Today, project managers are being asked to run more projects with smaller teams around tight deadlines. These outrageous demands are making it harder for managers to reach project completion. In fact, less than one-third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year.
To pull off a successful project, managers need to master productivity — easier said than done. Juggling between the roles of a creator, manager, team player, strategist, and a leader — being productive is relatively difficult.
The good news it is possible for project managers to master productivity. With these 6 nifty productivity tips, you can get more done in a day without having to break your back — it’s all about working smart.
Let’s dive in:
1. Eat the alien first
Becky Blanton, the author of The October Abduction of Thomas Martin series suggests to eat the alien first i.e start your day focusing on completing the hardest task. She believes that once you are done with the most difficult task of the day, the rest of them feel like a breeze. It’s a chain reaction where one event sets off a series of similar events - the domino effect.
This is how it works:
- Note down your aliens a night before.
- The next day, complete all the tasks on that list. Jump to other tasks only when you have exhausted the list.
2. Delegate, the right way
Poor delegation is worse than no delegation. All the times you tried to delegate and things went south in a blink of an eye, you probably swore: “never am I going to delegate another task, ever!”
The truth is, delegation is effective only when done right. Most times, project managers do not get the desired productivity because they are making one of these mistakes:
- Slow delegation. It leads to a cluster of unassigned tasks. You and your team would have to backtrack and spend time in assigning and clearing the older tasks at the expense of postponing new ones.
- Mistaking important tasks to be urgent. Tasks which require instant attention are called urgent while the ones which contribute to the long term vision of your project are called important. Prioritizing important tasks over urgent ones can put your entire workflow in a mess.
- Assigning task to the wrong person. Delegate tasks to members who are capable of completing it. Going against your team’s strengths will impact the timeline as well as the quality of the task assigned.
3. Keep meetings short
Meetings end up taking a whopping 50% of your time. Unfortunately, meetings are unavoidable, but you can concise them to minimize their impact on productivity.
As a general rule of thumb, keep one meeting a day which shouldn’t exceed more than one hour, sounds difficult? Not really.
There are some easy ways to keep your meetings short and crisp:
- Check for alternatives. See if the discussion can be transferred to IMs or other online tools. It avoids the need for you to move out of your workstation.
- Set agendas prior to the meeting. Skip the part where you have to explain the context. You can focus the meeting only on solutions.
- Place a timer. A timer in a meeting room will keep members conscious of the time and they will get to the point quickly.
4. Plan for potential conflicts
Conflicts are part and parcel of any project management. However, finding resolutions can be exhausting. The better way to go about it is preventing conflicts wherever possible. Even if a conflict does come up, you can minimize its severity.
Keep your eyes and ears open for identifying and understanding tensions in the team. It might require some extra hours and effort but in the long run, it keeps the unnecessary conflicts out of the picture.
To make things easy, provide a platform for members to express their grievances. But, remember don’t make it a place where people only complain, encourage all parties to understand the problem and find possible solutions.
5. Review performance, daily
As a project manager, your productivity is tied up with your team’s productivity. There is no scenario where you come on top with a less than mediocre team.
You can wait for the project to end and give your feedback from a laundry list of problems or, you can give on-the-spot reviews, daily.
Look for employee engagement tools which help you quickly communicate feedback. In case, the performance is not up to the standards, create an action plan. Tell them how to do things better, show them how it’s done. Lead by example, not by sermons.
6. Create a milestone plan
Your productivity takes a hit every time you miss a deadline. Chasing behind missed deadline leaves you with little time to focus on productivity.
This is where a milestone plan comes into the picture. It basically breaks down your entire project into significant phases or milestones with assigned deadlines.
These intermediary deadlines help you keep a tight ship. Even if you miss a deadline, you’ll know early on that you need to crank those knitting needles into high gear.
You can create a milestone plan in three simple steps:
- Step 1 - Define milestones that cover an entire task
- Step 2 - Sequence them in a particular order (urgent, important, or later)
- Step 3 - Assign them to members with a delivery date
These points might feel a bit all over the place. The best way to start is with a to-do list. Think about it, you can literally make the entire post look a to-do list, see how that makes a difference.
But, before you embark on the adventure of making a to-do list, remember all these suggestions need to be implemented simultaneously. To drive your productivity engine, ensure all parts come together in unison.