How to Manage Multiple Projects

If you want to learn how to manage multiple projects at the same time, then you have come to the right place. Today we’re going to go over several skills that will help you successfully juggle your workload.

All of the skills that we’re going to discuss today work hand in hand. They are all interconnected. Now let’s start at the beginning: knowing your priorities.

Start by Knowing Your Priorities

People who successfully work on three to five projects simultaneously have one thing in common: they know how to prioritize. Prioritizing is an essential skill that you must learn if you want to manage multiple projects successfully.

If you don’t begin each new project with prioritization, you will just be spinning your wheels and wasting time on things that don’t contribute to the success of your job. You can spend all day working your tail off but still end up falling behind because you spent your energy and time on the wrong things.

Each of your projects will require different tasks and have different priorities. You must note those. Understand the things that are essential in the job, and don’t get lost in the things that are just nice to have. This process will help you, especially if you are working with a team because it shows you how to schedule your time better so that you can deliver the critical stuff.

The whole point of prioritizing is that it ensures that you will spend your time on tasks that genuinely add value to your project, and not as much time on low priority things like reading and answering emails.

  • Create a list of all of the tasks that you need to complete in your project
  • Categorize each of those tasks as a low priority, medium priority, or high priority
  • Take the information from the previous step and create a timeline with all of your deadlines
  • Identify the highest value-adding tasks
  • Change is inevitable so stay compliant and flexible
  • Get to work!

Always Have a Plan

If you have a massive to-do list, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to plan ahead. Instead of just winging it, you should take time each morning to carefully evaluate what you need to get done that day.

It’s also an excellent idea to spend some time every Monday evaluating what you need to accomplish that week. Label each task with the level of importance and due date. This step will help you to prioritize which tasks you need to complete first.

When you make your plan, be sure that you list out every little step that needs to be done. It’s important to see the big picture. And it will help you to see all of the tasks laid out before you get started.

Do You Know How to Set and Understand Expectations?

A major part of juggling multiple projects at once is learning how to set and understand expectations. In order to deliver a promised quality product, you must know what people are expecting.

This process involves asking a lot of questions. Those questions will help show you where the finish line is. You should get a clear picture of what your boss expects of you. For this reason, you must keep the lines of communication open.

Once you are clear on the expectations, make sure that you don’t overpromise. If you don’t think you can deliver what is expected, you need to explain why. Be honest and upfront about it. Your manager may have ideas to help.

Delivering what is expected also means holding yourself and your team accountable. Set your standards and stick to them.

It’s All About Managing Your Schedule and Resources

When you’re learning how to manage multiple projects, it’s vital that you stay on top of your schedule and resources. You don’t just have to juggle a few projects; you also have to manage each day, week, month, and year.

To effectively manage your time, you have to schedule both your work time and free time. Be careful that you don’t let your workday manage you. What I’m saying with that is if you have too many distractions and meetings, you can quickly lose control of your time. So create a schedule that lets you be productive and effective.

As you work on your schedule, make sure that you are realistic. You have to allow for enough time to accomplish your tasks. It’s a good idea to build in some extra time to complete difficult tasks. Any manner of things could and will come up along the way. It’s always better to finish a project ahead of schedule than to complete something late.

It’s also essential that you manage your critical resources, including subject matter experts. Don’t overschedule them. That might mean that sometimes you have to say no to new activities or projects. You don’t want to miss a deadline because you didn’t have enough time to complete the work.

To keep your schedule and resources in control, you may need to delegate or share the workload. If you do this, make sure that you respect everyone else’s time too.

Don’t Fall into the Procrastination Trap

According to the University of Washington,

“There is a natural tendency to put off difficult or time-consuming tasks, or just not get started on time.  It can help to break complex projects into phases or blocks of manageable work – but it is important to not delay the start of an important project.”

Procrastination is a real problem, and it means that you lose precious time that you will need to complete complex tasks. One thing you can do to avoid procrastination is to write down some ideas that you have to tackle a complex problem. This step will help you to visualize completing the task, which will give you the motivation to begin and remain engaged in your project.

There are mainly four reasons that people procrastinate. Once you identify them, you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap.

  • Fear of failure
  • Excessive perfectionism
  • Low energy levels
  • Lack of focus

You Have to Use the Right Tools to Meet Your Goals

There are many tools that you can use to help you manage multiple projects, from project management software to apps.

Using this type of technology will help you to communicate with your team and project managers. That’s a big deal because clear communication about expectations, goals, outcomes, and feedback is essential.

Before you choose an app, it’s essential that you research the technology, analyze your needs, and then select the best app that will meet your needs. Each of these apps has different features. Pay attention to those.

Learn How to Delegate

It’s not easy being a project manager. It’s challenging to manage a whole team of people. A million different problems could arise in any project. But ultimately, it is the project manager who is responsible for the completed product.

We’re discussing several skills that can help with managing multiple projects at once. Learning to delegate is arguably the most important. It can be tempting to want to control all of the critical tasks yourself. But this will only lead to stress and burn out. And once that happens, you are much more likely to make crucial mistakes.

That’s why delegation is so important. Not only does it help to keep projects running smoothly, but it also maximizes the productivity of your whole team.

You may be able to delegate entire projects to your team. Or you might just delegate parts of them. Either way, it’s taking some things off of your to-do list. That means that you can spend your time working on more critical tasks.

It’s worth noting that delegating doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. It’s still up to you to provide oversight to your team to be sure that the work is done effectively, efficiently, and to the required standard.

Avoid Micromanagement

While we’re talking about delegation, it’s also essential to mention micromanagement. As I said, you might feel like you need to be in control of every aspect of your project, but that’s not the best way to manage multiple projects.

Do you feel like you need to approve every little detail of a task? That’s micromanaging. And it’s a bad idea.

Over time micromanaging can overwhelm you. It’s a massive drain on your time. And even more than that, it’s terrible for the morale of your team.

It’s not a bad thing that you are enthusiastic and want to roll your sleeves up and get to work. But if you are managing multiple projects at once, you must delegate.

Make sure that when you assign people to specific tasks, you communicate with them clearly about their responsibilities and role. The whole team works better when everyone understands what is expected of them.

It’s Imperative That You Communicate

I can’t stress this one enough. Communication plays a key role in all of the skills that we’re going over today. For a lot of organizations, communication is a real problem. It can be extremely challenging to get dozens of colleagues to share what they think, need, and feel. Mainly because they all have their own working styles and personalities.

You are the project manager. So it’s up to you to ask people what they think, need, and feel. Communicate to them what is essential.

Let’s say that your boss drops a time-sensitive assignment on your desk, and it happens to be the week that another big project is due. It’s up to you to determine which is the more important of the two. It will also clear up a lot of stress if you just ask your boss which task has a higher priority.

This type of communication is beneficial overall. If anything, you should try to over-communicate. The truth is, over-communicators are hardly ever confused about the direction they’re going.

You Should Have Regular Check-Ins with Your Team

While we’re talking about the skill and importance of communication, it’s also essential that you block out time to have regular check-ins with your team. Having one-on-ones with everyone will help you to balance the workload and monitor the progress on your projects.

Obstacles always come up with every project. You should be prepared to listen to what your team members have to say about them. After all, they’re the ones on the project’s front line.

Communicating this way will ensure that everyone is on the same page. The best thing you can do is to have constant two-way feedback with every member of your team.

Get Focused

As we discussed earlier, one of the reasons that people procrastinate is because they lack focus. When you’re juggling multiple projects, a lack of focus can quickly turn things into a disaster.

When you are focused, you are more productive. Keep your focus on your priorities. That means not getting sucked into Twitter or Facebook when you’re supposed to be working on a task.

Some people need quiet environments to stay focused. But others can work just fine with music playing in the background. You’ll find that the people on your team are all different with different needs. Learn what works best for each person and then make it happen.

Document Your Progress

Documenting your progress is another skill that you should know when you’re learning how to manage multiple projects.

As the Harvard Business Review puts it,

“Seeing momentum helps your team leaders feel empowered and in control. Be upfront when problems arise. The earlier you say, ‘I’ve got a conflict and might have trouble delivering 100%,’ the more leaders will trust you.”

Documenting your progress involves communication with your team. Make lists and check items off as you complete each task. This will keep you on schedule and motivated. And as you check each task off the list, you should reevaluate your priorities.

Are You a Multitasker?

When you think about how to manage multiple projects, you might be tempted to believe that you have to be a great multitasker. Multitasking gives you the illusion that you can accomplish more when you’re doing many things at the same time.

However, this is just not true.

The research actually shows the opposite. Believe it or not, multitasking can reduce your productivity by a whopping 40 percent.

The truth is, juggling multiple projects requires you to start, stop, and alternate between tasks repeatedly. The problem with that is that it can really mess with your focus and concentration. It also adds to delays.

So then, does this mean that you should never multitask? No. There will always be times when you’re managing multiple projects that you will need to multitask. When you do, there are some things that you should remember to reduce the risk of losing focus.

For one thing, you should limit the number of tasks that you do at one time. You should also allocate time blocks for each task.

David Meyer, a researcher at the University of Michigan, says that you should try “designating about 20 minutes to each task and being fully devoted to that particular task during this time period before switching to another.”

What Can I Do to Avoid Multitasking?

  • Create a habit that will reorder your life and help you to manage your time, organize your day, and stay focused and disciplined
  • Break up your day into shifts and figure out which shift you are most productive in
  • Figure out which of the tasks are needless and eliminate them
  • Cut down on the overall interruptions

Be Sure to Review and Balance the Workload

Figuring out how to manage multiple projects successfully also involves reviewing and balancing the workload. When you are fully aware of everyone’s workload, you get a better picture of how the project will come together. That means that you will need a solid workload management strategy.

Workload management is a process of managing and delegating work for your team while the project is in progress. When you use this skill, you can make sure that you have fairly distributed the tasks across the group. It also allows you to be sure that all members of the team are participating and that no one is overloaded.

It’s not hard to maximize the performance of your employees when you pay attention to the utilization rates of each member of the team. It’s an excellent way to keep them feeling satisfied and focused. We’ve also found that the fair distribution of the workload increases work production. It leaves people feeling confident about the volume of work too.

One of the best things you can do to accomplish this is to use a project management system. These programs feature resource management dashboards that show you data in real-time. These types of tools can be incredibly eye-opening for workload balancing. They will show you the exact number of work hours or production points per month or even per day.

Track the Time That You Spend on Each Client Project

Beyond tracking the workload balance, it’s also essential that you keep track of the time that you spend on each project. This is the only way to know how much work is being done for each client.

Some of the benefits of tracking your time on each client project include:

  • It will help you find resource gaps and inefficiencies
  • You know that you are accurately billing your clients
  • It helps you to predict all of your turnaround times better

This short video will show you an example of a tool that you can use for time tracking.

It’s All About Learning to Manage Your Manager

When you’re working on juggling multiple projects, it’s not just crucial that you manage each one, but it’s also essential that you learn how to manage your manager. If you want to advance in this world, then you have to learn this skill.

The fact is people who can manage their managers are much more likely to get promoted. So why is that? Well, it mostly has to do with setting expectations. It makes a huge difference when you and your manager are on the same page.

Don’t forget that managers aren’t mind readers. Often they don’t know exactly what you’re working on or how long it takes to complete each task in a project. And on top of that, their priorities may be different from yours.

This is why communication is key.

We spoke earlier about making task lists. Well, you must share that list with your manager. This way, you can confirm that your priorities match.

Trust me on this. You will be much better off the more that your manager knows about what you’re working on and the timeframe you will need to complete the task. This also involves managing expectations. Be sure that you can deliver what you promise.

It’s worth mentioning that usually, the higher up a person is in an organization, the fewer details they need to see. So don’t get bogged down with explaining every little thing to your senior executive. They need to see the big picture. Keep it concise.

How often you should meet with your manager depends on what you’re working on. Most project managers meet with their superiors once a week for a progress report. Now, if you’re working on many small tasks, you may want to meet your manager for a few minutes every day. If you’re working on large complex tasks, it might be enough to meet once a month.

When it comes to things like communication, it’s always better to meet too frequently than not often enough. It only takes a minute to check-in, even if you just say that you have nothing new to report.

You Must Manage Your Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all deal with it. When you’re staring down a massive to-do list, it can be tough to keep your stress levels in check. But when you’re trying to juggle multiple projects, the stress can quickly get totally out of hand.

But fret not, because there are things you can do to reduce your stress level, including all of the things that we’re going over in this article. Another thing you can do is to take frequent breaks during your day. If you can take those breaks at regular intervals, creating a routine, it’s even better.

Your work breaks don’t need to be anything elaborate. Just simply standing up and stretching for a few seconds will work. Or try closing your eyes for a minute and taking some nice slow deep breaths. The point is to reduce your stress by taking a small break. Doing this simple thing will increase your team’s productivity.

Another thing you can do to reduce stress is to change the way you view your workload. The truth is it can be easy to beat yourself up when you’re looking at a seemingly impossible workload. But it’s really all about perspective.

Ask yourself, “Am I doing the very best that I can do right now?” If you are honest and can answer yes to that question, then you can relax in the awareness that you are giving it your all. That’s all that anyone can ask of you. So stop beating yourself up.

Get It Done Already

While we’re talking about stress, one of the worst things you can do for your stress level is to leave a ton of tasks halfway finished. When you’re not making clear progress every day, it can leave you feeling demoralized.

As we discussed earlier, all of the tasks we’re going over today are interconnected and work together. Ticking off items on your to-do list every day goes back to what we talked about with prioritization.

You should prioritize the things that can quickly be taken off of your list. But that doesn’t mean ignoring all but the low hanging fruit. You should put some serious effort into knocking out some of the things that seem to remain on your list forever.

If you’ve had something halfway finished for a long time, then it’s a good time to figure out precisely what is needed to complete the task. Then, take a deep breath and dedicate some time to focusing on it. Remember what we said about procrastination. Just get it done already.

Now You Know How to Manage Multiple Projects

We’ve covered a lot of ground today. But it’s important to remember that all of the skills we went over are interconnected. They all work together.

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a continuous battle with your to-do list? Well, don’t stress because there are things that you can do starting today to help with that.

First, begin by planning out and prioritizing your list of tasks. From there, it’s essential to communicate with your manager. This will ensure that you are on the same page, and it will set expectations.

To manage your stress level, you should focus on just one thing at a time. You should also remember to take small breaks throughout the day.

Another thing that you should do is to take advantage of project management productivity tools. And finally, you should work hard to complete tasks instead of letting them remain stagnant on your list.

If you learn these simple skills and you give it your all, you will be less stressed and more productive. Now let’s get to work!

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