We can think of many things more pleasant than managing multiple projects at once. Toothaches for starters.
But more often than we’d like, we’re often faced with the need to manage multiple projects simultaneously.
Unfortunately, that typically means conflicting priorities, competing deadlines, and getting lost in the too-many details.
Situations like this are anxiety-central and tend to negatively impact the entire team. But it’s not all doom, gloom, and despair when you must manage ALL THE TASKS AT ONCE!
Other project managers have been here too, and they’ve found creative solutions to this conundrum.
Here are the best tips for managing multiple projects simultaneously from the pros who’ve been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt.
Pick a Project Management Software
As a project manager, one of the most significant investments you can make to increase productivity is to find suitable project management software to manage multiple projects.
As project managers are regularly required to manage more than one project at a time, a project management tool will undoubtedly ensure that all your projects are well organized. And housed on the same platform.
In addition, a project management tool contains key features like:
- To-do lists
- Activity history
- Tracking and prioritizing capabilities
- Scheduling features
Some popular project management tools are Asana, Notion, Confluence, and ClickUp.
Managing a project involves so many details that it becomes harder to keep track of them all when they live on different platforms.
So, having elements of all your projects in one project management tool allows you to track project progress faster, view and manage resources, and increase productivity.
How this works is you input details for each project on its dedicated page. You can then decide to view a single project in more granular detail. Or view similar projects in the same group to get a higher-level overview of your progress.
Create a Project Management Strategy
How nice would it be to simply hope for the successful completion of the projects we have to manage for multiple clients, and it just sorta all works out on its own?
Dreams are for sleep, not work.
Instead, how about we take the one step that helps us stay organized while promoting resource management?
This step is to create a project management strategy.
You have probably managed at least one project in the past and, therefore, have an idea of what it takes to manage a project from start to finish.
Your duty as a project manager is to create a project schedule for the different projects and define the strategies you need to implement to manage the projects effectively.
We hear those wheels turning.
Are you thinking of what your project strategy will ultimately need that will help your team balance multiple projects with the greatest of ease?
You’re in luck. Here’s how to get started.
Define Your Goals
Set clear expectations as you define your goals.
At this point, it is best to have a list of ‘must-haves,’ ‘good-to-haves,’ and ‘unnecessary.’ Without clear expectations, the team is prone to taking on anything that seems exciting, which might not be valuable for the project.
It also helps to avoid taking on extra work from the client that is not within the scope of work you committed to doing.
Defining your goals includes:
- Identifying those goals
- Creating a task list
- Establishing the success criteria for each task
With these details well documented, the project team will better maximize their time and meet deadlines.
Of course, defining your goal does not guarantee changes won’t come up within the project. However, if they do, you should peruse and streamline the changes to avoid getting sidetracked.
Also, allow room for challenges within your project goals and come up with possible solutions to these setbacks before they occur.
Identify Project Scope
The project size affects everything, from the budget, to the talent needed, and the time it will take to complete.
Identifying the project size, or scope, gives insight into the proposed timeline and resource allocation and whether they’ll need adjusting.
Perform a Risk Analysis
Project risk management is crucial in determining the success of all your projects. Every project has risk factors, and identifying risks is part of our project managers’ duties.
If possible, have a contingency plan for each identified risk. They may not be perfect, but they should be enough to manage and contain the risk should it become a reality.
Create Milestones and Set Priorities
Managing multiple projects can only be made possible if there are ways to track each step of the completed work. This is why milestones are needed.
Milestones allow you to track work by examining the deliverables for each phase. Milestones help you establish project priorities as well. So, start with tasks requiring immediate attention and work your way up.
“Documentation is a letter you write to your future self,” said the brilliant Damian Conway.
The human mind forgets details faster than we would like. By documenting every step of your project creation process, you have a detailed account of all that went into the project.
This is especially helpful for the project after it’s done. Without thorough documentation, you’ll be unable to accurately evaluate what you did and how you can successful implement it into other projects.
Documentation also helps in creating templates that can streamline future projects and boost team efficiency.
Evaluate Finished Projects
One of the best ways to improve our performance is to analyze the processes we created to successfully complete various tasks.
This analysis gives us insight into our overall performance, what we did correctly, and where to improve.
While evaluating the finished project, allow space for feedback from the project sponsor, team members, and users, as they might have had a different experience than you.
By repeating this each time we finish a single project or several projects, we can tweak our strategy until it’s perfect.
As you work through the different projects, one important thing to note is that communication is just as crucial as your strategies.
Poor communication with the project sponsors, team leaders, and other team members can cost you time and even lead to suboptimal project outcomes.
So, even if everything is going smoothly, keep communication channels open and encourage feedback. This ensures everyone is on the same page at every point.
Managing expectations might not be easy. However, being honest about your abilities and letting others know when you can’t meet a deadline builds trust.
Rather than allowing the projects to suffer, communicating and managing expectations will enable everyone else involved to understand the team’s capabilities and better plan how to handle subsequent projects successfully.
You also must learn to manage your expectations of yourself and the project. Optimism is good. But being overly optimistic with deadlines will make multi-project management a challenging feat to attain.
Set realistic goals and remember that despite how detailed your project planning phase was, things might not work out as you expected.
By managing your expectations early, you can more easily identify potential problems and address them before they become major roadblocks to success.
Many project managers want to perform their duties so well that they don’t realize they’ve crossed the line into dreaded micromanaging land.
Fortunately, your project management tool will allow you to input multiple tasks to keep everyone on track, your mind at ease, and your team members happy that you’re not a micromanaging Mildred.
This way, you can delegate work to each team member and have them update the status of their work within the tool. And you can focus on keeping track of work from the tool without having to micromanage them.
Big companies hire people to fill each needed role. So most projects will have designers, developers, and other experts needed to build it within the project team.
If that’s not the case for your business, and you have fewer team members, understand the skills of those available and delegate work accordingly. Don’t make the mistake of trying to take on every extra task yourself.
Once we get the hang of it, we tend to find it easier to track multiple projects.
Prevent future bouts of anxiety and being overwhelmed by the many projects you’re managing with these action steps:
- Choose the project management tool that works best for you.
- Identify your goals and establish a project plan for achieving them.
- Evaluate the project size and establish resource management steps.
- Establish good communication with your team. This will build trust in team collaboration.
- Delegate work to each team member.
- Set evaluation dates for the milestones in each project and ensure they’re being met.
- Make changes only when needed, and after they’ve been well-planned.
- Have retrospective meetings after each set of multiple projects.
You can also download this project management checklist. It’s a helpful guide that will get you started on managing multiple projects effortlessly.
Remember that learning the art of managing multiple projects means learning to iterate until you find what works best for you and your team.
As project managers, let’s not be afraid of trying out different processes until we find our best multi-project management process.
Onward and upward!