Do you often miss milestones of a project?
Are you constantly assigning and reassigning tasks to your team and pushing the deadlines?
Do you get distracted with lot of emails or phone calls?
When work gets challenging, do you distract yourself with other things like surfing the net?
Are you often late for meetings/ delayed in preparing presentations?
Does your project cost often goes much higher than what was planned?
Do you use a task management software and still fail at managing project timelines?
The reality is, the emails will keep flowing. The client will keep requesting changes. The meetings will always be there and the to-do list will keep expanding! As a result, your project management schedule will keep getting disarrayed and maybe often.
But is it really being able to manage your project timelines better? Perhaps not.
While a lot has been written on managing your project schedules better, there is only one fact that we have to understand and accept to be successful in managing projects timelines.
The fact is that each person is a limited resource.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize.
One has to identify the ‘priority’ tasks from the many tasks to be achieved from the list of to-dos in the project plan. The reason why project managers usually fail to manage the time of their team and themselves is because they are reactive in managing tasks. Every day we have to make a deliberate choice about what not to do or what can be rescheduled.
The key is to first prioritize your tasks, then identify what can be delegated to other team members, document it along with the deadlines, and also be able to manage multiple tasks.
What a lot of Project Managers tend to do is to load themselves with a lot of tasks and delegate little. One has to have time to manage the time and tasks of other team members as well.
As per an article published on HBR, Jordan Cohen who’s a productivity expert and has authored a book called ‘Make time for work that matters’ says, “We have to get away from labeling it ‘time management’. It’s not about time per se but about how productive you can be.” He draws a similarity between dieting and being healthy. He adds, “You can diet all you want but you won’t necessarily be healthier. You have to pay close attention to how you spend your time, manage your email, etc., but you won’t necessarily be more productive.”
Identifying priority tasks
There is no doubt that it is a great challenge for project managers to prioritize the work that matters on a daily basis. Even the most efficient tool available with you will only work on the data that you feed into it. Everything doesn’t have to be ‘top priority’ and nobody in the team should be working on what was priority in the past.
How can you get the priority tasks done?
– Make a list of all the tasks
The first step is to collate the list of all the tasks (irrespective of how small and unimportant) you wish to get done in a day. The order doesn’t matter at this stage.
– Identify urgent from important
To be able to identify what you need to manage first and what can be pushed, you need to ask yourself the following questions.
- Is the task valuable to me or my company if completed on that particular day?
- What will be the result if I were to ignore the task completely?
- Is there some other team member who can work on the task?
- If the other team member works on that task, will the outcome be any different?
- Is there a faster way of completing the task?
– Assess effort required
As you identify the priority of tasks, you also need to assess the effort required in each of these tasks. Productivity experts suggest that a good practice is to start with lengthier tasks first but as the project manager you need to go with your gut feel.
You need to judge the tasks that you can take up yourself and the ones that you can delegate.
The success mantra to successfully manage time in a project is to stop managing time and rather manage tasks. Identify key tasks, drop the unimportant tasks, delegate, prioritize and delegate tasks.