A majority of project managers are looking for ways that help them work through the process of time management and reach the deadlines without compromising on end deliverable’s quality.
But besides this, time management for project managers is becoming all the more crucial now that only 37% of projects get delivered on time.
To overcome this declining number, we’ve compiled a list of proven time management tips for project managers. But before we move on to these tips, let’s shed some light on a few problems that you’ll notice due to lack of time management.
Let’s dive in.
5 Common Time Management Mistakes Made by Project Managers
There are multiple mistakes that any manager can make and may hamper the overall progress of their project. We’ll breeze through some of these mistakes below that’ll help you identify them faster and act upon them easily.
1. Lack of Task Prioritization
One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of project managers end up making is failing to prioritize their tasks. Some may even find prioritizing their top tasks as an overwhelming activity. As a result of failing to prioritize their task, some managers may even get notifications from other colleagues to refocus their attention on a more pressing matter.
2. Poor Task Schedules
There are more reasons why time management techniques and tools are becoming more popular for project managers, one of them being poor task assignments and schedules created for their teams. Bad task assignment practices and schedules can turn out to be deadly for a project team because it can impact their productivity pattern and delay task deliverables. This also shows that managers aren’t taking into account the amount of time a team member may take to complete a task. This leads to bad task assignment practices that impact the deadlines of a project.
3. Undermining the Time Taken to Complete a Task
While it is great to depend on your top performers to complete specific tasks based on their ability, that shouldn’t be the basis to undermine the amount of time they may take to complete a task. Even your top performers may come across unforeseen situations where they may have to stall their tasks at hand.
That means you need to avoid setting unrealistic deadlines for tasks that a normal person may take 1 or 2 days to complete. You need to have a backup that readily takes up the tasks if the person responsible isn’t available due to a myriad of reasons.
4. Assuming that Multitasking is Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Time management techniques and tools are also important for a project manager to understand how many tasks are one team member responsible for. If you’re not aware of the number of tasks one person is managing, then you end up assigning them too many tasks. Now, it’s not necessary that your team members cannot manage multiple tasks at the same time. However, it is bad to assume that every team member would be good at juggling multiple tasks at the same time.
5. Managing a Project with Perfectionist Tendencies
The moment you dive into a project, you are working towards achieving an end result. And it is not necessary that the end result may be as perfect as imagined. This is especially true in the case of a product development project. You can only make the product better over time. Working on a project with a perfectionist tendency may not just require the team to keep working on the same tasks again and again but also hamper other project deliverables at the same time.
Besides these, you can also see your managers making other mistakes such as:
- Starting their day late and end up postponing or rescheduling their other tasks
- Procrastinating due to huge backlog
- Failing to manage multiple distractions from task notifications or work calls
- Failing to recognize the difference between being busy vs. being effective
- Missing out on much-needed breaks to reach the deadlines faster and end up reaching the burnout
It’s because of these time management mistakes, project managers need to learn a few ways that help them avoid making them in the first place. That’s why in the next section we’ll be covering the top 10 time management tips for project managers in detail.
Top 10 Time Management Tips for Project Managers
1. Eliminate Time Killers
First and foremost, identify your time wasters that eat up your productive time and take a toll on the project deadlines.
That’s why you need tools like DeskTime in place to help you analyze the time spent in a day. Such tools can help you redirect the time spent on tasks and meetings and plan better.
It’ll help you see the resources that were referred by your team during work and how much time they end up spending on unproductive activities too.
Once you’re done with identifying your time robbers, take baby steps in eliminating them one by one. Casual conversations and social media, for instance, are under your control, so limit them as much as possible.
During the process of time management, you might find it difficult to manage emails and meetings as they are not totally under your control. That’s why it is important to select a particular time slot to deal with them appropriately.
2. Create a Project Baseline
Project management is all about setting and meeting targets on time, however, there is a flipside. Until you know the targets, meeting them is not possible. According to a Capterra report, every 1 in 3 projects doesn’t have a baseline at all.
Why is the project baseline important?
A project baseline charts out deliverables in detail, right from the scope to schedule, key milestones, dates, etc. When you and your team members know exactly what and when to deliver, it really helps in cutting down the execution time. If you want, you can make use of a project management software like ProProfs Project to help you chart out the baseline of a project.
Simply put, it helps to mitigate deviations during the project development process. After creating the baseline, you can perform weekly assessments to determine whether the project is performing as expected or not.
Always keep one thing in mind that a well-defined baseline can help you meet project deadlines efficiently.
Read Also: Best Project Management Software for 2021
3. Allocate Resources Effectively
Project managers must be aware of the core strengths of their team, for the sake of an effective execution process. If your team has the right skills, they are likely to handle high-pressure situations. It not only prevents time sinks but also keeps the project on track.
On the off chance that you rope in the wrong resources at the right place, deadlines are likely to be jeopardized due to two reasons:
One, the resource may lack a particular skill required for completing the assigned task.
Two, they don’t have an interest in the assignment, even when there are no gaps in their skillset.
It clearly signifies that interest mapping is crucial while allocating project resources. Now, what you need to do for proper resource management is:
- Conduct open meetings to assess individual interests
- Ask team members to volunteer for specific tasks
- Introduce rewards or incentives for timely completion
You can also use project management tools to seamlessly track and allocate resources to correct tasks.
You can even keep a track of which team member has been assigned which tasks and their progress by tracking the progress bar next to the user’s column. Remember, when team members work on the tasks mapped to their interests, project deadlines are likely to be met before or on time.
4. Practice Effective Delegation
Now that you know the core strengths of your team members, you can start delegating tasks matching their interests. While delegating tasks, make sure that you assign complete tasks, not chunks.
If team members are bombarded with subtasks one after the other, they may end up losing focus, and that could derail the project progress and result in missed deadlines. That’s why setting clear expectations right from the onset is instrumental.
Key ideas to ensure that delegated tasks result in success:
- Encourage your team to take responsibility for each assigned task
- Conduct weekly or biweekly team meetings to ensure that everything is on track
- Use reliable knowledge base software to create a library of solutions so that your team can resolve task-related issues in one go
5. Set Realistic Goals
44% of projects fail because of no alignment between business and project objectives.
Setting realistic goals is imperative if you want to hit the deadlines. In case you make tall promises to the stakeholders that your team is unlikely to fulfill, it can affect your revenues and brand image.
Besides a tarnished reputation, there will be bitterness in relationships with stakeholders.
So, create clear and actionable goals that your team members can fulfill on time and with the required precision. For that to happen, you must:
- Analyze past project trends to get a fair idea about “real goals”
- Ask team members to contribute their opinions
- Arrange open discussions about goal-setting
Once you settle for a middle-ground that’s acceptable to both the stakeholders and team members, your chances of saving precious time and accomplishing goals will skyrocket.
Besides staying realistic, you can also take the SMART Approach while setting goals:
- S- Specific
- M- Measurable
- A- Attainable
- R- Realistic
- T- Time-Bound
Complying with the SMART checklist can ensure that you never lose track of time so that your project heads in the right direction.
6. Follow the Pareto Principle
Even though many project managers are already following this principle, it deserves a mention. The Pareto Principle sets an 80/20 rule that project managers can leverage to utilize their time better, without sacrificing quality at any stage of the project lifecycle.
This principle says two things:
- Spend 80 percent of your time in transformational activities, and
- Only 20 percent in transactional activities
When you start working in accordance with this principle, 20 percent of your efforts can actually result in 80 percent of your results.
7. Go Beyond Status Updates
Most project managers end up conducting meetings, only to chase team members about progress reports and status updates, and this shouldn’t be the case, honestly. Since a team meeting is an open forum, it’s an opportunity for the team members to bring work-related challenges to light and, if possible, voice their opinions about the project.
Instead of focussing on status updates during team meetups, discuss the risks, issues, and opportunities that could affect the bottom line of your project. Other than that, you can also brainstorm specific solutions and ideas during the meeting.
Keep one thing in mind that only concerned members should be summoned for the discussion, as involving others will only result in the wastage of time. What’s more, keep team meetings short for the sake of deadlines.
8. Use Feature-rich Task Management Software
With feature-rich time management software, project managers can make their lives easier because major problems related to collaboration, communication, time management, etc. can be resolved effortlessly.
Let’s take an example of ProProfs Project, a simple yet powerful task management application that could help to prevent time sinks proactively. It gives a delightful user experience and offers smart features, such as:
- Time tracking: Calculate billable and non-billable hours with timers, and it rules out the possibilities of making manual mistakes
- Task comments: Teams across different departments can comment on a particular task if it is taking more than enough time to be completed. You can also share your inputs to help your team for timely completion of tasks
- Calendar view: Time sinks happen when your team doesn’t know what needs to be done on a particular day. Plan your tasks using calendar view to offer clarity to your team, and it will surely keep the deadlines unaffected
- Timesheets: Keep the record of productive hours of your team by developing timesheets. It enables you to identify and resolve time-killing factors
- Gantt charts: Keep a tab on the progress of your projects via Gantt charts, to nip time sinks in the bud
Read more: Task Management Tips for Higher Productivity
9. Remember Who’s Got the Monkey and Apply It
The best way to keep time sinks at bay is to use the ‘Who’s Got the Monkey’ method. It clears the air regarding monkeys, i.e. tasks so that team members stay on track and complete their assignments as per the given timelines.
There are 3 types of monkeys:
- Self-imposed time: In this period, each team member focus on their assignment
- System-imposed time: In this timeframe, two or more team members come together to complete dependent tasks aptly
- Boss-imposed time: It refers to the time in which project managers handle certain activities like team meetings, email conversations, etc.
Being a project manager, it’s your responsibility to increase the self-imposed time. Needless to say, there will be no loose ends if team members dedicate enough time to their tasks. It will save you significant time that usually gets wasted due to rework.
Steps involved in the ‘Who’s Got the Monkey’ method:
- Recognize the monkey and describe it: Zero in on the nature of the task and what actions will work for its completion.
- Assign the monkey: Allocate the task to the right team member.
- Ensure the monkey: Monitor whether the allocated task is being handled properly or not. Lend a hand if the task progress is not upto the mark.
- Keep a check on the monkey: Take timely follow-ups to be sure that everything is on the track.
10. Use Kanban Technique
Last but not least, project managers can trust the Kanban technique to address their pain points related to time management. It promises cent-percent transparency and shows how tasks move one stage to another. It surely brings those hidden factors to light that generally amplify the number of unproductive hours, and this enables you to take the required measures against bottlenecks.
Japan came up with this technique, and it has done wonders for its adopters so far. All you need to do is to create columns based on the number of stages involved in your project.
There was a time when project managers used to use whiteboards and markers to define columns. At present, well-developed project management tools like ProProfs Project have overshadowed that practice, as they come with the Kanban view feature.
How does it work?
Create 4 columns and define which tasks belong to which field. Change the status of tasks when they are completed, halted, etc. Let’s see an example:
- Backlog: List all your pending tasks and then decide which one can be moved to “To Do” Column & which can wait a while.
- To Do: It shows all the tasks you want to do in the future
- In Progress: In this column, you mention only ongoing tasks
- Done: It lists all the completed tasks
In short, the Kanban technique is the key to effective time management for project managers.
Read more: Best online Kanban tools
Project Management Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Time mismanagement is the major challenge faced by project managers. Time-related problems cannot be resolved in a day, so start with baby steps for now.
To get started, you can use a project management tool. If you are already using one and still not winning the race against time, you probably need to reconsider the options. Go for a project management software that takes away dependency over spreadsheets and helps you keep all team members on a single page.
Once you start using the right time management techniques and tools, things will automatically start falling into place. It will empower you to accomplish more in your projects with minimal efforts.
With this blog, we have shared effective time management tips for project managers so that the road to success will be painless.
Q. How is time management related to project management?
Time management has always been part of project managers’ role & responsibilities because it is directly connected with those factors that lead to success. In brief, it’s a key element of the project management triangle. You have to define timelines for ideal project management, and it enables you to meet deadlines with quality deliverables.
Q. What is the main purpose of time management?
You can put concerns like ‘How to become a project manager’ to rest if you are good at time management, because its main purpose is to get quality work done before the deadline gets expired.
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