Managing multiple projects at the workplace can feel like a long trek over a steep mountain.
You encounter obstacles at every stretch; there is an eagerness to reach the peak of project completion faster and your brain muscles pant and crave for breath, trying to balance multiple tasks. At times, you feel overwhelmed with the strenuous journey and feel like giving up.
Don’t worry! It happens to all of us.
It is challenging to handle multiple projects at once, but challenges help you widen your knowledge and skill set. Successful businesses across the world are empowered by teams who handle simultaneous projects successfully. When planned strategically, managing multiple projects can become a cakewalk.
During the course of this blog, let’s look at some top strategies to handle multiple projects like a pro.
The Truth About Multitasking
13 Strategies for Managing Multiple Projects
- Plan Ahead
- Set Goals
- Prioritize Tasks
- Avoid Distractions
- Use a Task Calendar
- Refrain from Multitasking
- Refrain from Procrastination
- Automate your Tasks
- Learn the Art of Saying No
- Encourage Delegation
- Review and Document Your Progress
- Communicate Regularly
- Use Productivity Tracking Tools
- Incorporate Flexible Schedule
- Encourage Informal Meetups
How Do You Feel While Handling Multiple Projects?
Multiple projects come with their own set of prospects and challenges. You have to juggle multiple tasks at once, be available for many meetings in a day, take follow-ups and handle multiple task sprints. Also, unforeseen and last-minute requirements require you to take pragmatic project decisions.
A project management survey shows that the majority of the project managers are handling 2-5 projects simultaneously.
Multi-project management is a combination of issues like:
- Coming up with a separate and in-depth plan for each project
- Taking into consideration different client requirements
- Optimal resource allocation and planning
- Prioritization of tasks spread over different projects
- Task integration across different project environments
- Use of automation tools to manage the projects on a single dashboard
- Incorporation of a feedback and review mechanism
- Encourage communication and teamwork for best results
Now, the question arises: Is multitasking mandatory while organizing multiple projects? Let’s find out in the next section.
The Truth About Multitasking
Multitasking implies simultaneous handling of multiple tasks leading to a positive final outcome. Your brain repeatedly switches from one idea to another while keeping track of multiple projects; you feel that you have achieved more output. Also, there is a sense of increased efficiency because of multitasking.
But the truth lies three-sixty degrees apart!
Research by neuroscientist Dan Levitan shows that human IQ (Intelligence Quotient) drops by 10 points while multitasking. The new information, instead of going to the hippocampus part of the brain, gets stored in the wrong location. Further, multitasking leads to increased secretion of cortisol and adrenalin hormones, which enhances stress levels. As a result, you cannot give your hundred percent to a single task, reducing the overall work efficiency.
Hence, refrain from multitasking while working on multiple projects simultaneously. In the next section, let’s understand the top 15 ways to manage multiple projects. Using these methods, you can see a spike in project productivity.
13 Strategies for Managing Multiple Projects
Managing multiple projects can be overwhelming, but it is manageable if you know how to strategize, plan and act on them. Let’s look at the best strategies to equip you with the skills needed to organize, track multiple projects, and deliver them with ease. Here we go:
1. Plan Ahead
Effective planning is the first step to manage multiple projects. You have numerous projects on board, with numerous clients and stakeholders pulling you across in different directions. With a concrete plan in place, you can allocate resources in an optimal manner for the successful delivery of different projects.
Create a plan for every week. For example, every Monday make a list of tasks to be completed that week. Focus on time distribution between tasks. Also, allocate the right resources for the right job. Further, set a clear deadline to complete the tasks, else there is every chance of procrastination and subsequent delays.
2. Set Goals
Goals motivate you to work harder towards a common vision. In a business environment, it keeps employees streamlined and focussed on their work. There are fewer chances of distraction leading to higher productivity.
A Harvard Business Study states that 14% of people with goals are 10 times more successful compared to people with no goals.
How to set goals?
- Identify the requirements of all the projects that you manage.
- Create a long-term goal for each project. (to be achieved in a quarter)
- Split up the long-term goal into smaller short-term goals. (to be achieved on a monthly and weekly basis)
- Set up frequent team interactions and review the goals to measure the project progress.
Read more: Your Ultimate Goal Setting Guide
3. Prioritize Tasks
Task prioritization is necessary to know the urgency to complete multiple tasks spread across multiple projects. When you are unclear about the task priority, you tend to take up the tasks in a haphazard manner resulting in lower output. When you are clear about which tasks require immediate attention, you can shift your focus on just that task and deliver excellent results.
You can use different methods to prioritize tasks like:
- Eisenhower method: A task is divided into 4 categories: Critical and Urgent; Critical but not Urgent; Not Critical But Urgent; Neither Critical not Urgent
- Pareto Principle: This principle follows the 80/20 rule that states that 80% of the results of a project comes from 20% of the tasks. While choosing your focus, you need to pick 20% of those tasks that give you a good return on your investment.
While pursuing a multiple project schedule, it is important to set the expectations right from the start. For that, you need to communicate effectively. Also, encourage your team members to bring forth any query, however small it may sound.
For example, at the beginning of each quarter, communicate the goals with your team. Listen to their concerns and give them the flexibility to suggest changes to the project goals and tasks. In this way, the entire team feels involved in the project. This results in better responsibility-sharing and smooth multi-project management.
5. Avoid Distractions
It is easy to get distracted when you are handling multiple projects. You need to constantly switch from one task to another and your brain needs to reprogram to adjust to the new task. Also, you need to coordinate over calls as well as email. These distractions can reduce your attention span thereby hampering productivity.
To tackle distractions, it is best to focus on one task at a time. Allot a timespan for the tasks and set an alarm to indicate the elapsed time. With this, you do not get the urge to look into your emails or messages.
6. Use a Task Calendar
Using a calendar is a pragmatic way to streamline your tasks. You can also plan your tasks in a realistic manner and check their progress regularly. A calendar is also a means of self-accountability setting mechanism. When you know that there are multiple tasks in a multiple projects before you, you feel compelled to focus and clear your desk.
7. Refrain from Multitasking
You may feel that you can multitask and get things done faster across all the project tasks. But, that is not the case in reality. According to research multitasking or context switching can reduce your productivity by 80%.
Some tips to avoid multitasking while working on multiple projects:
- Just pick one priority task and give your undivided attention
- Turn off all the distractions like mobile, social media, pets and children at home, etc
- Be completely involved with your work. Do not let your thoughts wander to non-work activities
- Enjoy every struggle that comes your way. Take all measures available at your disposal to solve the project problem
- Make sure that you start the next task only after you complete the previous task. Incomplete tasks hamper the progress of your project
8. Refrain from Procrastination
We all tend to procrastinate appointments, task completion deadlines, etc. Over a period of time, procrastination builds up extra stress and anxiety. This further affects the productivity of your regular tasks.
You can take a cue from the world’s top CEOs to combat procrastination:
- The co-founder and COO of The Muse Alex Cavoulacos use the 1-3-5 rule while managing multiple projects. On any given day, she takes up one big project, three medium-level tasks, and five small things. This method keeps you focused on the task at hand. Also, you ensure that you clear your desk at the end of the day.
- Author of the International Best Seller, The Four Hour Week, Tim Ferris, focuses on completing his tasks in batches. At a time, he only takes up a specific job like writing and cuts off any other type of job like mail checking.
9. Automate your Tasks
Automation software aids you to complete more tasks spread across multiple projects in a less amount of time. There are some redundant tasks like file sharing, progress tracking, which are best managed by softwares as compared to manual tracking. By doing so, you free up valuable manpower resources and save time.
Some simple tips to automate project tasks are:
- Identify the redundant tasks for automation.
- Introduce task templates so that teams need not create a document from scratch.
- Bring in automatic task assigning based on certain conditions.
- Set notifications when tasks reach a particular level and take a follow-up action.
- Use a reliable project management tool to track the project workflow on a single dashboard.
10. Learn the Art of Saying No
When was the last time you went on to provide help but lost out on your project responsibilities? It is natural for us to want to help others. Sometimes, we get so involved that we fall short of our own work responsibilities. Here comes the importance of saying no, diplomatically.
At times, it is okay to refuse people and avoid taking extra workload. When you politely say No to your co-worker, you make them understand your plight and at the same time maintain a good relationship with them.
11. Encourage Delegation
Delegation of work is equally important as saying no to certain tasks. As a project manager, you are overwhelmed with different project tasks, you have different meetings to attend, etc. Many project managers are reluctant to delegate the tasks owing to reasons like fear of rework and less trust in their subordinates. In fact, delegation aids in increasing your work productivity.
How to effectively delegate tasks to your subordinates?
- Identify the appropriate tasks for delegation.
- Communicate the task nature clearly.
- Understand the skill and interest level of your subordinate.
- Give them complete authority to complete the task in a flexible manner.
- Avoid micromanaging and repose complete trust in your subordinates.
12. Review and Document Your Progress
It is important to introspect on your project progress to understand both your strong and weak areas. Have you met your expected short-term and long-term goals? What were the challenges encountered by you while performing your tasks? What new skills did you acquire? Was there an opportunity to delegate more and so on?
Also, make sure that you document every minute aspect of your project review. This helps you to better handle the same challenges next time.
Now that you have looked at the strategies to manage multiple projects, let’s learn how to manage them when you are working on a remote set up.
How to Manage Multiple Projects Remotely
The year 2020 saw the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a work from home scenario. Hence, it has become more challenging to manage projects remotely. However, certain golden tips can help you balance multiple projects in a work-from-home environment.
Let’s understand some remote project handling approaches:
1. Communicate Regularly
Unlike traditional work culture, remote project management involves working from the silos of your home. You may feel isolated from your team and keep thinking about your team’s whereabouts and productivity. At this juncture, it is necessary to have a frequent communication with your team regarding project progress.
TinyPulse research shows that 31% of remote workers contact their immediate supervisors at least once a day.
You can use the power of communication tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams to stay in touch with your team. For example, set a meeting at the start of the day to understand the daily task allocation. Encourage your team members to collaborate and get in touch throughout the day in case of queries. Further, at the end of the day conduct a review meeting to analyze the progress of the tasks.
2. Use Productivity Tracking Tools
Productivity tracking tools like Desktime App keeps a track of total work hours, desk time as well as the total productive time of your employees. You can easily see the tasks worked on by your employees in the form of screenshots or website URLs. This exercise keeps you and your employees on the same page while working remotely.
3. Incorporate Flexible Schedule
A flexible work environment helps your employees balance their personal-professional life. They are more motivated to work and give better work outputs. Hence, you see a drop in employee attrition rates along with increased employee satisfaction levels. This helps you to save on the cost of hiring and training new recruits.
The 2020 State of Remote Work by Buffer shows that 32% of employees find flexible schedules as the biggest benefit of working remotely.
Encourage your employees to plan and organize their workday. Give them the freedom to complete their tasks at their convenient time, as far as it is within the office timings. Also, refrain from micromanaging but rather provide the right guidance at the right time and take them on the right path.
4. Encourage Informal Meetups
Working remotely leaves you with a meager option of having informal or casual discussions with your colleagues. Remember the last time you sipped coffee and chatted with your colleagues in the canteen. These informal conversations help us to connect more with our colleagues and at the same time relieve work stress. But, work from home has become more about business talks over Zoom or Google Meet calls.
Encourage your teams to have informal conversations over calls. You can have a separate schedule for both business talks and informal chats. And make sure that you do not bring in business matters during these informal chats. Further, you can bring in team building activities like team games to lighten up the spirits. In the long run, these activities will boost the productivity of your team and help them manage multiple projects with ease.
Now that you have learned some ways to manage multiple projects remotely, it is time to explore some project management tools to help you excel at this.
5 Project Management Tools to Manage Multiple Projects
Pulse of the Profession 2017 Survey shows that companies with a robust project management system in place cut expenses by 28 times as compared to those without a standard project management software. Hence, the survey reaffirms the fact that a project management tool helps you to better plan, organize, automate and review project workflows.
There are numerous project software tools you can use to streamline your work. Let’s look at few tools as explained below:
ProProfs Project is a comprehensive project management tool that helps you to plan and track multiple projects in a systematic way. Features like client tracking and automatic invoice generation help you to handle multiple clients of different projects in a hassle-free manner.
Key features of the ProProfs Project are:
- Shared calendar: As a project manager, you can easily create and allocate tasks using a shared calendar. A single dashboard view tells you the status of different tasks spread across projects.
- Project schedule setting and tracking: ProProfs Project gives you the option to create tasks and subtasks easily. You can easily set the start and end dates of each task and keep monitoring its progress.
- Open discussion platform: Using this option, the team members can easily drop comments about task challenges. This avoids lengthy email discussions and brings everyone together on the same board.
- Hassle-free invoice generation: The automatic client invoicing ensures that billable and non-billable hours are calculated accurately.
- Superior AI-enabled task analysis: You can access detailed project reports on the dashboard using four project views – Gantt chart view, Kanban board, project view, and calendar view.
nTask is another trusted project management tool for project task management and team collaboration. Also, it can easily integrate with third-party applications like Slack for better performance.
Key features of nTask:
- Interactive Gantt charts: You can easily create user-friendly Gantt charts to understand the progress of your project better. The task dependency feature enables you to precisely connect the project workflow for good output.
- Versatile time tracking: The nTask timer generates a thorough report on the time spent on each task by your team. You have an option for manual time entry or you can set an automatic timer.
- Team collaboration features: There are interesting team collaboration features like creating team meeting agenda, have follow-up discussions, share files across teams, etc.
Monday.com is a flexible and customizable Project Management tool with interesting features like task dependencies, multiple project views, automatic notifications, etc.
Key features of Monday.com:
- Customizable templates: There are a number of customizable project templates for you to start off with. In doing so, you can avoid building a project workflow from scratch, thereby saving time and energy.
- Multiple project views: You get to know about your project progress using multiple views like map, calendar, timeline, kanban, etc.
- Repetitive tasks automation: With automation of repetitive tasks, you can focus on priority tasks and avoid distractions while handling multiple projects.
As a leading software for Project Management, ProofHub comes with exciting team management, file sharing, integration, and collaboration options.
- File Management: With the file management option, you can create and view different versions of the same file. This helps you analyze changes spread across different files.
- Workload Reports: This feature helps you to understand the performance and workload of team members. You can easily set custom metrics to understand your team’s work efficiency.
- Integration Options: You can integrate your project with multiple applications like Dropbox, Google Drive, Freshbooks, etc.
Teamwork is a versatile project management tool offering features like portfolio management, stronger collaboration, customizable templates, etc.
Key features of Teamwork:
- Unlimited client access: Clients get unlimited access to the dashboard and coordinate with the projects. Hence, this leads to effective monitoring and billing of each project.
- Portfolio management: A portfolio view gives you an overall picture of the project progress like the owner of the project, start date, end date, etc.
- Robust resource management: Herein, you can understand the capacity of each resource and its ability to take up new tasks. In doing so, you can allocate the right person to do the right job.
Manage Multiple Projects Like a Pro
Managing multiple projects is inevitable as a project manager of a large team with an extensive client base. It may look overwhelming in the beginning. But, by incorporating steps like prioritizing tasks, avoiding multitasking, using calendars and automation, and encouraging delegation, you can become a pro in handling multiple projects simultaneously.
Further, the COVID-19 has brought in a more challenging remote work environment. Hence, it is essential that you incorporate more flexibility and communicate more with your team to get work done effectively. Use project management tools to make project allocation and monitoring easier. With automation in place, you get freed of redundant tasks and can focus more on pressing tasks.
Looking for a tool to handle multiple projects? ProProfs Project could be the right fit for you. Get hold of some amazing features like shared file management, efficient client billing, project analysis on a single dashboard, and more.
Qn. How do you manage multiple priorities?
Ans. Shortlist the most urgent priority and work on it first.
Qn. What do you do when priorities change quickly?
Ans. Keep the communication open with the team, reassess the tasks and reallocate the right tasks to the right resources.
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