No matter how hard you may try, you can’t control time — but you can manage it a little better. Time passes whether you like it or not.
Instead, when we discuss time management, we’re really talking about how we can make the most of the time we have. And, one effective way of doing this is by learning how to manage a project over time.
Tips on How to Become a Better Project Manager
That may sound like an impossible feat, but if you try out these ten project management tips, it can be done.
Establish a Project Baseline
“A baseline is the initial project scope, schedule and cost of a project. These are generally defined and reviewed at the onset of a project by the project team, although project stakeholders can be included as well,” writes Patrick Icasas for the Project Management Blog.
Project baselines provide “a standard by which actual performance can be measured.” They also can forecast the outcome of the project.
“Baselines are documented (whether on paper or electronically) and are used to keep the project on track.” They’re not “necessarily set in stone; they can be updated as the scope changes, estimates are reassessed and resources become available.”
Once the project has been completed, compare the original baseline with the actual timeline, cost and scope. By comparing the two, you can “determine what can be done to minimize problems in the future.”
You should pay attention to this while working on the project. If there are any changes to the original scope, then you’ll need to immediately adjust the baseline.
Use Historical Information
Did you previously work on a project that’s similar to a project you’re currently working on? Go back and revisit that project. You want to see what mistakes were made, what you did correctly and the resources you used.
This can shave off several days of your schedule since you now have a blueprint for success.
Incorporate the Appropriate Tools and Resources
Before diving into a project, make sure that you’ve aligned all of the tools and resources needed to complete the project on time. This is obviously going to vary from business to business. But this would include assigning work to employees based on their skill sets. It would also discuss the tools or software you’ll need to automate workflow.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
Named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule, “is the idea that 80 percent of your results are going to come from 20 percent of your efforts.”
While there may be some flaws in this method, the idea is that it can be used as a starting point to determine where your priorities should be focused.
Ultimately, you’ll want to focus on 20 percent of your activities that matter the most. As a result, 80 percent of your results will come from just that 20 percent. It’s not just used to help you determine where you’re effective. It also ensures that you won’t waste any time.
Make Meetings Meaningful
If you’re working with a team on a project, don’t waste everyone’s time by asking everyone to share a status update. This provides little value and is a real time-waster. Instead, your meetings should focus on problem-solving and brainstorming.
To ensure that your meetings are effective, always set an agenda and keep them short. Don’t forget to prepare in advance and give your team actionable items that can be measured.
Don’t Micromanage, Delegate
As a project manager, there’s no need to get involved with every finite part of the project. After all, you have a talented team that you’ve selected to handle specific tasks. Instead, you need to keep your eye on the ball, in this case steering the project to a successful completion.
Even if you don’t have a full-time staff, you may want to consider outsourcing and delegating certain tasks. For example, hiring a virtual assistant would handle all your administrative work, like replying to emails and planning your schedule, so that you can remain focused on the project.
It’s easier to see the big picture when your break down the structure of your work. It also allows you to make more accurate estimates since you’re working with smaller pieces of work.
Think of the deconstruction like building a house. It’s difficult to give an exact date when it will be completed. However, you can probably give a ballpark estimate on projects like painting the living room, installing the kitchen cabinets or finishing the bathroom plumbing.
Keep in mind you don’t want to breakdown the project so much you start micromanaging. One indicator you’ve gone too far is when you start measuring tasks by exact minutes or hours.
Create To-Do Lists
Jotting down your most important tasks for the day keeps you focused on achieving your objectives. Otherwise, you’ll end-up wasting time on tasks that don’t really influence the project.
For example, I’m addicted to Feedly. Even though I receive updates regarding my industry, they’re not assisting me in finishing an ongoing project.
Sometimes this isn’t easy. However, by saying “no” you’ll be able to prevent spreading yourself too thin. For example, if you’re too busy and don’t have time for something, say “no.” If you don’t know how to do something or it’s not in your wheelhouse, say “no.”
Plan For the Unexpected and Interruptions
Life doesn’t always go as planned. You may get sick or have to deal with a family emergency. Other times your computer crashes and you can’t pick up a new one until tomorrow. Regardless of the exact situation, you have to plan for the unexpected and interruptions.
The easiest way to do this is by having a little flexibility in your schedule. For example, even though I block out from 8 a.m. to noon and then 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for work, there are breaks in between.
In my morning block, for example, there’s usually an hour break between 10 and 11. While I usually use this time to take a break, recharge and check my emails, I can also use it to take care of any emergencies if I have to.