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Time Management

Time management skills are especially important for project managers, who often find themselves performing many different jobs during the course of a single day. The following time management tips will help you increase your productivity and stay cool and collected.

Realize that time management is a myth

No matter how organized we are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn't change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have.

Find out where you're wasting time

Many of us are prey to time-wasters that steal time we could be using much more productively. What are your time-bandits? Do you spend too much time 'Net surfing, reading email, or making personal calls? Tracking Daily Activities explains how to track your activities so you can form a accurate picture of what you actually do, the first step to effective time management.

Create time management goals

Remember, the focus of time management is actually changing your behaviors, not changing time. A good place to start is by eliminating your personal time-wasters. For one week, for example, set a goal that you're not going to take personal phone calls while you're working. (See Set Specific Goals for help with goal setting.) For a fun look at behaviors that can interfere with successful time management, see my article Time Management Personality Types. Find out if you're a Fireman, an Aquarian or a Chatty Kathy!

Implement a time management plan

Think of this as an extension of time management tip # 3. The objective is to change your behaviors over time to achieve whatever general goal you've set for yourself, such as increasing your productivity or decreasing your stress. So you need to not only set your specific goals, but track them over time to see whether or not you're accomplishing them.

Create the Plan

What does this have to do with time management I hear you ask? Well, if everyone knows what they are doing and have a plan with regular milestones to focus on, you as project manager will spend a lot less time dealing with issues brought about through a lack of clarity.

Remember the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule (or the Pareto Principle) is the idea that by doing 20% of the work you can produce 80% of the benefit of doing the whole job.
The value of this for a project manager is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 per cent of activities that matter. Of the activities you do during your project, only 20 per cent are important. Those 20 per cent produce 80 per cent of your results. Identify and focus on those activities.

Not Just Status Updates

Itís best to avoid team meetings where you go round the room asking each person to give a status update. These meetings have little value and waste time. Instead, spend that time focusing on risks, issues and opportunities. Use the team to brainstorm solutions and create ideas.
Team meetings should have an agreed agenda that you stick to. If you schedule an hour for the meeting, make sure it lasts for an hour and no longer.
Take big issues off-line if they are likely to cause a meeting overrun. Donít make everyone sit through lengthy technical discussions that donít involve them. Setup a working group to focus on the issues and report to the team at a future meeting.

Stop Micro Managing

Avoid delving into the detail of the work. With software development projects, itís not necessary for the project manager to get involved at code level, leave this to the developers. Youíve selected the right team for the job. Let them get on with what they are best at, while you concentrate on steering the project to a successful conclusion.

Donít do the Work

Many project managers make the mistake of getting involved in ďdoing the work.Ē Avoid this at all costs. Managing projects is a full-time job and taking your eye off the ball (even for a short period) can lead to problems. It may be tempting to carryout a few tasks when a deadline is looming, but leave this to others while you get on with managing the project.

Create a To-do List

E-mail fixation is a modern-day problem that can distract you from doing the tasks you need or plan to. Creating a daily to-do list keeps you focused on achieving your objectives. Scratching tasks from your list creates a real sense of achievement and drives further activity.