How to manage multiple projects: 14 essential steps plus extra tips
Every company is looking for a project manager who can manage multiple projects simultaneously. It’s a complex skill to come by these days, so when a company finds someone like that, they invest in a project manager immediately.
It’s not an easy task, but with discipline and passion for this line of work, you can maintain a routine where everything and everyone around you is timed and ready by the minute.
When working on multiple, there’s little margin of error, and every minute counts to keep everything on track.
With that in mind, in this article, you’ll discover the untold experience of managing multiple projects. You’ll get a complete guide on this subject, following a helpful step-by-step to introduce you to this complex skill.
Finally, you’ll also get the best tips to help you become the greatest multitasker in project management.
How to manage multiple projects
To work on multiple projects, especially if they’re incredibly different, is to juggle. As a project manager, it’s hard enough to monitor the workflow of your tasks, imagine when it involves the rest of the team and their respective tasks.
All the planning, monitoring, analyzing, and reviewing is far harder when you’re working on more than one project at once.
So, when you’re a project manager managing multiple projects, you must strategize your way through all the tasks implied in every project.
Following that line of thought, it’s possible to excel as a project manager, while juggling your work and attention in each one. If you religiously follow this step-by-step you’ll succeed in your projects’ multitasking.
1. Make sure to prioritize your actions
Prioritizing is the main rule for every project that you’re involved in, especially if you’re managing it.
First things first, you need to gather a list of what’s most important in the projects that you currently have in your pipeline, because different projects require different priorities from your end, as well as your team’s.
In reality, what you need is to define what’s urgent and what’s not, because in that way you’ll be able to give undivided attention to what really needs it.
Simply get together your projects’ management list and assign the following categories:
- Important and Urgent;
- Important, but Not Urgent;
- Urgent, but Not Important;
- Not Urgent and Not Important.
Ideally, your team would focus solely on the second category: essential but not urgent. In reality, some activities will follow also in other categories. To learn what to do for each type, read Stephen Covey’s four quadrants of time management.
Please remember that, regardless of the prioritization of every task, you will need to keep track of every single one of them to understand their deadlines and consequent priorities.
2. Use time blocking to preserve your hours
Balancing everything between every project you have requires exceptional workload management on your end. It takes a lot of effort, commitment, and concentration to complete tasks and oversee the ones from your team.
In order to be able to work on multiple projects, and at the same time accomplish your own work, it’s imperative that you block time to actually get stuff done. Time blocking, or timeboxing, is the ideal technique to increase productivity, and it’s key while working on multiple projects.
Timeboxing allows you to focus on your tasks without distractions from your team or other calls. This technique ensures you are fully present and dedicated.
You should track your time if you want to precisely estimate how long each task will take and plan the next time-boxes accurately.
3. Focus is the secret ingredient
Focus is yet another word that should stand out in your vocabulary. It’s the only way to remain undistracted while juggling the projects you signed up for.
You can only achieve an optimal level of productivity if you use your time slots wisely and strategically to stay sharp.
The only answer is to prioritize every task and take care of the most important ones. Make sure you’re surrounded by the things that make you most productive, even if it’s listening to music or in a tranquil place; take your pick.
Make sure that you establish just the right setting for you and let yourself go through the tasks ahead.
4. Cut out the non-crucial elements of your workload
During your average workday, unfortunately, it’s very normal for you to find unforeseen and random events that could impact you greatly, especially if it’s a busy day, and as a project manager also.
If you’re someone that deals with a lot of this, you need to be thinking ahead of those difficult days that can leave you stressed and falling behind on your tasks. Review all of the critical things you need to take care of as well as the deadlines for each one.
One helpful strategy to deal with non-crucial elements is to allocate them to one part of the day, better the afternoon when your attention level would be less. Block time to accomplish all trivial tasks instead of spreading them between multiple hours. This will help you to keep focused.
5. Delegate your urgent but not important tasks
When you’re building a high-performing team, learning how to delegate tasks is a must-have for its success rate. You should delegate tasks to your team if you have urgent but unimportant tasks to complete in any project.
Of course, this implies trust among team members. The trick is that you assign each task to each team of the member that you think would be the designated expert for it.
Although, trust is a privilege that can be quickly removed if something happens. Keep an eye on the tasks you delegate, so you can offer support and provide a final analysis to ensure everything’s perfect.
6. Find a way to see the big picture of your project planning
If you have project management software to help you balance your work, you’ll see the entirety of your project planning at a glance. That way, you can see your projects’ milestones or phases of your career and their impact on the project more precisely.
This will give you the opportunity to prepare for everything that may appear and see if you can get some extra work done around the project that you wouldn’t consider otherwise.
7. Invest in the analysis of your progress
Managing multiple projects is tricky, especially because you can quickly lose track of some tasks or analyses you need. To prevent it and make your project successful, keep track of your progress in all of your projects.
The good idea is to use a project management checklist to ensure you remember everything. At the same time, try to gather all the information and centralize it in one place. A helpful tip is to block your time reviewing everything that’s done, and that’s not.
8. Take advantage of flexible elements
One of the critical actions to managing multiple projects is knowing the significance behind the established deadlines.
The truth is that some deadlines are fixed and cannot be changed, but some can actually be more flexible. Take advantage of those flexible dates and move them around until you’re more comfortable and able to work more easily.
Always pay attention to these time slots in every project because it can be an excellent opportunity for you to gain some time for other essential tasks.
9. Organization is key
Planning your project is different from staying organized. It can be a brutal mistake to favor one over the other because organization and planning should hold hands.
Establish processes, systems, and all elements that could help you embrace your organization and planning. Also, look for tools to help you stay organized in your project planning.
It’s important that you have easy access to everyone’s project schedules and to-do lists that relate to your ongoing projects. In order to keep your attention focused on each project, assign a time slot to each project according to their priority.
To keep up with your productivity, you need to stay focused on the task you’re working on, as referred to above in the step of the focus method.
10. Maintain everyone involved in the loop
As a project manager, it’s perfectly normal that you can’t get everything done simultaneously for everyone. That’s why a major project involves a lot of experts to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
It’s important to let your team and your stakeholders be aware of what’s going on, to keep them attentive to the actions that you’re doing to grow the project.
Everyone that’s involved should be on your communication span at all times, so collaboration is a must.
11. Plan your project’s journey
While choosing to manage many different projects, you must act with caution and plan ahead for every possible outcome.
It’s important to stay hopeful and focused on the goal, but at the same time, it’s also essential to think of what could go wrong in the different stages of a project life cycle and what you can do to fix it.
Before embarking on all the tasks, meetings, and deadlines, there must be an extensive and foolproof plan for each project to prepare you and your team for anything.
Stay proactive and aware of the upsides and downsides of each project, and in that way, you won’t be surprised and will be able to see everything clearly.
Try to combine your project management plan with a time management plan for better results. By doing it, you’ll be managing the resources and time you need to achieve your goals.
12. Review your plan periodically
Once you plan everything on your current projects, it’s almost certain they would need expectable adjustments throughout their journey.
As a project manager, you need to stay flexible and aware that you don’t need to remain loyal to the original plan because many variables at hand could change just like that.
The greatest tip you could have to instantly help is to start things off with a meeting on a regular basis, to see how the project is doing.
13. Stay in touch with your team at all times
Communication is crucial for the success of any project. While managing multiple projects, you must stay sharp on potential problems that may occur on your end or your team’s and possible solutions that are suggested to you.
Make sure to stay in touch with your manager, stakeholders, and team about your workload. The truth is that a team exists to help each other through every step of the way, but that can only happen if you establish communication.
14. Invest in helpful management techniques
A day only has 24 hours; sometimes, it doesn’t feel enough, especially if you don’t have everything programmed by the minute. But your drive and passion for the project can’t just stop because you’re already too involved to see the project through.
From online platforms to simply taking notes, invest in the proper technique for you and your project. You’ll be able to discover something that does just what you need to increase the project’s milestones.
9 Extra tips to manage multiple projects
Out of the steps you should take to manage multiple projects successfully, there are some extra tips you could use. From template examples, simple kick-off meetings, and the use of specific software, you have many options to guarantee your upper hand.
Find out below all the suggestions we have that are able to help you extensively on managing every project at the same time:
1. Personalized excel template
Sometimes the truth is that you don’t need all the alternate paths to achieve the successful management of projects.
A simple Excel template could get you a long way, just by organizing all the information in an adequate sheet. Have a look at this example.
Project management template
2. Meetings with the team and stakeholders
Throughout every project you might be involved in as a project manager, your job is to keep everyone in the loop of the journey.
Start with a kick-off meeting when starting the project, so you can deliver the project’s concept and introduce your team to your stakeholders and vice-versa.
A pro tip would be to make something memorable at the beginning, such as a fun team building, where your team can practice its soft skills.
3. Use a task management tool
A task management tool allows you to concentrate all your work from different projects in one place. The goal is to help you with everything you gathered, from report data to simple tasks, so you don’t have to check multiple locations at once.
You can add your team and tag them in the task you want. Usually, there are lists, boards, calendars and gantt charts to help you organize your workload.
4. Take advantage of a project management software
While juggling many things simultaneously due to the diversity of projects, it’s normal to ask for help through management software. It’s a great alternative because it lets you centralize everything with software capable of simplifying the process.
Softwares such as Asana and Trello are some of the best tools to manage remote teams. They’re great to create tasks, categorize them and to tag members of your team.
There’s also a great sense of communication because you’re able to know what’s going on 100% of the time.
5. Monitor your hours through time tracking
Sometimes a task takes a lot of your time, and you can lose track of time you’re giving to only one action. That is both unproductive and exhausting for you to dedicate so many hours to only complete one task.
To that problem, there’s the solution of time tracking. You should assign a specific period to certain tasks and monitor them throughout the day. There are also time tracking software such as Timeular that can simplify your life and monitor yours and your team’s without too much effort.
6. Assign milestones throughout the journey of your project
Milestones are considered the checkpoints for each phase of your project that has been achieved successfully. It also enables you to think of it as a schedule because you can calculate efforts and timing to complete the required milestone. There’s no minimum or a maximum number of landmarks you should have, but you must define milestones throughout the project’s journey to keep up with its progress.
7. Research for the perfect template that fits your needs
There’s nothing quite like good research about what you’re specifically looking for. Just log on your defined web browser and search for the template that would fit your project’s needs.
8. Create a periodic event to overview all of your projects
It should be a standard practice for you to make a sort of event/appointment where you would look at and analyze the progress of every project.
It should be a scheduled time where you only dedicate to overview everything, to see what’s pending, what needs approval, and so on.
9. Stay hopeful and proactive
It’s hard to stay on top of things, especially if you’re a project manager juggling all these multiple projects. Besides working on this complex skill, you should also maintain a specific mental capacity to deal with it the most healthily.
With that thought in mind, you should always stay hopeful that things will work out thanks to your hard work. Nonetheless, also stay proactive and ready to get your hands dirty in the management of all of your projects.
As you have already seen, various ways to manage multiple projects exist.
Out of every indicator, it’s expected that some might not suit how you work, but that’s why you need to discover what fits you best.
Many online and offline tools are available to help you navigate, especially with the assistance of many of their features that simplify your tasks.
If you want to juggle different projects simultaneously, these tips could be a game-changer in your career as a project manager. Not only would you learn a complex skill that’s highly required, but you would also improve the quality of your work.
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