7 Best Time Management Tips for PMs

There are a lot of good personal and time management systems out there, like for example Steven Covey’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and Kerry Gleeson’s Personal Efficiency Program (PEP) - my personal favourite. There is also a modification of the GTD method called Zen To Done (ZTD) by Leo Babauta.

All these systems are worth considering as an indispensable part of every manager’s skill-set.

BUT when you’re short on time and need to deliver, all comes down to very tiny, simple, little steps or rules and habits, which I tried to state below.

These tips are universal, so even if you’re not a project manager (yet), consider implementing them into your daily work and life routines.

So here are the 7 Best Time Management Tips for Project Managers:​

1. Long-term vision

Let’s start however by something which is not a simple daily routine.

Every endeavour, even the biggest one starts with a tiny little step. The thing is that you need to know where are you heading first, otherwise there won’t be any sense in moving forward, as Lewis Carroll once wrote in Alice in Wonderland:

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” - Lewis Carroll

Therefore you need to have a vision. Why start with this? We are visual beings, we need to see, we need something which is tangible, hence we have to have a vision to be able to ACT with Purpose.

Now… I don’t want to explain here how you should do this part, as it is a BIG project itself, but just remember that you shall know where you’re heading to get there.

Just remember this: You act with energy and devotion not until you have a clear picture of what to do and what you really value deeply.

2. Note things down, create TO-DO Lists

Now the part about goals - daily goals, life goals and so on…

According to Steven Covey unmanaged tasks and thoughts create open loops in our subconscious minds and they tend to suck us out of mental energy. The energy needed to make decisions.

Writing things down helps us to see, to gain a vision, to make things tangible and save us mental time for making decisions and planning. Hence you need to get all the things out of your head and collect them in one place (ideally).

You may capture all the actionable things into a paper To-Do list or into a task manager.
My favourite app is Remember The Milk (RTM), but there are many other great apps out there, which can serve you well.

3. Set deadlines

Work in 30 minute chunks. Leave no place blank in your calendar, journal or agenda as work tends to fill up the time.

This derives from the Parkinson’s Law

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” - Cyril Northcote Parkinson

You can read more about it here.

If you have a computer, tablet, smartphone or any other electronic device with storage memory on it, you have probably noticed that the data (in form of photos, videos, various files, applications etc.) expands quickly so as to fill the whole available space and very soon you start getting alerts about the low memory or disk space.

Same goes with our tasks, with our work and that is why you should completely fill up your day with tasks and to-do’s.

Of course as a project manager you should always remember to live some place for the unknown, the risks.

There’s another good advice I can give to project managers, which somehow derives from the awareness of the Parkinson’s Law and it concerns delegating - If you want to somethings done, give it to the busy person in the organization, not the ones who seem to have too much free time (normally it would be obvious to give it to them, since we want to fill up the gaps).

If someone is busy and doesn’t complain about it, he or she delivers her work, there’s higher chance this individual is more effective in managing time then his/her colleagues.

Of course this is not a rule of thumb, but you may consider it as a tip.

4. Do It Now!

As it comes to daily tasks management, the book about personal efficiency that I value the most is:

Kerry Gleeson personal efficiency program

Kerry Gleeson Bestseller

Kerry Gleeson’s “Personal Efficiency Program. How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Win Back Control of Your Work!” (4th Edition sub-title)

Check this PDF: Eight ways to manage yourself by Kerry Gleeson.

Kerry Gleeson repeats in the books the expression “Do It Now!” like a mantra. In fact one of the differences between David Allen and his GTD and Kerry Gleeson’s PEP is the strong emphasis on getting things done right now and stop procrastinating.

“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” - Dawson Trotman

Although David Allen describes a two-minute quota for tasks to be done immediately (if a tasks is supposed to take no more than 2 minutes of your time, you should do it straight away, without even further pushing it through the GTD process), Kerry Gleeson's thought are centered on this concept of clearing your list and not leaving anything in the past (well... there are some exceptions to this rule, but in general you should deliver).

Emmett's Law: “The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.” - Rita Emmett

5. Stop multi-tasking

Now, if you think multi-tasking makes you more productive, be informed that in fact it makes you more distractive. Here you can find more about the perils of multitasking.

“Multi-tasking doesn't exist. I can give 100% focus to 1 thing, some simultaneous focus on 2 things. 3 or more & they all suffer.” - Simon Sinek

There is a great Simon Sinek’s speech available in the internet, which put you in a explains some of the foundations and concepts behind our most primal behaviours.
Although Simon speaks more of our biological drivers (hormones), he explains out a lot of facts behind our thinking and acting, which is good to know if you want to be effective and socially responsible.

Why Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek’s speech at 99U

Simon Sinek's remark on focus:

“Goals must be tangible - we have to see the goal to stay focused.” - Simon Sinek
David Allen note

A Steven Covey note on tangible goals

6. Delegate

One of the crucial and indispensable steps in project management (well… unless you are in a position of a manager) is delegating the work to be done.

Before giving you my short list, there's a nice and very comprehensive article about delegating on the Project Smart website.

  • Purpose and Clarity. Understand the nature of tasks to be delegated yourself, don’t rush over it, take time to reflect and then think about the...
  • Assignment and good Alignment.
    Specify the tasks and competences needed. Align the type of task with the right individual and remember that they have the right to refuse to take the task.
  • Resources. Assigning the right people is one thing, but you have to think about the resources needed as well (support, money, time, tools, etc.).
  • Monitor the work to be delivered, sustain continuous communication.
  • Control. Organize reviews and discuss the deliverables, check their quality.
  • Support. The project manager should support his team members by applying the appropriate attitudes, measures and decisions
  • Motivate during the execution and after completion of the tasks.  Give credit at the end. Don't steal someone else's merits.
  • Make your people grow and let grow your skills with them.

7. Reward yourself and practice gratitude

Doing a lot comes down to nothing if you don’t know how to celebrate or to refill before new challenges.

It’s good to get things done, but it’s better to not stop there. Every day brings a new challenge, a new set of tasks. A we need to stay  in shape  and ready to get other jobs done effectively.

If you don’t want to burn out quickly practice giving yourself rewards for you have achieved - every single day.

What kind of rewards? Small rewards, nothing big, nothing fancy. Practice here a kaizen approach (read more here). You just want to grow your self confidence and not spoil yourself.
Remember - giving this kind of rewards is more about the recognition than it is about the reward side.

What you want to achieve here is gain the feeling of fulfillment and refill your inner energy. Hence, there needs to be time for celebration and gratitude.

That's It! Let's discuss...

So that's about it.
I hope you found it helpful and learned a few new things.

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