Project Management

Prioritization and time management

Prioritization and time management v2.png

No matter what stage in life you are in, things can get hectic and overwhelming. As soon as you have more than one thing to do, you need to manage your time and prioritize. At work, in many jobs, there is ALWAYS more you could do. So, how can you deal with that without killing yourself?

Start by having good time management practices. Use your calendar – not only to book meetings with others but to block out time to do important tasks. Know the meetings on your calendar. Which meetings do you need to prepare for? Which meetings absolutely require your presence?

Be militant with your agenda. Set guidelines for the times that you are willing and able to take meetings, with a standard morning start time and evening end time. Start negotiating the time of meetings (and the length!) to fit your limits. Know when it is necessary to accept an exception – it will happen but it should be just that, the exception and not the rule.

The same goes for planning out tasks. If you block time to do an important task, protect it and don’t just give it away at the first request. Put yourself in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. If you can’t do that, use a “Do not Disturb” sign to signal to those around you that you need to be uninterrupted.

All that is well and good but what about the unplanned requests and tasks? Everything that comes up seems to be urgent and practically overdue before you even get started. How do you weigh the priorities of the different tasks you have to accomplish?

There are several scales to think about as you weigh the priority of your to do list. The first is urgency. What is the due date? How much time will it take to do it? What’s the latest you can get started and be timely? Consider the various due dates on your actions and you can prioritize by due date and time to get done. But that’s not enough.

The second is importance. Is the task strategic or tactical? What is the impact if this task is not done? If it’s not done on time? Who is asking for it? Assess the level of importance of the task and the potential consequences of not doing the task. Make sure you understand what the purpose (or end goal) is and not just the task you are being asked to fulfill. Many deadlines can be moved and it’s important to get a sense of whether or not deadlines are fixed due to dependencies or whether they were randomly picked. Some tasks may have little or no consequence if they are not done.

When considering who is asking for the work to be done, I would suggest some caution. It’s not about systematically prioritizing what the big bosses want. Yes, it’s an important consideration if a high-level executive is requesting something. However, the implications of not meeting some peer deadlines may have high consequences down the line, so never decide based on who is asking with no other context.

Once you have looked at all this, you can reshuffle your priorities and your time to accommodate it. But how can you make time? There are a number of ways.

1)      Learn to say no – some tasks that you are requested to do may be “nice to have” but not critical compared to the rest of your task list.

2)      Cancel meetings which are not time sensitive when you have an exceptional fire drill

3)      Shift priorities – take over a time slot which was meant for another, less urgent task. Don’t forget to reschedule the task you are stealing the slot from, unless you decide elimination is the way to go.

4)      Consider “good enough” solutions to requests – understanding the end goal of a request is important. Sometimes, more work is requested than is needed to meet the goal. Some people are perfectionists and will systematically go deeper and provide more polish than is required. A request for an in-depth report may hide the need for a specific number. Data from last week which has already been analyzed may be good enough to give someone a glimpse into the trends they need to understand. Understand when you can do less and still meet the end goal.

5)      Don’t be a slave to instant messaging and email – responsiveness is great, but it’s not always needed by return. When you have a vital task to accomplish, turn your instant messaging to Do Not Disturb while you work. Ignore email notifications which pop up on your screen. Focus on the task at hand and go back to your new messages later.

Don’t let you’re your tasks and priorities manage you. Take charge and start managing your time and priorities more effectively! Having trouble? Get a coach to help!

Building organizational acumen

Organizational acumen is nothing more or less than understanding how things work in your organization. The better you understand the structure, systems, processes and people in the organization, the more effective you will be at getting things done. Find out how you can improve your organizational acumen.

Communication styles

Communication is the key to success in ……. just about everything. But if you’re looking to have a successful career, it’s a foundational skill that you need to master. This blog series will take a look at three aspects of communication.

8 tips for resolving conflict

Wherever there is conflict, there is liable to be escalating stress. As a project manager, your actions and reactions in the face of conflict will set an example for the team. Every conflict is unique, but basically is about managing opposing forces and disagreement. You’ll see that resolving conflict calls on many areas of learning we have covered so far. This blog focuses on bringing it all together.

Accepting “good enough”

Many years ago, I was part of a team of marketers in Europe. Our team was made up of people from many countries in Europe and this American. It was almost all women, with one, very quiet, very discreet man. Marketing was undergoing (yet another) transformation and job descriptions had been changed.

Resolving conflict – start by managing your own stress

Complex work environments give rise to a broad range of handicapping emotions: frustration, overwhelm, worry, blame to name a few. These emotions can trigger a stress reaction which activates adrenalin and cortisol, causing a physical reaction which can then impact our behavior.

6 ways to take care of yourself

As we push through career challenges and look after our families, many of us neglect to take care of ourselves. I know how it is. You’re not eating so healthy since you are often on the run. Getting exercise is a happy ideal that you never have the time for. You’re catching up on work after hours. You’re not sleeping enough.

Managing unrealistic goals at work

Are you tearing your hair out over unrealistic goals at work? Humans have a need for fairness and autonomy (control). As one of the top workplace stressors, unrealistic objectives and demands make us feel overwhelmed, but also angry and powerless. But what can you do about it? 

Working with people you don’t like

We’ve all had to do it – work with someone we really, really don’t like. It can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable working with people you don’t like. Dislike can be triggered by physical appearances, unconscious bias, attitudes or opinions, even the sound of someone’s voice. Generally speaking, we dislike what we can not relate to and what we do not approve.

5 Ways to Influence Without Authority

Influencing without authority is a critical job skill for project managers. Keeping the cats herded requires a combination of strong project management and communication skills. When you combine that with influencing levers, you can master the most complex projects. Here are five ways to influence without authority.

10 ways a project manager can reduce stress

Every project manager has to deal with stress. Complex projects, difficult deadlines and changing conditions all contribute to a stressful work environment. The project manager is in a unique situation to reduce the stress levels of a project. Here are 10 ways a project manager can reduce stress.

Creating a management system

Whether you are building a new team or launching a new project, you’ll need to establish a management system to keep things on track. If you are stepping into an established role, you will want to evaluate the management system that already exists.

Influencing without Authority – leveraging Relationships

In my blog series about Influencing without Authority, I have covered why you need to even consider it and 3 influence types so far : Expertise, Resources and Information.  Now let’s explore softer skills types of influence. I’ll start with Relationships and the last blog will be all about Attitude.

Influencing without Authority – leveraging information

So after the intro and blogs on Expertise and Resources, let’s focus on Information as a source of influence. Having a level playing field on knowledge about critical information is a must. If team members are not informed of key information, it’s impossible to move in the same direction together. You have information that others need and for sure they also have information you need.

Influencing without Authority – leveraging Resources

In my last two blogs, I focused on why influencing without authority can be so important and on the influencing effects of expertise. Let’s explore how resources are a source of influence. We all know that having the right resources – skills, people, budget – has a direct impact on the success of ambitious projects.

Influencing without Authority – leveraging Expertise

This is part 2 of a blog series on Influencing without Authority. If you missed the introduction blog, you can check it out here. I covered why it’s so important to leverage other types of influence and shared a personal example of what happens when you don’t.  This blog will focus on Expertise as an area of influence.