Six ways to practice better time management

There never seems to be enough time in the day for project managers (PMs). While many professionals feel that way, PMs can feel especially strapped for time because they’re at the heart of project decision-making and responsible for all kinds of teams and tasks.

Whether it relates to the budget or interdepartmental collaboration, there are always demands on project managers’ time on a day-to-day basis. Projects can be living things themselves and can require heavy time commitments from PMs. The trick is to make the most of what you put in. Time management is a fundamental discipline for any project manager to practice, and here are six tips to get you on your way:

1. Have an agenda for meetings and calls

Meetings and calls are notorious for running over, being aimless and generally wasting participants’ time. Yet they remain necessary in many ways. As a project manager, you cannot afford to run an unfocused meeting, or you end up wasting your time and getting less done than anticipated. Maximize the time you book for meetings by having a set agenda to work through and sending it out to attendees ahead of time. Having a game plan allows you to use everyone’s time more efficiently. Just make sure to inform the participants that questions should be reserved for the end, rather than disrupting the conversation.

2. Know when to delegate

Project managers often feel a need to be involved at all levels and in all workflows. While it’s only natural to feel that way, it’s highly important to fight against the urge to micromanage. Worse yet is hoarding work for fear of it being done wrong when trusted to others. Delegating to direct reports and other employees is a necessary part of the PM role, and you need to become comfortable with the act of letting go. Delegating tasks can return time to you, as well as save you from sinking effort into multiple things at once and stretching your resources thin. PMs have high-level concerns that need their attention, and delegating nonessential items to capable charges will allow you to dedicate the needed time to core project management duties.

Employees talking

3. Limit multitasking activity

To effectively manage your time, narrow your focus on what tasks you have at-hand. Even if you do move work around, there’s often a considerable amount of items left to address on your plate. It’s tempting then to dip into different tasks two or three at a time, but multitasking isn’t always the silver bullet it’s made out to be. In fact, when tackling too many things at once, work can begin to distract from other work and detract from productivity and quality. When you have multiple tasks competing for your attention you need to prioritize. Get things done in order of magnitude or deadline, but always make sure to do it in a structured way. Never leave it to a random approach, which invariably wastes your time and negatively impacts what work you do get done.

4. Have a daily to-do list

While this advice may sound quaint, there’s simply no substitute for the daily to-do list. Creating a checklist for the day helps you prioritize and ensures you’re always making the most of your time because you’re staying on task. These lists can cover whatever responsibilities and items you want them to, and you should encourage others you work with to make similar documents. When you have a snapshot of your day to come, you’re able to visualize the time you’ll need to commit to each task. Again, this helps focus your available resources and ensures you’re not pressed for time or surprised by a task that disrupts an otherwise planned day. Make sure to build some flexibility into your daily list, as having room to maneuver is also important to time management when other unplanned needs suddenly pop up.

5. Use free tools to control distractions

With so much work now being concentrated on the internet, the risks of getting lost in distractions and procrastination have increased. With your favorite entertainment or news site just a few clicks away, there’s almost nothing stopping you from visiting a site for a few seconds. However, a few seconds can become a few minutes, and then easily an hour has gone by. Remove the temptation altogether by using browser extensions and add-ons that block sites classified as not work-related. Whether you want to black out access altogether or allot yourself a set amount of time to spend browsing when on a break, these apps can help PMs improve productivity and time management.

6. Have a dynamic calendar

While the daily to-do list has short-term benefits, allowing you to keep a running tab on what needs to be done and when, maintaining a constantly updated calendar keeps your long-term goals in sight. Deadlines that are months away tend to creep up. Make sure you have a complete view of your tasks and phases by keeping a shared calendar that everyone can work from.

Time management is an art that project managers need to become familiar with. It’s just one of many areas of expertise that PMs cover in their education, and is something that earning a master’s degree can help promote further. When looking for an online graduate degree, consider Brandeis University’s Master of Science in Project and Program Management. Contact an admissions officer today to learn more.


Recommended reading:

Common Challenges in the Project Life Cycle

A Look at Project Organization and Scheduling

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