Project management can be a demanding role. Use these time management tips to manage time more effectively, from day-to-day and month-to-month.
- Know When You are Most Productive. The first step in effectively managing time is to know when you are the most productive. This time is when you feel more energized and creative. Are you a morning or afternoon person? This time is when you want to perform the most urgent, complex, and time-sensitive tasks.
- Understand Priorities. Know the difference between urgent and important. Urgent tasks are those that are time-sensitive or otherwise demand immediate attention. These are often tasks assigned by others (e.g., the boss tells you to finish the report by the next day). Important tasks are those that may help meet longer-term goals or reach milestones. A tool to help prioritize is known as the Eisenhower Matrix. Task priorities can also change over time, so be sure to review the matrix daily. I usually check my task ratings and my daily schedule at the start of each day.
- Plan at Different Levels. Personal planning does not need to be at the same level of detail as project plans. Every six months, I review the main goals I want to accomplish and put them in bullet points on a calendar, month-by-month. Any day when I sit down to work, if there are no urgent tasks, I use my most productive time to advance work on these goals. I rarely create a to-do list for these items – I reserve to-do lists for minor activities and as placeholders for more complex tasks that may be interrupted.
- Schedule Time. Once good time management habits are developed, scheduling time may be unnecessary. When starting, however, it may be essential to keep on task. Mark off on your daily calendar blocks of time for urgent and important priorities. Schedule other work in blocks of an hour or two. A very effective alternative may be to follow the Pomodoro Technique.
- Manage Your Email Inbox. Email, especially if left open on a desktop all day, can drain a significant amount of time. Checking email 2-3 times a day is most effective. Check email when the most productive time is complete, at lunchtime, and before ending the day. Any emails that can be successfully addressed in 5 minutes or less (e.g., a request to forward a document) should be dealt with on the spot. Any others should be put into your priorities matrix or scheduled.
- Delegate Effectively. Once personal time management is well under control, you will find that the only way to get more done if through delegation. Check out this article to improve your delegation.
- Manage Conflicts. Conflict also takes up a significant amount of time – some sources estimate up to 28 hours of every week. Here are two great videos to watch to learn more about managing interpersonal and organizational conflicts: Best Practices in Project Management: Coping with Conflict and Divided We Fail: Successfully Managing Organizational Conflict
- Maintain a Positive Mindset. Negative thoughts and anger can take up a significant amount of time, as well. Maintain a positive, forward-looking attitude to keep newly developed time management habits moving forward.
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