While the job description for project managers includes a long list of responsibilities, at the very core, project management is about the all-important management of time.
Project managers are some of the best people to ask for advice regarding time management and productivity at work. Because their success depends on coordinating the time of multiple people and teams, they know all the tricks for keeping the work on schedule.
If you are looking for time management tips, you can’t go wrong asking project managers for a little help.
1. Make Tomorrow’s To-Do List Before Going Home
At the end of the day, you may be tired and ready to go home. But wait — while we all know some down time and a good night’s sleep will increase your productivity tomorrow, take five minutes to complete one extremely important task. Write a to-do list for tomorrow morning and leave it on your desk.
Before you go home, you know what you have done and what you need to do next. As project manager Susanne Madsen points out at the LiquidPlanner, if you wait until tomorrow to plan your tasks and activities, you lose momentum.
If you write a to-list the night before, you’ll take less time to gain momentum. Instead, you’ll “hit the ground running.”
2. Check Email Less Frequently
Do you have an alert set up that lets you know every time you receive a new email? Instead of allowing yourself to be interrupted, turn off notifications while working on a specific task or goal.
Schedule email checks a few times a day. Check it once in the morning, once in the later afternoon, and a third time perhaps right after lunch. The constant interruption decreases productivity, but if you maintain an email schedule you can maintain a sense of flow while working, and still respond to colleagues and clients in a timely fashion.
3. Use Time Management Software
Tip #21 on Workfront‘s list of tips for project managers is to take advantage of time management software. There are numerous apps and software packages available to help workers see how much time they spend on any one task.
If you work alone, download an app on your phone or computer to help you track your time. If you have never done this, you may be surprised how much awareness of time spent on tasks helps you increase your productivity.
4. Plan Better Deadlines
Do you have an official deadline of, for example, May 10th? Set a personal deadline of May 5th. When you are “late,” and turn it in on May 8th, you will actually be early. The key here is having your own personal deadlines that are earlier than official work deadlines.
5. What is This About Eating Frogs?
Project management guru Dr. Harold Kerzner calls procrastination “the deadliest sin” of project management.
So how can you avoid procrastination? Do the hard stuff first — or as author Brian Tracy says, “Eat that frog.”
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
So, when you make your to do list for tomorrow morning, put the thing you least want to do first. And then, get it done right away the next morning. Getting the difficult tasks over with makes them feel less overwhelming, as they will not be hanging over your head all day. Rather, you will have energy to complete additional tasks and be productive.
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