused, doing only what is required and no more, prioritizing your time and setting deadlines is that you will find yourself achieving more in the day. However, you’ll have less time for trawling through social media sites or chatting to your colleagues.
Time management is a balance. If you need a mental break from the intensity of your working day, then take five minutes to flick through what’s happening on Facebook, or to get a cup of tea with a colleague and talk about what you did at the weekend.
You need to balance out your time so that you have enough capacity to keep up the pace when you should be working. The trick is to not let those breaks drift into ten minutes, twenty minutes and longer.
Stay committed to being focused and to managing your time!
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