One of the most essential skills for a project manager (PM) to have is the ability to plan effective time management strategies and put them into action in the workplace. Making sure that a project runs according to schedule requires taking many variables into account, from company resources to employee bandwidth.
Here we will cover the importance of time management in project management and discuss proven methods that PMs use on a day-to-day basis.
Understand Your Staff
Being a great project manager isn’t just about managing your time. It also necessitates that you help your staff better manage their time.
According to a 2012 study by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the degree to which a team succeeds is in direct proportion to the effectiveness of its project manager, meaning the project manager has the “right” combination of experience, knowledge, leadership, and soft skills.
While team effectiveness is an outgrowth of PM effectiveness, it can’t be attributed to the result of a simple mindset or singular action alone. Rather, the team component of effective time management strategies can best be understood as a three-step process.
The first step involves leadership communicating a specific plan with clear expectations. This allows team members to better understand their roles and responsibilities. In such an environment, teams are more likely to complete tasks in a timely manner.
Step two is all about the qualifications and experience of the PM. An effective project manager must have the experience, development, training, and education necessary to lead to their team toward successful outcomes. A few noteworthy character traits to develop toward this end that PMI identifies include:
- Being self-aware and self-disciplined.
- Seeking feedback and using constructive criticism to continually improve.
- Gaining training relating to team management.
- Increasing conflict management and communication skills.
Finally, step three requires PMs to identify team responsibilities and create effective teams. Whenever possible, having a PM play a role in the human resources process can greatly benefit an organization, as the well-trained PM knows how to select individuals that will serve the greater goal of the project. After having selected a diverse and competent team, the PM must make team members understand that they are expected to perform to the best of their ability and that their effectiveness matters.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule refers to the idea that in many situations, just 20% of causes contribute to 80% of effects. Originally called “The Pareto Principle,” this idea has been applied to almost all walks of life, but in a business context, it means that 20% of your total tasks will take about 80% of your team’s time and effort.
When it comes to project time management, PMs should strive to identify what is referred to as “the critical path,” or the few tasks that generate a disproportionate amount of work. Doing so will allow you to prioritize accordingly, focusing the bulk of your team’s efforts on those core tasks. This will help increase the quality of your work and make more significant, lasting impacts on your business.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that impediments to project completion often follow the 80/20 rule as well. 80% of problems tend to arise from a small percentage of sources. Be sure to identify such problems and work to fix them to the best of your ability.
Conquer Projects Piecemeal
Henry Ford, the creator of the assembly line, once said, “nothing is particularly hard if you break it up into smaller jobs.” While he was speaking from the perspective of a car manufacturer, this concept holds true for project managers in other industries as well.
When it comes to time management for managers, conquering projects in smaller pieces involves creating a proper system of governance. Essentially, governance is the process of making decisions and choosing how to implement those decisions.
A 2010 study published by the PMI sought to define and describe good governance and how it helps project managers do their job. This process involves the relationships between the project’s objectives, the team working on the project, the organization within which the project takes place, and, of course, the project manager.
While different entities prioritize different aspects of governance, the generally agreed-upon practices of corporate governance include things like:
- Assigning roles and responsibilities.
- Determining who is accountable to whom.
- Ensuring the decision-making process is transparent.
- Being responsive to all involved parties.
- Using processes that are proven to be effective.
- Ensuring all team members have an equal voice and role.
- Implementing a strategy once it has been developed.
This PMI study also observed that governance systems in corporations “develop piecemeal over time in an evolutionary process.” Oftentimes, these systems develop due to established practices revealing themselves as being inefficient or being deemed unacceptable for some other reason.
By applying good governance principles to all your projects, you can finish tasks one small step at a time. Only by zeroing in on the smallest aspects of work can you get the best possible big-picture results.
Focus on the Big Picture
This might be the simplest of the project management tips we have to share. And while it may seem to contradict the last section about conquering projects piecemeal, focusing on the big picture is the epitome of a project manager’s main goal, which is to see the project through to completion. There are a few ways to make sure you focus on the big picture.
First, trust your team. Effective project managers don’t need to micro-manage every detail from start to finish. Empowering your team and understanding their needs means letting them do their jobs and trusting they will come to you when there is a problem.
Second, remember your endgame. The end of a project might seem like a distant light at the end of a long tunnel when you’re managing something major, but it’s probably closer than you think. Keeping your final goal in mind makes you more able to stay focused and do what’s needed.
Third, remember your role in project management. PMs are not meant to be experts on each component of the project, so don’t try to get too involved in the nitty-gritty. It’s important to elevate your thinking from the day-to-day and keep the timeline of the whole project in mind.
The fourth and final aspect of focusing on the big picture is something we touched on earlier, the critical path. Being aware of your project’s most critical tasks will keep you from getting behind or sinking too much time into minor issues.
Time management strategies involve more than these four points, of course, but incorporating them into your daily PM responsibilities can increase your effectiveness and serve as a starting point for managing the simplest and most difficult tasks alike. To enhance your skills as a PM, consider earning an online MBA from Concordia University, Nebraska. Our MBA program prepares business and management leaders to reach their greatest potential in an ever-changing world.