As a project manager, no matter your career choice, there will come a time when you have to juggle several duties. It’s just the diversity factor of simultaneous business development in our modern world.
However, how do you keep track of multiple projects without fail? There’s so much to manage, not to mention bosses and clients to answer to and a team to lead. With the limited time (and sometimes resources) you have, things can get complicated, and fast, making it all seem pretty impossible.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the best strategies for managing multiple projects. What’s more, we’ll talk about the challenges that you may encounter along the way. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have gained insights on how to steer your organization to consistent success, every single time.
How to Manage Multiple Projects: 12 Time-Tested Strategies
1. Hone Your Multi-Project Management Skills
If you’re just starting as a project manager, you need to master the art of running a single project. There is a lot to learn, including how to create a Statement of Work, which defines elements like the purpose of the project, project scope, expectations, etc.
Once you become an expert in managing a single project, you can begin practicing how to take on multiple projects. With time, you’ll sharpen your multi-project management skills and learn new tricks to improve performance and productivity.
2. Find a Reliable Project Management Software
According to a survey by Capterra, teams that have adopted project management software say it’s the most impactful tool for effective team communication and collaboration. Yet, according to Wellingtone’s 2017 State of Project Management Survey, only 16 percent of companies are taking advantage of this solution.
In every organization, there are redundant tasks, like file sharing and progress tracking. A project management solution automates the process of monitoring multiple projects, across multiple devices and from any location.
Task automation not only saves time, but it also frees up valuable manpower resources.
3. Create an Effective Plan and Schedule
Once you have the right project management tool, the next step is to work with a plan. The key to succeeding in anything you do is careful planning. In the context of project management, this involves:
● Defining the duties and responsibilities of project managers and teams
● Determining goals and objectives
● Laying out the project timeline
● Delivering output
A concrete plan allows you to optimally allocate resources to enable teams to perform their duties efficiently and deliver on time. Planning is essential to maintaining sanity, particularly when managing multiple tasks. It lets you explore every scenario and devise ways to overcome challenges along the way.
In other words, a thorough project plan creates a near-perfect project roadmap for your entire project.
4. Set Goals
Effective planning won’t be complete without defining goals. Having targets motivates you to work harder toward achieving success. They encourage employees to stay streamlined and focused on their duties and responsibilities.
Speaking of goals, it’s crucial to write them down. A study on goal setting by psychology professor Dr. Gail Mathews found that people who wrote down their goals had a higher success rate compared to those who didn’t. The research confirms the value of creating an action plan and writing down goals when working toward success.
5. Review and Adjust Your Plan
Remember, plans change, and so do circumstances. Whatever plans you had may not work in the current situation. It becomes even more complicated when trying to keep track of multiple projects at the same time.
So, flexibility is crucial when creating plans and making goals. If one method doesn’t work, review and adjust your plan to stay on track. Keep an eye on your progress and performance, monitor every step, and swing to action when things start going south.
So, when planning, be sure to know how to manage changes and adjust your schedule, scope, etc., accordingly.
6. Block Your Working Time
As the Stanford report on multitasking shows, multitaskers are likely to underperform. You could try successive multitasking, where you layer tasks one after the other and not concurrently.
Block time to focus on a particular task or project up to a certain level before shifting to another task/project. For instance, you could block between 2 PM and 3 PM to return phone calls, respond to emails, or process invoices. After you’re done with these tasks, you can proceed to the next one.
When blocking time, be sure to let your teams know when they can’t interrupt.
7. Communicate Constantly
With 71 percent of employees feeling managers don’t spend enough time explaining goals and plans, what you need is effective communication. It’s even more critical when managing a remote team. That’s why you must set clear expectations right from the start.
Your project plan, timeline, schedule, deliverables, etc., will work only when teams feel involved in the project.
When you have multiple projects to manage, you act as the hub that connects stakeholders, teams, bosses, and clients. Without clear communication, misunderstandings may arise, and things can start falling apart pretty quickly.
Remember, active listening is a part of effective communication. So, learn to listen to everyone’s concerns and involve them in any changes. Likewise, create a culture of giving and receiving feedback.
Try to find what communication methods work for you, your teams, and the entire organization and implement them.
Do tend to feel that for something to be done right you have to do it yourself? Try to lose it.
You have to trust your team members to handle tasks. After all, they were vetted during the hiring process and deemed fit for the role.
Note that no single person can manage multiple projects alone and without support. So, learn to trust your teams and delegate work that can be delegated. Of course, you’ll oversee everything—just don’t micromanage your personnel.
We should point out that checking the progress of employees can create tension in the workplace if approached the wrong way. That’s why you need an employee monitoring app that promotes ethical work tracking. Such a system respects your staff’s privacy and lets you track their work progress without making them feel like they are being spied on.
Employee monitoring encourages transparency and accountability for everyone in the organization. Ultimately, it saves the company from losing time and money.
9. Prioritize Tasks
Now, to delegate effectively, you must understand that not all projects are created equal. Some tasks may require immediate attention while others don’t. That’s where project prioritization comes in.
As a project manager, you must know which projects or tasks will have a greater impact on the business and prioritize them accordingly. When defining priorities, you can use various methods, such as:
- Eisenhower Matrix – a decision-making tool that helps you divide a task into four categories:
● Urgent and important – do these tasks first
● Not urgent but important – schedule to do later
● Urgent but not important – delegate
● Not urgent and not important – remove them from your schedule
It’s a simple yet effective method that helps you separate important tasks from urgent tasks, so you know which ones to delegate.
- Pareto Principle – The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of a project’s results come from 20 percent of the causes. From a project management perspective, it means focusing on the 20 percent of tasks that give your business optimal returns on investment.
10. Hold Periodic Meetings
One of the best ways to keep track of multiple projects is having regular check-ins with your team(s). These meetings don’t have to take up a ton of time. They could be “stand up” meetings held once or twice a week that you can use to monitor the progress of projects.
It’s also an excellent platform to get a sense of what team members are going through. Most importantly, you’ll be able to identify roadblocks and challenges, solve problems, adjust schedules, and redistribute work accordingly.
When managing a distributed team, you can take advantage of numerous remote management tools designed to make your work easier. Be ready to listen to what each staff member has to say, so you get a clear picture of their wellbeing.
11. Manage Your Time Properly
It’s hard to juggle multiple activities across several projects running at the same time. Time is a limited resource, and without effective time management, you’ll run into difficulties trying to stay on schedule.
To stay on top of things, you need a reliable time tracker like Traqq. It’s a powerful yet simple-to-use tool that helps you and your team track tasks, activities, and productivity. You no longer have to worry about losing track of time.The tool has all the features to effectively manage time while working, such as:
● Activity level tracking
● Apps and websites monitoring
● Offline time tracking
● Smart alerts and notifications
● Manual time adjustments
With its Smart Alerts and notification feature, you get reminders to turn off the tracker when you’re not working. You’ll also be notified that the tracker isn’t running while you’re working. Plus, you get notified of every hour you’ve worked so you can remember to take breaks and keep track of your time.
12. Stay Organized
The secret to remaining in control is to stay organized across your tasks. Identify old habits that aren’t working and discard them. On the same note, implement new habits that boost focus, performance, and productivity.
Once you find a project planning process that works well, use it as a template. Doing so simplifies your workflows and saves you time. Remember to update your template regularly with new tasks or steps that you’ve added. Likewise, update it with best practices and new insights aimed at improving your project management strategies.
One useful tool to help you stay organized is the Kanban board. On a Kanban board, each task or item is represented by a card, categorized into three columns:
A Kanban board lets you and your teams quickly visualize project statuses and check which tasks are assigned to who. It also allows you to foresee projects that could potentially fail to meet deadlines. In turn, you can communicate your concerns with the team and mitigate the issue.
5 Challenges of Running Multiple Projects at the Same Time
According to Wellingtone’s 2018 State of Project Management Survey, one of the biggest challenges project managers face is attempting to run too many projects simultaneously. This problem trails a little behind poorly trained project managers.
It’s not uncommon for a project manager to run anything from three to up to 18 or even more projects concurrently. It’s a way to be more cost-effective for an organization. The problem is, organizations often get too optimistic about the volume of projects they can handle that it gets out of hand.
This poses several complications and difficulties that can kill productivity and performance. Considering the challenges you face tackling individual projects, managing multiple projects introduces a whole new set of challenges, including:
1. Multi-Tasking Can Be Ineffective
A project manager may feel like he has mastered the art of multitasking, but it works the opposite way. Multitasking has been shown to reduce productivity. People who multitask switch from one task or idea to another while trying to keep track of multiple projects. As a result, they feel a sense of increased efficiency.
However, studies reveal that multitasking promotes stress and fatigue in the workplace. According to neuroscientist Dan Levitan, your IQ temporarily drops 10 points every time you multitask. The study shows that new information gets processed in the wrong part of the brain, instead of going to the hippocampus.
As a result, you can’t work efficiently on many tasks, hence reducing your overall work productivity.
2. Overload and Burnout
When you assign several projects to a single freelancer, the workload becomes too much to handle, leading to overload. This creates issues like increased stress levels and reduced performance.
Soon, the employee starts to miss deadlines due to too much work. If the pressure to deliver becomes too much, the worker may suffer from burnout.
3. Resource Allocation
The more projects you manage, the more complicated it gets to allocate resources. Multi-project management leads to an overlap of resources. Come to think of it, when you have three or more projects running, how do you handle the talent, capital, time, among other resources? How do you share resources equally without affecting performance?
If the proper strategies aren’t implemented, it may lead to some employees being overworked and others underworked. Thus, you need to have great resource management and allocation tactics for this to work.
4. Competing Deadlines
Tracking multiple projects can be overwhelming, especially when they are due on the same date. You’re likely to run into problems unless you implement excellent project planning and effective resource allocation strategies.
Working with a timeline that helps you visualize your entire portfolio in one glance makes it easier to manage the tasks. You can track the work progress, set deadlines, and monitor milestones, activities, and assignees.
5. Unclear Priorities
Things don’t always go as planned, meaning we can’t control the outcome in everything we do. When juggling more than one project, you need to prioritize tasks, so teams know how they are expected to approach them.
Doing so will ensure they can make fast and informed decisions whenever conflicts arise. Project prioritization must be based on project value. So, you must assess your project portfolio to understand the value each project brings and prioritize accordingly.
The value assessment on your project portfolio should measure:
● The project risk, to determine how risky the project is;
● the project alignment, to determine if it’s aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives; and
● the financial state, to determine how profitable the project is.
Final Thoughts on How to Manage Multiple Projects
Tracking multiple projects simultaneously, especially in a big organization, can be tough and intimidating. However, with the strategies we’ve shared, you can become an effective project manager who achieves success.
Don’t forget, task automation simplifies your work. With the right tool, you’ll juggle projects more efficiently, as well as boost effective team collaboration and communication.