Time management is something all project managers must perfect if they are to be successful in their careers. Sometimes it seems all too challenging to get to grips with our time, so we simply abandon it in favour of our normal, disorganised routine. However, making some small changes to the way we manage our time can make a big difference in terms of productivity. Here are some top tips:
1. Time tracking is not just for accountants
As much as you might feel that spending time recording how you spend your time is a bit of a pointless exercise, tracking your time will help you understand where efficiencies can be made. See how long your commute takes, how long you spend checking emails, how long your lunch break is and how you spend your spare time. As with most things, ‘there’s an app for that’, so use your smartphone to help you do this quickly and easily.
2. A To-Do list is no use unless it is prioritised
So you’ve written down everything you need to do today, good. But to make that list actually mean something you’ll need to prioritise each of the tasks by giving them a ranking number. It makes sense to prioritise the most urgent and difficult tasks for early in the day; the rest of the day will go much easier once they’re out of the way. And accept that you may not achieve everything on the list.
3. Interruptions cost more than you think
Interruptions like phone calls, texts, emails and visits from colleagues or clients have a much greater impact on your productivity than you might think. It can often take longer to get back into what you were originally doing than it would have done to complete the task, so allocate a couple of hours of your day for uninterrupted working. Switch off your phone, shut the door and close down your emails to really make progress.
4. Multi-tasking doesn’t actually save time
Of course you’re great at multi-tasking, after all everything around us is geared up for doing two or three things at once. However, it can be mentally draining and physically exhausting, and will mean you don’t do any of your jobs particularly well. The inability to concentrate on any one piece of your work completely will lead to details being forgotten and more effort on your part to keep track of everything.
5. Stop being a perfectionist
No doubt you want to do your job well, but there comes a point when you’ll be nit picking over the small 1 per cent that nobody but you would notice. Understand when you’ve reached the end of a task and the point at which any more effort will not make significant improvements, and allocate a set amount of time to each task. If you can’t complete something in the time allocated, put it down and come back to it later when a clear head may present a better solution.
How many project managers have you heard saying “I haven’t got time to … (have coffee, take lunch, socialise, go on a break)”. Being busy and stressed is all part of the PM’s day, but taking time to unwind and disconnect from everything is important too. Take a break, even if it’s just a walk away from the PC and stretch your legs, and a holiday every year really does help to rejuvenate your creativity and keep you on top of your game so always make time for a break.