The key to getting anything done within budget is effective time management. In order to master time management, the savvy project manager must understand these crucial aspects of the project:
- What tasks must be completed to deliver the project.
- Who will perform each task.
- What work or effort each task entails.
- What resources are required to complete each task.
- How long each task will take to complete.
Another crucial insight into project management is realizing that sustained effort on any part of a project just isn’t realistic. Even in a factory setting, workers shift from product to product, even if the task performed is the same for each product. They take breaks to refresh their minds. If you expect your engineer to focus for four hours straight on designing the HVAC system for a building, then you’re courting employee disengagement.
The wise project manager also realizes that seldom does any worker even have more than three hours of sustained, focused work time available on any given day. Think about the distractions that plague you: telephone calls, email messages that demand immediate response, meetings, inquiries from coworkers and clients. Expecting any one of the people working on a project to be able to dedicate more than a total of 90 minutes within a 3- or 4-hour period to any specific task simply defies logic and real-life experience.
In order to get the most of the time available to your team, you’ll have to mitigate distractions. You can’t eliminate distractions. That’s like trying to eliminate all impurities from the public water supply. Impossible. The goal is to control the impurities at a manageable level that’s safe for consumption. The same goes for workplace distractions. A team member could be preoccupied with a distressing personal issue, struggling with technical difficulties and uncooperative equipment, an annoying coworker, or other distraction that vies with the project for his focus–may even succeed momentarily.
Once you’ve done all you can to make the work environment as conducive to sustained concentration and focused application of effort, you’ll need to tackle the other aspects of time management, which involves creating and following–you guessed it–a process.
- Focus on the important tasks. Duncan Haughley, writing for Project Smart, advises project manager to remember the 80/20 rule (aka Pareto Principle). In short, this is a directive to avoid micromanagement. Focus on the 20 percent of work that yields 80 percent of the benefit of the entire project.
- Hold team meetings as necessary and no more often. Meetings in general become easily derailed and waste time. Use this precious time to brainstorm ideas and solutions to problems.
- Trust in your team’s competence. They know how to do their work; they don’t need you to do it for them or tell them how to do it.
- Procure the necessary resources. If a particular material or program or bit of equipment that’s necessary for completion of the project isn’t in place when it’s needed, then your team will waste time waiting for it and your project schedule will suffer.
The Heggen Group can assist your company with establishing time management processes that will expedite project management. We bring order from chaos.