Honing your time management skills

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

Even the best project manager can improve their time management skills, and this article is packed full of tips to up your time management game.

You might think that having great time management was one of those basic project management skills that any half-competent project manager would have to have acquired in order to stay in the job. And while that’s true, what’s also true is that even the best can improve.

You already know that regular review of your skills is the best way to ensure that your skills remain up-to-date and relevant, and that applies to the so-called “soft skills” like time management and client relations as much as it does to the intricacies of running an Agile team.

We spoke to the experts at Parallel Project Training and asked them to give us their tips for better time management. This is what they said:

“Remember the 80/20 rule”

Many project managers get themselves tied up in knots trying to finish the whole project in one fell swoop. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, reminds you that 20% of the project activities will yield 80% of the project results. Identify those activities that give most benefit to the project then focus on getting that 80% under your belt before moving on to the last 20% of the benefit.

“You’re the project manager”

So stop doing the work and manage the project. Your job is to make sure all the tasks get done, but you have specialists in the team who are responsible for actually writing the code or placing the bricks. You’re not supposed to be getting your hands dirty. Plus, “pitching in” can come across as micro-managing which is a killer to morale and project efficiency.

“To-do lists may be boring but they get things done”

Sometimes it’s best to stick to tried and tested methods and to-do lists are one of the oldest forms of time management skills around. There are several ways you can organise your list – first-in-first-out and random selection are two obvious strategies, but these days you can use apps that allow you to turn your to-do list into a priority queue, ensuring that the first item is always the one you need to do now.

“Make a plan and stick to it (more or less)”

There are a surprising number of project managers that either never fully create a plan, or when they do they almost completely ignore it. Modifying the plan in light of amendments to the project is acceptable, but once a plan has been created and agreed it should be stuck to as far as is practical. Otherwise the whole creation process was just a waste of time!

“Don’t waste your time with meetings you could do with an email”

Team meetings that are just a list of status updates are useless and you could ask for those electronically. Instead focus on project risks, issues and opportunities and use the time to get the team brainstorming for solutions. And stick to the agenda – don’t let meetings overrun and delegate complex issues to a sub-group.

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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