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How Should a Project Manager Organize Their Workday and Where Does MS Project Fit?

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
  • Delegating

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.


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Written by Nenad Trajkovski

MVP – Project

Nenad Trajkovski was born in Zagreb in 1963. year. After completion of Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Nenad has started on the development and implementation of enterprise systems (ERP) in companies of various areas (banks, card houses, production companies, auto industry, wholesale businesses, oil companies, and others). He has extensive experience in working with business processes, people and knowledge in information technology and financial accounting activities.

Currently, Nenad works as a consultant for the implementation of business systems, and as Project Manager. He is trainer for Project Management and Risk Management in Microsoft Innovation Center in Varaždin. At WinDays08 conference he has been declared as the best speaker, and his session as the best one. He was among TOP 10 speakers in the Microsoft Sinergija 2009 and at the Microsoft Vzija 2009. Shared first place as the best lecturer at KulenDays 2009 and the PMI Forum 2009 in Zagreb. Regular speaker at the Microsoft Community. On WinDays10 conference Nenad was among the top three speakers; at the conference Microsoft Vision 9 in Skopje between the top 5 speakers as well as on Microsoft Synergy 11 which was held in Belgrade. Certified Accountant, PMP (Project Manager Professional), PMI – RMP (Risk Manager Professional), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), MCTS – Microsoft Project 2010 (Microsoft Certified Technical Professional).  and MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).

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