You may feel like a juggler when the workload pressure’s on in project management. Having to keep several balls in the air at the same time as you beaver away on several projects can be a tricky business. The advice is - never panic. In fact, you can actually enjoy the experience if you plan it right and you’ll also improve your time management and organisational skills. Here are some key tips on how to get it right and avoid getting stressed:
Don’t Mix Them Up
Importantly, ensure that you keep the projects separate - that’s in your head as well as on your computer. It can be easy to mix things together, particularly if they are of a similar nature and exercise. This can be more of a problem when you start out, where such projects aren’t yet clearly defined as to where you’re going with them. Just try and view them correctly and in their place from the beginning. If you confuse them from Day 1 and get things mixed up then it could be difficult to unravel them later on. Mix ups often happen when you use the same team for different projects and speak to the same stakeholders in relation to what should be two or more of those balls you have in the air.
Get the Priorities Right
It will rarely happen that you will have the same deadlines for each or even that they have the same degree of priority. You just need to work out which of your projects is most urgent at any one time. There is a danger of course that when you are working on several projects at once that you’re tempted to tackle the easier bits first and not get stuck into the one which really should be taking first priority. To avoid falling into this trap you should follow all the project plans closely and be totally objective in terms of what needs doing on a daily basis. If you throw all your efforts into a single project and neglect others, you could run out of time with the latter. Things can get out of control and you miss your deadline. Try and work on each equally.
Manage Your Diary Well
Project managers must manage their time effectively and this is crucial when they are in charge of two or more exercises at the same time. If you fail to time-manage properly you run the risk of having more than one of those projects becoming urgent simultaneously. It makes sense to keep the important dates for important stages of each project as far as apart as possible. At the start of the multiple project management task you won’t know how much work you will have at each point in time with each so, again, keep what you see as potentially busy periods with each diarised as far apart as you can. If you’re a novice at time management, then this will be a good exercise for you as a personal test. Just keep your head and ask for help if you start to go off track - preferably, before that happens but when you see the problem looming.
Key to successful completion: teamwork and delegation
If a project task is pretty straightforward and could be handled well enough by a colleague, hand it over to him or her. It makes your life a bit easier and it will give your team worker the opportunity to perhaps learn new project management skills. It shouldn’t be rocket science to work out which project tasks can be delegated early on, just as you’ll want to hang onto the more challenging ones. You can still keep on top of developments with the delegated work and it could turn out to be the ideal solution for all - and maybe give you time to advance your career by studying for a professional project management qualification.