No doubt we've all had to manage several projects at once, one time or another, and it can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Luckily, there are great strategies for managing many projects at a time that makes the experience less stressful and easily achievable when applied properly.
If you know for certain that you will have to take on more projects than one it is a good strategy to prepare yourself and your team for what you're about to do. Having the resources needed to complete a project ready on Day 1 will save a lot of time.
Scheduling and setting goals ahead of time will give you a rough estimate of what projects need to be worked on--and when as well--so that when it comes time to work on each assignment you are not wasting time planning while the deadline approaches.
Prioritize Each Project
No matter how many projects you end up having at a time, there will always be one or more that are more pressing than the others. It's a good idea to prioritize so that you make progress with the more important ones quickly or complete more time-consuming projects first, allowing more focus to be placed on important projects.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting realistic goals is the best strategy available because it provides milestones for each project, which helps with scheduling and planning. Also, meeting goals or achieving them early is a great motivator in an environment that can be overwhelming; doing this can help keep projects on track. Goals are also helpful because they can show where projects are lacking if goals aren't being met as well as they should be.
Assuming your projects are along similar lines of work you may notice some overlap in the work that each project needs to have completed. The main idea of this strategy is that you cut down the amount of time when you or your peers are unavailable by making sure certain jobs that are similar are done at the same time.
For example, say you have projects that all require charts and graphs to be printed at some point. You can use this to your advantage by ensuring all of the appropriate data for each projects are collected so that on a single day all of the charts and graphs can be printed and picked up, saving several trips to the printer and valuable time.
Keep a Schedule
Scheduling is crucial to managing several projects at the same time. Different projects often mean different deadlines which can become a hassle if left unorganized. In order to maintain efficient work flow, schedules must be drafted to ensure that each project is being managed correctly.
Ensure that you have the right tools to keep the schedules, available for everyone and yourself, up-to-date and synchronized. This can be handled either through analogue methods by sending reminders or making updates at meetings or in real time with scheduling and calender software.
Adding supervisors to each project is a great way to manage a lot of different projects at once. Supervisors are able to address pressing issues and can be far more specialized in the project's material than you. This allows you to focus your abilities to subjects you're more knowledgeable about or manage all of the projects indirectly by only interacting with the supervisors.
Multitask the Lesser Details
Multitasking is one of the best strategies for managing many projects or anything in general. You will find that there is very little time to manage several projects at the same time if you try and focus on one at a time. If a project demands quality try to multitask aspects of your projects that don't require a lot of focus to be done correctly.
There will be a lot of work that needs to be done to meet all the deadlines on time. You and those working on the project will have to figure out efficient ways to work on several things at once. If you have any spare time you are doing it wrong. Obviously, you don't want to over-work yourself and breaks are very important, but if you are on hold during a phone call or waiting for charts to come back from print there is always something you can be doing to get ahead of schedule.
But Don't Multitask Too Much!
Whether you are working alone or have teams under you working on the projects you do not want to multitask too much. Spreading the workforce too thinly will mean only minimal amounts of progress will be made on each project. This can cause projects to be delayed, and the quality of work will suffer greatly. Know when concentrated efforts are needed to help you focus on only a few key things at once.
A good way of keeping you and everyone involved in the project up to speed with the project is to have regularly scheduled reports drafted that survey the progress of the project. This helps with keeping organized a great deal by letting you know how much progress has been made and what all is being completed.
Tracking Your Projects
Losing track of progress is an unfortunate pitfall of handling many projects at once. You can get a lot done in a short amount of time but if you don't make note of it you may end up doing the same work twice unintentionally. With that in mind it's a good idea to develop a system that tracks the progress of each project. The system can be as in-depth or general as you would like depending on what your project requires.
My ideal progress tracking system would be to have a chart that depicts all of the progress across all the projects I'm working on. Progress would be measured by different phases, each phase being a collection of milestones from the project, and then a color coded system that detailed if the phase is actively being worked on, inactive/hasn't started, or completed. If you wanted you could have a similar system for keeping track of each project in-depth individually to further organize and track the progress of your projects.
For more Project Tracking and Scheduling Tips check out these helpful articles from the Project Management channel here at Bright Hub:
Project Time and Expense Tracking Tips
5 Most Popular Project Management Software Programs
5 Best Practices in Project Management
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