How can project managers manage time more effectively?

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In the midst of the project management fight, it’s easy to forget the basics - even for the best of project managers.

So, let’s spend five minutes realigning the fundamentals. There is nothing game-changing here, just honest practices and micro-changes to behaviour, to make your life easier.

Okay – let’s start basic.

Write a to-do list at the end of every day, for the following day. In the times of super-powerful project management tools – this simple approach has been forgotten about for many, I’ve done it daily since day one of my career. It hasn’t let me down and always ensures I hit the ground running each morning. This is an effective and easy change, give it a go.

Agree rules of engagement.

For every project, regardless of size – ensure you agree all parameters of communication and reporting ahead of delivery being initiated. It’s easy to get bogged down with relentless reports, updates and summaries, so ensure what you are producing is being valued by the receiving party. If it’s not, open up honest rhetoric with the stakeholders regarding ongoing content and updates. It needs to work for you too.

In the past, I’ve worked with customers who have demanded all the reporting in the world, they feel this is reflection of a well-managed project. I’ve also had customers who have little desire for any type of reporting at all – It’s viewed as an indulgence, a nice to have, but not a necessity. The truth is, it doesn’t matter on my opinion here, on what is right and what is wrong. The approach should be agreed between all parties involved, as early as possible. It’s typically different in every type of scenario and engagement.

You and the customer need to understand what ‘good’ looks like. 

In testing times.

Make every effort to reduce the non-essentials. Be bold – say “no” to what isn’t urgent. Only work on priority work streams. Regularly check-in with yourself on what is important and what is not. Encourage the project stakeholders to adopt this behaviour. Be cut-throat.

This approach will pay heavy dividends, for everyone.

Your work/life balance.

I have quite strong views on this and to be clear I believe balance is important. But always think long term. In project management it is extremely common to have periods of weeks, months, if not years of intensive delivery focus with mounting pressures where undoubtedly the physical and emotional impact will slip into your personal life. However, the magic happens in between major projects and programmes, this time is special and should be recognised and valued accordingly. If you are a contractor, don’t jump to your next gig straight away. For perms, talk to your business –encourage and allow them to reward you. They will.

Put simply, don’t be a push-over, allow yourself time to recover in all senses.

And, that’s it; nothing ground breaking there. And of course, as they say, “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”

It’s true.

Image: Colorlife/

Sebastian Harris

Posted by Sebastian Harris on 20th Nov 2019

About the Author

Sebastian Harris is currently the Head of Security, Networks and Operations Delivery responsible for all project delivery within division for NCC Group (100+ programmes and projects). Leading a team of highly skilled project managers from the front, alongside a team of world class consultants. Vast experience of Cyber Security Project Management within boutique, AIM listed, and FTSE cyber security companies.

Outside of the industry he strongly supports all programmes associated with supporting individuals find and unlock their full potential, both Inside and outside the corporate setting.

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