Time Management in a Fast Paced Environment: Part Five

Let’s be honest: as a Project Manager, keeping track of project information can be difficult during the best of times; let alone when you are responsible for multiple efforts! With several stakeholders requesting different information and team members continually updating you on their progress through their tasks, sometimes finding the time to complete even the most necessary of tasks can be a stretch on your already strained daily and weekly schedules. I would like to offer you a few small tips and tricks that I use while managing projects that may be of some use to you during your project management efforts.

Tip: Plan out your days before you start them.

Have you ever felt like everyone is throwing new tasks at you, so much so that you can never seem to get ahead? Ask yourself, do you have a clear picture of what your goals for the day are? How do you prioritize these new tasks that appear daily into the list of meetings and reports that you have to deliver routinely on a schedule? Relax! There’s nothing to worry about here! Let me give you a method for planning out your day that will help you create not only a believable and achievable plan for your day; but also a clear picture that will let you manage the expectations of your management and stakeholders.

Plan your day… the day before!

Ultimately, preparation is your biggest asset. A mentor of mine once told me about the seven Ps; for project managers she used a special version: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Projects. This euphemism can be extended to encompass your daily work schedule as well. As project managers we traditionally have a much better visibility than most of our team members of all the in-flight work of our projects. Using this knowledge, and with your trusty daily calendar of meetings, you can start to prioritize what tasks you need to complete and when they are required. This way you can communicate to your stakeholders what tasks and work are viable in the allotted time frame, and what may need to be delayed based on your schedule. A hard thing for many project managers to remember is that they are resources on their own projects, and they too can become over allocated. By taking the time to plan your day, even if it is five minutes at the end of the previous day, you can save a fair amount of time and know how much you have available for the extra requests that come up throughout the day. Speaking of which…

Remember to plan for “firefighting” activities.

By the time you make it to work in the morning, you may already be inundated with emails from people making requests for your time; the immediate issues that require your attention may overwhelm what little free time you have as well as some of your scheduled activities. When this happens, it always helps to prioritize your tasks and see if you have the necessary availability to handle everything that has been assigned to you. If not, doing the assessment gives you the flexibility to work with your team members and colleagues to make sure that all of the tasks are assigned for completion. When the immediate tasks have been completed you will be able to continue with your earlier planned activities or assist others with their delegated tasks for faster completion.

Remember, by planning your days out in advance you can not only increase your personal capability; but you can also reduce some of the stress and franticness from your day. Your daily plan will not only help you, but also your team and, by extension, your organization.

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