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10 Time Management Best Practices for Project Managers

written by: SusieBrown • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 4/22/2012

The role of a project manager is like that of an orchestra's conductor: to harmoniously bring all the elements of a project together so project completion can be achieved. Time management for a project manager is like the conductor's baton. It's the simple focal point that keeps the process moving.

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    Why Is Good Time Management Vital to the Project Manager?

    Project Management Life Cycle (Ivan Walsh) Time management is one of the most essential skills a project manager can have to be successful. Those project managers who are able to stay within their project schedule and who are equipped to handle the time consuming obstacles along the way, also have a good chance of staying within their project budget and successfully completing the project. As mentioned above, when a project manager knows how to effectively manage his or her time, it is like a glue that helps to bind together all the various aspects of a project: the project budget, the project resources, the project personnel, and the project goals.

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    Ten Essential Time Management Strategies for the Project Manager

    The following are the best time management practices for project managers:

    1. Use the right tools and equipment. In project management, a project manager's effectiveness will largely depend on the tools at his or her disposal. Even the most talented project manager will be limited if the right software and equipment are not available. Before taking on a project, project managers should thus assess their needs. Some areas to consider include: communications equipment, project tracking software, and collaboration software.

    2. Get to know your project personnel. Social, economic, and cultural differences can often lead to misunderstanding and mis-communication among project team members, especially in situations where a project manager is working with a multi-national project team, and these misunderstandings can be a significant draw on project time. To counteract this affect, project managers should be familiar with the social, economic, and cultural differences of the project team members, and then ensure that these differences are taken into account within project communications.

    3. The 20/80 rule. One of the guiding rules in the management of a project is the Pareto Principle which states that roughly 80% of the outputs will be generated by only 20% of the inputs. In other words, a few elements create the most impact. Project managers can capitalize on this principle with the use of a Pareto Chart, a vertical bar graph that identifies in rank order the most important elements or factors in a project, so that attention can be directed to the things that matter the most.

    4. The fudge factor. When creating the project budget and setting the project schedule, experienced project managers will always include a cushion in their estimates. These over-estimates of time and money are meant to compensate for any small, unexpected problems that may come up throughout the course of the project, and will ultimately help the project to stay on course.

    5. Develop a solid risk management strategy. In addition to budgeting for unexpected draws on time and money, project managers need to have a solid risk management strategy in place so that a project recovery plan can be quickly implemented if problems arise.

    6. Effectively delegate tasks. One of the biggest pitfalls in project management is insufficient delegation of responsibilities. Project managers in particular must be available to oversee the various elements of the project and make key decisions. When they are being bogged down by tasks that can be done by others, then it compromises their ability to manage.

    7. Conduct productive team meetings. When project personnel are brought together, it is vital that there be a clear and focused agenda to the meeting. Otherwise, the time of the project manager as well as all those attending the meeting will be compromised. Experienced project managers are adept at determining which information must be discussed in a face-to-face meeting and which information can be disseminated via other mediums.

    8. Effective communication system for communication. It almost goes without saying that a project will never run smoothly if the right information does not reach the right people at the right time. A system for effective communication of project information among project personnel as well as project clients and senior executives is a must. Not only must the project manager ensure that he or she is presenting information in a clear, logical, and understandable way, but also that the right tools are in place, such as file- sharing programs, networks, and collaboration tools.

    9. Daily personal to-do list. A simple, yet highly effective time management technique for the project manager is the daily creation of a personal to-do list. Having such a list on hand will help the project manager stay on track and not get caught up in the project's myriad details.

    10. Stay focused on the big picture. As the old saying goes: don't sweat the small stuff, that's the job of the various project personnel hired to bring the project to completion. Putting undue attention on relatively insignificant aspects of the project can also quickly bring the project off schedule. Experienced project managers know where they can “let go" versus knowing which things demand their attention.

    By following the time management strategies mentioned above, the project manager can help to ensure that all the elements of the project are indeed brought together in a harmonious path towards project completion.

    (Image Credit)

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