by Mark Maric
In the United States, 32 percent of organizations never or only sometimes finish their projects on time. It’s time for you to take time management into serious consideration.
From a project management perspective, there are four components of time management to be leveraged for successful project completion. Note, these components are not necessarily meant to map to the process groups discussed in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.?
- Planning – setting goals, actions, and resources,
- Scheduling – setting realistic time frames and recognizing resource limitations for the plan execution,
- Monitoring – after the project has started, you should be checking whether activities are going according to plan and schedule,
- Control – ensuring the prevention of practices which can have negative effects or continuing the implementation of actions which bring a positive outcome.
Therefore, when dealing with your next project, you need to make sure you’ve got all of these areas covered so that deadline extension won’t cost you a fortune.
For good project time management proper tools make a world of difference. Fortunately, there are many available, and most of them are easy to use.
Tools like scheduling software lets the members of your team input their activities and durations. It makes monitoring much easier. You can check the progress and react on time to prevent any undesirable consequences. Especially if some of the critical path activities are behind schedule (or looking ahead proactively, about to be behind schedule).
Logging all of the activities is very useful. This way you’ll know exactly what you need to finish the project. It will also help you plan future projects, as well as create more accurate estimates.
To get even better results, you should teach your project team members some time management techniques. This will have an enormously positive effect both on their well-being and team productivity.
There are quite a few time management techniques, and below are some that are easy to implement:
- Pomodoro technique – when facing a complicated task, which may take a lot of time and concentration, it is useful to split it. Work in four 25-minute sessions, with a 5-minute break after the first three. Then a 20-minute break after the fourth session. As odd as it may seem, these planned breaks that we often forget about can help us regain focus and energy to continue the work.
- Eisenhower Matrix – this technique can help members of your team set their priorities. You just mark your daily or weekly tasks as important/not important or urgent/not urgent. According to this procedure, tasks can be divided into four categories. The important and urgent tasks need to be done right away, and those important but not urgent can be scheduled for another time. You should delegate tasks that are not important but are urgent. And ignore those tasks which are neither urgent nor important.
- Biological prime time – every project team member has that time of the day when even answering an email seems like an impossible task. By logging the time and activities for a few weeks, your project team members will gain an insight into their prime time. Then it’s up to managers to give them enough freedom to organize their activities accordingly.
- Eat the frog – if the task ahead us is too complicated, too important, or too boring, we should do it first. Although this technique does seem a bit cruel to those who are likely to procrastinate, your project team members will soon realize that it is far better than letting themselves drown in the anticipated misery of failure.
- Flowtime technique – a team member picks a period which can be from 10 to 90 minutes long for a chosen task, and then the timer is set. When the sequence is finished, it is up to the team member to decide if they have the energy to continue and sets another time frame. Short breaks after sequences are allowed if needed.
The greatest threat to your productivity are the distractions which are all around you.
A sudden and unexpected phone call, annoying email notifications, social network messages, a chat with a colleague about the last night’s football match all shift your focus from the task you are working on. Research has shown it takes no less than 23 minutes to regain that focus.
So, here are a few tips on how to avoid these time-eating traps, but only after logging all of your activities for a few weeks to see how much time you waste over a certain period:
- Plan time for email related activities – checking your mail, replying to the urgent messages, and leaving the not-so-urgent ones for later. However, this shouldn’t be done more than once or twice during your working hours.
- Limit your internet and social media time as much as possible, and schedule it only during breaks.
- Cut down on the amount of long and ineffective meetings, as they bring more harm than benefit. Make an agenda and a precise schedule, and limit meeting duration.
Whenever you can, avoid that desperate feeling you get on Sundays, knowing what awaits you the next morning when you wake up.
You should keep the weekends to yourself. Unwinding, enjoying your favorite activities and disconnecting from work-related thoughts and pressure. But, you might consider spending two to four hours during the weekend working so that we you reduce our next weeks’ workload. But set a timer, do not spend more than a small portion of your weekend on work.
Weekend is the best time for making plans for the week ahead. And also for finishing those boring or less important but still necessary tasks that you have been delaying.
Practicing time management techniques is essential for optimizing and streamlining your project management efforts. Your team will also benefit from these tips as they have the potential to help them be more productive and efficient.