Guest Post By Riley Goley (Learn more about Riley at the end of this post)
Productivity can’t be left to chance. It’s hard to stay on track as an individual, but the difficulty is amplified when you factor in numerous individuals with lots of balls to juggle. Luckily, this is a problem that can be dealt with in the planning stages, but if the plan is ineffective or it begins to fall apart halfway through, success is only possible with a lot of stressful crunch time. A good project manager seeks to minimize or eliminate that possibility, and one of the essential elements in making that happen is good time management techniques applied at an organizational level.
Tip no. 1: Know What Your Team Can Accomplish
No small number of projects have rammed the proverbial ice burg as a result of too much ambition. It’s good to aim high, but what’s more important is that the end goal is achievable. Exponential growth doesn’t happen overnight; it requires a competent team with a lot of experience that coordinates like one giant organism as opposed to a mere collection of individuals. It takes a lot of time before a team is capable of that, and until then it’s a waste of time to push them too far beyond their limits. When people are in over their heads they perform worse than they do on average, and there’s no way to efficiently counter and overcome the challenges a project presents if your company isn’t equipped to handle them.
Tip no. 2: Prioritize and Time-Box
In every project there are some tasks that are more critical than others. In fact, there might even be a few things that can be done away with if the deadline is in view and the core product is solid. Before work is even underway, determine what absolutely must be done in order to make it a success, then determine how much time each segment of your team should devote to it. Also be sure to account for things that can’t be allowed to get too far behind if the end result is going to be appealing as a whole. If there are people that are going to be working on multiple aspects of the same thing, block off chunks of time — this what time-boxing refers to — for them to work on these different aspects so that their abilities are put to maximal use.
Tip no. 3: Set and Continually Re-Examine Daily Goals
A completed project is one large milestone that punctuates countless miniature milestones along the way. While the end result can seem too abstract and intimidating to take effective action, the smaller milestones are much easier to engage, and the dopamine high that comes with consistent progress is key to maintaining momentum. This can also function as an early alert system because if certain goals haven’t been met by a specific time it’s easier to project a new timeline and adjust accordingly. It also gives the impression that you’re in control, and your bosses and shareholders will be much more understanding and enthusiastic toward someone that knows what they’re doing as opposed to someone who doesn’t.
Tip no. 4: Do Your Work and Only Your Work
Organizational structures exist for a reason. If someone is trying to pass their work onto someone else, they are ultimately a detriment to the team. While someone like this will inevitably make their way into your company, you can’t stop the bleeding by by doing their share of the project on top of your own. Remember the effects of overwhelm: It causes stress, it usually makes people rush, and the quality of their work suffers as a result. Usually people that are at first hesitant to carry their weight will get into gear if no one will be their doormat. They might grumble about it, but the thought of getting singled out as the person that ruined a project is terrifying in today’s economy. If nothing else the fear of job-loss will get them moving. When someone is absolutely and unrepentantly worthless, the ideal solution is to spread the burden across as many people as possible so as to minimize the overall impact of essentially being down one person. If you or someone else has a light enough load to take on the full assignment without breaking a sweat then it’s not always a bad idea to take it on, but never, under any circumstances, accept someone else’s responsibilities, or give them to a different worker, without doing everything possible to ensure that the people that have been assigned work do the work that they were assigned.
Tip no. 5: Know When to Take a Break
This is pretty counter-intuitive in a business culture that emphasizes staying on the move, but nobody can work full-throttle 100% of the time without suffering for it. It isn’t just a personal matter; chronic fatigue or stress drastically reduces the productivity of those afflicted by such conditions. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you devote 80 hours a week to your work if its quality drops off a cliff. That’s doubly true if you’re in charge because you have to coordinate so many things and keep your hands in dozens of jars at once. It’s another reason why a technique like time-boxing is so important: It ensures that you devote the entirety of your most productive hours to a task and you stop around the time that fatigue sets in. If you’re well-rested then you’re more alert, things are less likely to go wrong, and you’re a positive asset to the team. Someone that is clear-minded and energized brings an energy into the work place that is absolutely contagious, and while immaterial things like this cannot be measured, you can’t afford to underestimate their importance in terms of time management, workflow, and the quality of the end result.
The hardest part of time management is figuring out which techniques to implement and how to do it. Something that’s good on paper may not work well in action, and it’s a continual process of re-adjusting until you have something that allows for max efficiency without taking on too much yourself or pushing too much onto another person. This kind of thing is always more of an art than a science, but hard work is always rewarded with results in the long run. If you take these tips into account when formulating your strategies, and you keep them in mind every time you have to re-calibrate your plans, a lot of the hard work is already done because you can be sure that even if the structure doesn’t stand, you’re building on a solid foundation.
About the Author: Riley Goley writes for several higher ed blogs. To read more about degrees in accounting click here.