As I speak with project managers, I hear that we still face many
of the same problems that we faced decades ago. Let's discuss
the challenge of time management, and see how you can make
tomorrow a better day.
Lack of time.
Yes, project manager's number one complaint is "Too much
work, not enough time". This is surprising, given that we
have the same 24 hours in every day as we used to have
before the invention of personal computers, email and
instant messaging. Now that we have enormous computing power
on our desk and the ability to communicate with people all
over the world via instant messaging, how is it that we
don't have enough time to get everything done? Everything is
now faster than ever before and we have more information
available than we ever had before.
The answer is that we are distracted more easily. We have
more interruptions and more noise in our lives than ever
before. My phone seldom rings anymore - because everyone
uses instant messaging and emails to communicate. The noise
is not always audible anymore yet the effect is the same.
You don't get done what you set out to do when you walked
into the your office or cube.
What are the solutions? (This is the part
you have been waiting for, right?)
1. Admit your addiction. Keep a time log for one work day.
Every 15 minutes write down what you are working on. You
will be surprised to find that you are answering emails and
instant messages and generally reacting to other people,
instead of focusing on doing your work. Admitting your
addiction to allowing other people to control your time is
the first step towards recovery.
2. Block out chunks of time for you to do your work. Go
offline for 30 minutes and stay focused on your tasks, then
go back and catch up on your emails. Most of them will wait
and some issues will have resolved themselves without your
3. Make time for yourself. Take your lunches and get some
exercise instead of anxiously waiting by your computer for
the next invasion of your privacy. You can't work if you are
not taking care of yourself first. Your body will collapse.
You aren't going to be answering emails from your hospital
4. Stay prioritized. Yeah, this is an oldie but goodie. Keep
on prioritizing your work so that you are working on the
most important task all the time. Use your to-do list, your
"must get done list" or write it on your sticky-notes. Do
whatever it takes to stay on task working on the most
important task all the time that you are working.
5. Become aware of distractions. Become aware of people who
habitually interrupt you or thought patterns that distract
you from your work. If you have an active mind like me, then
you may want to keep a separate notepad of "great ideas that
I want to work on one day" to keep them safe and out of your
way while you stay focused. Change your environment - go to
the public library to write or your favorite coffee shops.
Do what it takes to become aware of your distractions and
then take steps to become undistractable.
6. Learn to estimate. We all seem to take on more work than
we can handle. You think we have 60 hours in every day and
you plan accordingly. The result is that at the end of the
day, you have 20 hours of work left and only 3 hours to get
it done, if you don't sleep tonight. Write down how long it
takes you to perform routine tasks. If it took you 5 hours
today to create your weekly project status report, and 5
hours last week, then I am willing to bet that you should
schedule 5 hours of your time for next week's status report.
Block out 5 hours on your calendar and your weekly project
status report will get done. Failing to plan is planning to
fail. Lack of realistic estimates causes frustration for all
concerned and leads to last minute overtime, extreme
frustrations and missed deadlines.
7. When the work is done, stop working. You can't work all
the time. Schedule down time and breaks, if you want to be
more productive. Take breaks during the day to get exercise
and fresh air. Schedule and take your vacations. You will be
more productive when you are working.
8. Help your colleagues and project team to manage their
time better as well. Set the example for them using these
tips, and their matured time management skills will help you
to have less crises, less stress and more time.
Let me know how these solutions work out for you.