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10 Tips for New Project Managers

10 Tips for New Project Managers

Organization and routine are two crucial aspects for increasing efficiency, so if you want to be a project manager, you should focus on improving those two. Being a project manager is so much more than stamping deadlines and assigning tasks to your co-workers.

It’s all about puzzling out the most favourable approach to handling the project with maximum efficiency. In a way, you should be more of a tactician than a task master. Here are some suggestions you might find useful if you intend on being a successful project manager.

Find a good approach to tasks

Finding the right approach to a certain task is all about good segmentation; how to divide the project into a smaller wholes so that you can track your progression on a daily basis, and also how to tackle the task so that the workload is evenly distributed. It’s impossible to get a handle on this on your first try, but, gradually, you’ll find a good way to divide copious tasks.

Learn how to lead

Even though you are not the boss, you still need to be a leader. In other words, you might not have the necessary authority, but you still need to guide projects. This is why working as a project manager can be difficult; people might regard you as someone who is trying to be an employer’s pet.

Furthermore, you need to figure out how to put people in a productive mood. This is where a lot of managers tend to make a mistake. They force themselves to appear vibrant, hoping the enthusiasm will pass on to their co-workers. This is something that teachers and professors try to do in order to animate students during morning lectures.

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Big mistake! People will think you are treating them as children and they will find it really annoying. Probably the best thing you can do to start off on right terms in the morning is to offer to make coffee for everyone.

The important thing to remember here is to allow your co-workers to see that you know what you are doing. So, ooze confidence and experience like a true leader should and, in spite of your actual rank, people will see you as someone trustworthy.

Communicate

This is one of the most important traits, because in order to be good at planning, you need to know the capabilities of your workforce, or co-workers. It is also a nice way to show that you are still their co-worker, not someone who is trying to act above them.

The main objective is to ascertain just how someone goes about their tasks, and the time necessary for their completion. This gives you a better grip on reality when you need to come up with a deadline, and when you need to segment the task, as it was discussed in the paragraph above.

Learn the basics

In order to be good at management, you need to know the basics of the production process, this way, you’ll have a better sense of what is possible and what isn’t. Besides, you need to have a clear insight into what you are managing.

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So, being well informed should be one of the requirements for becoming a manger. Furthermore, it will give you a better idea on how to enhance the production process and increase productivity.

Work on your empathy

One way not to appear bossy to your co-workers is by practicing empathy. Empathy plays a great role in developing social intelligence. So it’s always good to work on your people skills if you want to be a good manager. Being more empathetic can help you figure out how someone is feeling at a given moment.

Of course, this does not imply it is your duty to solve their problems, but as a project manager you are managing more than projects, you are managing people as well. So, for the purpose of good planning it’s good to know someone’s working capacity, at a particular period. It’s good to know if you might have to implement contingency plan, or to ask for deadline to be moved a bit, just in case there is a possible delay.

Plan ahead

Panic, pressure and deadline rush are all very potent tools for surge of productivity, yet working in these stressful conditions is extremely harmful. As a project manager, you should steer clear from telling your co-workers the accurate deadline, always leave some space in case things go south.

When you segment the task, as mentioned at the beginning, do it in such a way that you have a few days to spare, in case you need to do some additional work. This is the most optimal way to reduce scope creeps, which will be elaborated on further in a different section.

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Be a team player

In spite of the fact that you are in charge of the project, you and your co-workers need to function as a unit, in order to achieve positive results. This implies that you are equal as teammates, and if they need to be open to your suggestions and criticism, you should return the favour.

Therefore, if a co-worker makes a valid point when he or she corrects you, do not be too proud to acknowledge their opinion. It is within your interest that projects are successfully delivered, so everyone should work on self-improvement. Besides, everyone can benefit from some healthy criticism.

Embrace your responsibilities

One thing that every successful project manager should realize is that there is no room for excuses. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to regard the projects as your own, not as work you do for someone else. With that in mind, whenever a failure occurs, it is your personal failure; shifting the blame to others is no way to go about this issue.

Sure, you might know who is to blame for failure, but taking responsibility means taking the blame as well; you were in charge, so you need to take the heat as well. Pointing fingers just makes you look incompetent. You need to be a mediator between your boss and your co-workers, and if you want your team to trust you, then you need to stand up for them.

Don’t shy away from learning new things

Another thing you should know is that delivering a product on time won’t be enough, you need to aim higher and improve in your main field of interest. This makes you a better leader and a better coordinator. Furthermore, as you advance it motivates those around you not to fall behind, so they will follow this example.

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Once you know the basics of every aspect of the production process, make some time to expand your knowledge base. If you truly love what you are doing, then you should always strive to be better at it, and as project manager, you need a wide range of interests.

Minimize scope creeps

Scope creeps are unforeseen circumstances that tend to hinder project delivery. They usually occur if project instructions lack sufficient details, due to poor requirements analysis or, to put it bluntly, if you underestimate the complexity of the project.

We have already mentioned how good task segmentation and deadline management can minimize these risks, but you also need a thorough analysis of the project, you need to set your priorities accurately, and you need to adequately distribute resources.

I hope you found these suggestions useful, and I wish you the best of luck in your future adventures in project management. Remember that quality tactics are essential for impeccable execution. Just follow these tips and I am sure you’ll do fine.

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Djordje Todorovic

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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