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Published on October 26, 2020

What is Project Time Management (And Tips to Improve it)

What is Project Time Management (And Tips to Improve it)

Project time management, as the name itself explains, is another version of time management. It is the scheduling of time for effective outputs but with the specific aim of successful results in a project.

The importance and value of time are well-known. The real deal is using this time to complete your projects and professional duties promptly while guaranteeing the yield of quality results.

Project time management is the tool that will help you keep track of time ensuring maximum productivity. Whether you’re a manager or a team member, project time management is vital to your efficient work performance.

What Is Time Management in Project Management?

Briefly, project time management is the art of managing time with a project in mind. This means you have an impending due date, a list of requirements, specific tasks to fulfill, and usually a group of people who must fulfill all these checkmarks.

Generally, the project manager devises a timeline to ensure all deadlines are met so that everyone can avoid stress, delays, and mishaps during the project. However, since the repute and peaceful workflow of all team members is at stake, all employees should work for operative project time management.

The Vital Steps

Project time management is not just a general concept. It is a technique with specific steps that should be followed for the best results.[1]

1. Activity Definition

The first step is to clarify all the needs and requirements of the project. This step needs to be done with extra attention to detail to avoid inconveniences later on in the process.

Start by defining the project: What it is and what needs to be done? What goals do you want to accomplish? How much time you’ve got?

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This is where setting SMART goals for the project comes in, too. Starting with defined SMART goals will keep you and the entire team on the same page as to how much work is expected and what quality of results is required.

2. Resource Estimating

Once the requirements and goals are identified, it’s time to take a look at all the supporting resources. Everything and everyone that can play a part to help you reach your goals need to be identified at this stage.

During this step, you’ll get clarity on what materials, people, and other resources are available and what you need to outsource. Therefore, at this stage, you’ll get an estimate of the budget requirements as well.

3. Duration Estimating

Since project time management is focused on time, estimating the time requirements is one of the most essential steps. With all resources, aims, goals, and requirements previously calculated, estimating the time requirements becomes easier and more accurate.

This is the step where you calculate the details of each step. Get an estimate of how long each step will take, how the timeline of the process will go on, where you can adjust delays, and where things need to be done strictly on time.

4. Schedule Development

The rough estimate of time is great for development, but it isn’t something you can communicate to your team if you expect punctuality. If you want everything to be done strictly on time, a well-defined schedule is what you need to assign to all team members.

When you’re developing a schedule, make sure you add details of all responsible people for a task. Be clear on how much time is allotted for each task. If possible, add in expected obstacles along with a guide on how to overcome them so that your team doesn’t feel lost.

5. Schedule Control

Developing a schedule is not enough. What’s more important is implementing it and if the need arises, improvising it.

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Keeping an eye on all team members to ensure that the schedule is being followed is one of the most important steps of project time management. Moreover, if unexpected hurdles hinder the process, you should know how to work around them to avoid delays in your project completion.

Tips to Improve Project Time Management

The 5 steps of project time management breakdown the process into a very manageable and practical technique. However, there’s always more that you can do to improve what you’re producing.

The following tips will help your team work better and yield refined outputs.

1. Use a Management Tool

A management tool or software is necessary. Firstly, because it is the easiest, most convenient method of keeping everyone on the same page. Secondly, the world is shifting to digital means. Especially after a pandemic, it is important to keep digital options in mind to accommodate remote workers.

A digital software allows all team members to have access to details of the project. Everyone is made better aware of their duties, deadlines, and updates. Moreover, the team can coordinate with the help of such tools without needing to meet physically every so often.

At Lifehack, we use Basecamp. It is a great tool to keep all remote workers in the loop as well. Everyone’s progress is easily communicated and due to the ease of use, it saves up a lot of time.

Every individual can update their work progress in real-time. The manager can keep track of the overall progress. In case things are lagging, immediate action can be taken to fix the delay as early on as possible.

2. Prioritize

Prioritizing like a pro is an essential skill that contributes to the success of project time management. You need to know exactly which steps of the process must be done before the rest. Not only is this order necessary for a smooth flow, but it also ensures that maximum time is saved. The use of five whys is a great way to prioritize.[2]

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So, if you think a task is the most important, you start questioning why it is important, why the other can be delayed but this task cannot be, and so on.

Another method that helps in setting priorities right is the superstructure method. This is a step-by-step method in which you figure out the most important tasks by breaking them down and understanding them.

The first step in the superstructure method is to have a clear intention, which in this case is to finish the project in the best way possible in minimal time. Next, you determine the value of the task at hand which is basically the task’s contribution to fulfilling your intent.

After that, you figure out the cost, which is the inputs, and weigh them against the outputs you’ll receive. If it’s a profitable deal, you prioritize it.

This may sound like a lot, but you must prioritize the task list daily to keep it updated as per the need of the situation. Once you get the hang of the process, it will only take you a few seconds to get this done every morning.

3. Balance of Responsibilities

Project time management focuses a lot on maintaining a balance, whether it is a balance of time against tasks or responsibilities against resources.

One thing that a lot of managers do wrong is that they either overburden themselves or their team. They fail to estimate where they must stop taking on more. Once this limit is exceeded, all the previous efforts start going down the drain.

This issue can be easily avoided if you set defined SMART goals right off the bat when beginning with the project. However, if you still get caught in a web of more responsibilities than you can manage, it’s time to use the wonderful technique of delegation.

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It is extremely important that as a project head or manager, you know when you need to supervise when you must do tasks yourself and when you can let your teamwork independently.

Do not take all responsibilities by yourself. Delegate things that do not require your full attention. Similarly, do not burden your team while you stay free all day long. Experiment around to find a healthy balance where you have enough space to manage the team while doing your tasks. Simultaneously, your team can manage their duties efficiently, too.

One tip that will help you whether you’re delegating or not is to be well aware of the qualities of all your team members. You should know exactly who can serve as the saving grace of the project when things start getting out of hand.

Conclusion

In conclusion, project time management is an amazing technique to implement in your workplace. Whether you’re a manager or working under one, add the steps of project time management to your work process for an easy workflow that is well-managed.

It’s time to stop pushing things to the end of your to-do list. No more slacking and unproductive days at work. Start using this technique along with the tips, so that you’re never late on completing projects ever again!

More Tips on Project Time Management

Featured photo credit: Brad Neathery via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 11, 2020

The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It

The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It

This is the seventh and final article describing The New Lifehacking. In this series, I described the need for you, a Lifehacker, to focus on making fundamental changes to your habitual methods, rather than chasing the latest gadget or tip. The best way to accomplish this change is to gain an understanding of your current systematic methods, and to use this knowledge to set new targets.

However, using this approach by itself, as logical as it sounds, could close the door to future improvements.

If you only focus on your own methods and keep your head down, you could miss opportunities to improve. The fact is, inspiration to change often arises from the stories, examples and insights of other people, and in order to keep things fresh, you need to be open to these new, possibly contrarian, concepts.

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How Do You Look for New Ideas and Gadgets?

If you are a new Lifehacker, you search cautiously. There are new books, blog posts, lists and gadgets coming out all the time, and there’s no way to cover every possible improvement–you simply can’t keep up. You can trust, however, that there are others on the Internet who will curate these concepts for you and continuously share them until they start to resonate.

After an idea or shortcut gets mentioned a few times in an intelligent way by people that you respect, it’s probably time to pay attention and add the new resource to a list of items to research. This is one way to crowdsource the job of sifting through new ideas in a way that saves you a lot of time and effort.

How Do You Evaluate New Ideas and Gadgets?

While you need to be open to new suggestions for possible improvement, you need to adopt an entirely different process in order to evaluate them. A healthy dose of skepticism is required if you are to escape the trap of grabbing the latest-greatest-hottest “thingy,” only to see it fail. The fact is, a particular improvement may help one person and at the same time hinder others. You need to look at your current habits and practices, plus your own evaluation and ask yourself if the investment in time, energy and focus is worth the payoff at the end.

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For example, I had to make some cost/benefit decisions when I considered switching over from a Palm T PDA to a Blackberry a few years ago. I tried my best to make the change slowly, aware that some of my habits needed to change in order to accommodate the new device.

Here are a few that I had to alter:

New Habit #1.

Recharging the device became a nightly requirement, versus a bi-weekly option. This meant plugging in the device each night. Therefore, I always needed to be near a charger and a power source.

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New Habit #2.

I switched from carrying around a paper pad to capture new tasks, to typing them into my Blackberry with its small keyboard. This meant I had less to take with me from place to place, but it also meant that ideas took longer to record. Also, when I’m on a call and need to record an appointment or phone number, the process of switching over from one function to another is fraught with danger. I still drop the occasional call.

New Habit #3.

Replacing a feature phone with a smartphone means switching from an inexpensive, robust device to one that’s expensive and more fragile. This requires me to be more careful, learning how to protect against theft, physical and adverse physical elements. I had to learn to treat my phone as if it were a precious device that simply couldn’t be just left anywhere.

New Habit #4.

As a Palm user, I was never tempted to use the device while driving. Today’s smartphone user is afflicted with the temptation to break state laws and commonsense rules of thumb by attempting to multitask in moving vehicles. Fortunately, I never developed this particular habit but that’s only because I try hard to be vigilant against all forms of distractions, especially when I’m driving. It takes mental effort to be that vigilant; it’s an entirely new habit.

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How Do You Implement New Ideas and Gadgets?

Once the decision has been made to adopt a new improvement, it’s important to make the switch consciously, with a high degree of awareness. There are likely to be a few surprises that require extra attention, and some new habits that turn out to be harder to learn than you thought. For example, I had a hard time learning to plug in my smartphone each night.

The point is maintain as many old, productive habits as possible while implementing the handful of new ones that you believe will make a difference. Unfortunately, it’s devilishly easy to make things worse, and even *much* worse. People who jump from one technology to another can attest to this fact–witness those who fail to switch to large screen smartphones that don’t comfortably fit in a holster. The size of the device forces them to abandon a trusted old habit, in search of a new one. Some simply switch back to their old devices because the “improvement” makes things worse for them.

The New Lifehacking is all about executing intelligent, individual change management. This transformation might not happen at a pace that the author of a book or an inventor of a gadget might want, but at the end of the day we, the new lifehackers, answer only to ourselves, deciding whether or not an improvement makes the deep difference that we want.

Featured photo credit: Emily Park via unsplash.com

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