I jumped out of my bed at the startling sound of the alarm.
It was 6:00 am.
It took me a full minute to realize where I was. A wave of all-familiar gloom swept over me as I realized I’d slept only an hour ago.
This seemed to have been a routine for the past few weeks. Just a couple of hours of sleep every day.
I was at the client’s office, 14,700 kilometers away from mine. The other side of the globe.
Daily client meetings, discussions with SMEs, end-users, local technical team, and then coordinating with 3 of our teams across as many timezones wasn’t easy.
The symptoms were visible at the office.
I would suddenly go blank in a meeting. Forget what I was talking about. My cubicle mates interrupt and tell me that I’m speaking incoherently.
As a project manager, you’re wearing multiple hats. You are often responsible for keeping multiple initiatives, departments, tasks, or teams on track and making sure that everyone involved in the project is working efficiently.
And that takes a toll on your own time!
Whether you are managing one large-scale project or dealing with multiple projects, effective time management is crucial to ensuring everything runs smoothly and deadlines are met.
Here are five super-simple yet super-effective strategies to help you develop effective time management habits for efficient project management.
I will also show you how to implement them.
- Time management strategy #1: Prioritize Ruthlessly
- Time management strategy #2: Delegate Efficiently
- Time management strategy #3: Take Breaks Regularly
- Time management strategy #4: Communicate Effectively
- Time management strategy #5: Use Time Blocking Technique
I wish I knew at least some of these back then when I was undergoing that ‘interesting’ experience. But experiences teach you a lot. And you get better with time.
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1. Prioritize Ruthlessly
When managing a project, it’s important to prioritize your tasks.
I’m sure you’ve heard it.
But it’s only half true.
As a project manager, you need to be able to prioritize the tasks of other people as well. At the least, you need to make sure that they are prioritizing their tasks.
There’s a whole process group called Monitoring & Controlling in PMI’s PMBOK guide for project managers. You may not be able to control others’ time but control their priorities, or in softer words… ensure they align their work with the needs of the project. 🙂
Because the success of your project(s) and your own performance depends on the performance of many key stakeholders on the project.
That is possible when,
- Your resource management team prioritizes your project to give you the equipment and people you need
- Your team members prioritize their tasks in alignment with the priorities of the project deliverables
- Your sponsor prioritizes your project to get appropriate support from the management
- Your client-side contacts prioritize your project to attend the meetings
- Your vendors prioritize your project for on-time delivery
This will help everyone stay focused and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed.
2. Delegate Efficiently
Delegation is another critical time management strategy for a project manager.
Don’t try to do everything yourself. You should be working on the project than in the project, at least most of the time.
Delegate tasks to team members who have the right skills & expertise to handle them. This will free up your time for tasks that are ‘on the project’ than ‘in the project’. Important tasks such as monitoring progress and ensuring that everyone is working as per the schedule.
For delegating efficiently, you need to:
- Identify the tasks that can be delegated
- Identify the people on the team that are an ideal fit in terms of skill & attitude
- Ensure each task is efficiently explained so others can understand how to do and do it well
- Make time for a transition/hand-holding period for the person to get the confidence of doing it well
You’ll also be making yourself disposable. Else, how can you claim stake for that promotion? 😀
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3. Take Breaks Regularly
This may seem counterintuitive. You don’t have time on the one hand and on the other you want to take time to relax.
If your project involves using machinery to produce goods, would you want to run it 24×7 to maximize output?
It may work for some time till the machinery breaks down to bring the production to a complete halt.
When we know this much as common sense, why don’t we apply the same to ourselves and take consistent breaks?
- Take regular breaks throughout the day.
- Take a day off in a week to relax and recharge.
- Take a week off at least once in 6-8 months to rejuvenate.
- Meet up with friends on some Friday evening for a drink or dinner.
Find ways to in order to stay relaxed, physically and mentally, and thus productive and motivated.
4. Communicate Effectively
PMI ran research and found that over 90% of the time and effort of a project manager is spent on communication.
Now it is understood without Einstein’s brain that by being proactive with communication strategies, this time and effort can be reduced.
Here’s how you do it:
- Identify key stakeholders (including team)
- Analyze their influence and impact on the project
- Understand their communication needs (type, depth, frequency of info)
- Ensure you put in place the mechanism to generate this report and delivery
If you can focus on these 4 areas, you will reduce a LOT of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and resultant chaos.
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- “Use a proven system & mentor to pass PMP effortlessly”, says Prakash, PMP
- “Why do smart people fail PMP?”, and more, in conversation with Nick Korwin, PMP
5. Use Time Blocking Technique
Time blocking is an under-utilized time management technique that involves dedicating specific blocks of time for specific tasks.
It’s so simple to understand that even after knowing this people tend to ignore it.
The benefits are tremendous.
Time blocking can help you stay focused and avoid distractions because you’ll have a focus and plan of what needs to be done during each block of time.
- Use a calendar tool to block off time
- Have no-meeting timeslots for the day
- Use don’t-disturb-me timeslots and let the team know
- Encourage team members to do the same, and enable them
This will help you stay on track and get things done, and get your team to get things done.
In the previous article of this series, we saw how to avoid burnout as a manager handling multiple projects, and in this article, we’ve seen how to manage time well as a project manager – whether you manage one project or multiple.
By using the following strategies, and encouraging at least key team members to follow the same you can meet project objectives.
- Prioritize Ruthlessly
- Delegate Efficiently
- Take Breaks Regularly
- Communicate Effectively
- Use Time Blocking Technique
None of these are easy to implement, but once you get some control you will see an almost immediate effect.
Effective management of time – self as well as others’ – is a critical skill and necessity for a project manager. Even if you try out one of these strategies you will see a tremendous improvement in your own efficiency and better control over your own time.
Shiv Shenoy, PMP
When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help you enjoy your PMP prep and pass the exam with ease:
- My brain-friendly hybrid course: PMP Last Mile Prep Program
- My Amazon book series: Master PMP concepts
- My PMP simulator: Get it on Udemy
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.