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Woman planning the project deadline

Best Ways To Improve Your Project Time Management Skills

Everybody manages at least one project in their lives, whether it be in school, at work, or in your household. While there are a million and one tips available online, it’s important that we accept that we are all project managers, regardless of our job title or role in society.

 

To understand what project management is, we first have to realize that it isn’t a new concept that came along with technology. The construction industry may have popularized it before the age of computers dawned in the 21st century, but managing projects has always been around. Therefore, the success and failure of projects, businesses, or any practical activity relied on the effectiveness of the project manager’s abilities.

Colleagues discussing their project

Project management is the method of applying skills, resources, and experience in meeting a project’s goals. It is assessed by three success factors: quality, budget, and time. A good project manager makes time work for them, rather than working to get more time. While assessing project quality and controlling finances are essential, these require training and specific knowledge on the particular industry. But if you must start somewhere as a project manager, the first priority should be in developing your time management skills. Here are some tips to get you going.

 

1. Write your goals clearly

Having an action plan is incomplete without goals. Goals should also be SMART, an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.” Managing projects effectively need to have a start and end date, which helps to ensure that objectives are attainable given the resources you have. The easiest way to write SMART goals is to ask questions. Here’s a template that can get you started.

 

2. Create a reverse to-do list

Now that you have a time frame, do you start working on the first task right away? A good strategy in keeping with deadlines is to work backwards and note how much time you need to complete each step. For example, if you have two months to write your research paper, mark the deadline and build in milestones like researching the topic, writing the proposal, and setting up interviews. It helps if you can pinpoint a date but scheduling weekly ranges also help at this stage.

 

Deadlines can be daunting, but they don’t have to be! Shift your mindset into thinking that deadlines are tools to help sharpen your focus so you can get things done more efficiently.

Woman planning the project deadline

3. Track progress with milestone reports

Visualizing your progress on a calendar or a chart improves your personal accountability towards the project and your team members. For some people, being vocal about goals and progress can boost their confidence and empower them to finish strong.

 

Milestones need to be overcome but also celebrated since they bring you closer to your goal. Don’t be shy to wear the hat of a cheerleader from time to time and make sure that small achievements are recognized. Even when you’re behind schedule, being honest with the slow progress can also help bring a team together. In the end, the project will thank you for it.

 

4. Use responsive apps on multiple devices

Slack on a laptop

Productivity tools like Trello, Slack, and Google Suite are now staples in managing projects virtually. If you’re managing multiple projects simultaneously, being able to switch between them is a skill you have to develop alongside your apps and devices.

  • Trello allows users to customize the names of their to-do lists, attach files and links to each list, and assign specific tasks to different people all in the same dashboard. Other alternatives you can consider are Asana and Notion!
  • Slack allows users to create channels for each topic, project, or team where members can chat and discuss collaborations easily.
  • Google Workspace includes Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Calendar which are essential tools to complete a virtual project successfully.

You can access most of these tools offline and on multiple devices. While some people think that work has slowly crept into every part of our lives, utilizing these tools effectively means that your job as a project manager is supported no matter where you are. Therefore, this maximizes the time you have to do other things aside from managing timelines.

 

5. Stick to a schedule

According to Harvard Business Review, most traditional work schedules go against our natural circadian sleep rhythms, which affect our productivity and determine our peak and low energy levels. Utilize a consistent daily schedule that maximizes your energy peaks and communicate this to your team. However, note that this varies from person to person. For example, project managers often catch up on their to-do lists and emails first thing in the morning, followed by meetings and presentations. But if you find that you have more creative energy in the early daytime, you might want to use this for writing reports or reviewing manuals. Then, you can push back some of the regular meetings for later in the afternoon.

Man drawing

If you’re the kind of person that loves routine, then this shouldn’t be a problem! However, be careful. You may find yourself too tied up with your calendar that you forget to allow some flexibility in your schedule. Project management is all about making time work for you. So, planning ahead including contingency plans will make the project successful.

 

6. Delegate or ask for help

Don’t be afraid to reach out to peers or supervisors when you need help meeting deadlines. Having a project manager who isn’t afraid to ask for help and delegate is usually good for the project. However, this is only true if the time freed up gets used on other productive matters. Some managers think that their job is simply to direct and instruct team members into accomplishing the task. A good project manager also offers help to others when needed, stays on top of things, and often thrives behind the scenes. Wearing too many different hats can become a burden and if unresolved, can lead to project failure. When delegating, make sure it’s clear, specific, and don’t forget to say thank you!

 

7. Report and analyze relevant data

Every project has a beginning and an end. The success of a project means there will be future projects, and analyzing relevant data can help to improve the team’s productivity and workflows. Document the team’s reflections on how they dealt with particular issues to avoid repeating the same mistake. You can also note the responses that can become best practices!

 

Bonus tip!

If you’re interested in self-development and work as a project manager for a firm, a university club, or simply looking for tricks of the trade, here are some of what most effective managers have according to HubSpot:

  1. An organized system for emails with labels, canned responses, etc
  2. A calendar with time blocks of deep work and 1-on-1s with staff or clients
  3. A regular exercise routine
  4. A slew of productivity tools

Trained in both corporate and non-profit organisations, I'm an aspiring sociologist who seeks to restore humanity where it is least found. On weekends, I enjoy reading webtoons and business magazines.

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