As a Project Manager, I typically have a long list of tasks, and usually many more than I have time to finish. I have found that the most important thing for me to do is to organize my time. Of course, this would be impossible without using the proper tools, but ultimately, the tools are here just to help—the decision of how I manage my time is up to me. There is an old saying which states that the fool with the tool is still a fool.
See the images below and ask yourself, “Does this look familiar?”
Time planning (and that is exactly what organizing is) is about four things:
- Reducing what you want to finish to realistic possibilities
- Contingency reserves
- Organizing and prioritizing
When I talk to fellow Project Managers, I often hear that they have to finish ten items with the highest priority ranking. When you prioritize your work, be aware that it is not possible to have multiple items to finish with the “highest priority.” It simply cannot be a true. For example, if you have to write a status report for upper management, and host a kick off meeting with your customer at the same time, you will obviously have to postpone one of those two tasks.
Every single Task can be put in one of the following four categories:
Quadrant I – Critical items to react to now! This is the highest priority.
Quadrant II – React after you do not have anything left in Quadrant I.
Quadrant III – These are “nice to do” things, but react only if you do not have anything left in Quadrant I and Quadrant II. This may never happen.
Quadrant IV – These are “time eaters.” Lot of PMs are losing time with tasks which belongs to this quadrant. These things can and should be forgotten.
Planning Your Day
When you plan your day (let’s say it’s 8 hours), always leave some contingency for yourself. That is, for unexpected situations. I always plan one hour for this (at least) during my work day. Then again, when you plan the remaining seven hours, leave some time for telephone calls and for answering mails. Those communication tasks are also “time eaters,” but cannot and should not be avoided. Be aware that you don’t have to answer to each and every mail right away. In fact, if you are going to read every single mail when it comes, you will be inefficient and dramatically reduce your productivity.
One good practice is to reserve time in your Calendar app for the big stuff. When I want to be left alone to finish something, I always mark that time as “Busy” in my calendar:
Now About Project…and My Webinar
I am using Project for the Web and Teams together. With those tools I can always be aware of what is going on and react promptly to my team’s needs.
I can see every single Task assigned to every single person, with the status, and I can react, as needed. Organizing time for a project manager is one of the hardest things to do. I explain some tips and tricks in my on-demand webinar on the topic. I hope you’ll watch it.