Updated: August 26th, 2019
This is my everyday life.
My entire job involves multitasking and managing multiple projects.
On a daily basis, I provide project management support (in various capacities) for up to 10 different clients.
My days involve multitasking and constantly switching between client accounts, keeping up with emails, Slack messages, task management tool notifications, tasks and project deadlines, and phone calls.
After all, task management is a HUGE part of being a project manager, right?
Yes, but even as a seasoned project manager, I will tell you that it isn’t always the smartest way to manage multiple projects.
The Truth About Multitasking
Even though many project managers feel like they have mastered the art of multitasking, this isn’t always something to be proud of. In fact, multitasking actually reduces productivity. The human brain lacks the natural ability to perform two tasks at one time. As a result, you are more likely to make mistakes or forget to do something.
In fact, every time you switch tasks and projects, you reduce your overall productivity by as much as 40 percent!
However, managing multiple tasks and multitasking is just the name of the project management game, right?
No. Managing multiple projects and multitasking are actually two different things.
You can learn how to manage multiple projects at one time without multi tasking at all while still successfully manage projects and maximizing productivity and efficiency.
In this article, I am going to provide project managers with some top proven tips on how to manage multiple projects efficiently and successfully.
7 Tips for Managing Multiple Projects
1. Project Planning.
You can’t very well start a new project without proper planning. Well, I guess you could, but we don’t recommend it… Project planning is really the lifeblood behind executing and delivering a successful project. It also makes it easier to manage multiple projects.
The Initiation or planning phase of all projects involves completing several processes, such as gathering information and specifications from stakeholders, estimating, and allocating resources and recruiting a project team. However, a significant portion is organizing workload into project tasks and activities.
Here are some initial steps in the project planning process:
Step 1: Spend a significant amount of time breaking down and organizing project activities into task lists.
Step 2: Estimate how long each task will take. If you aren’t sure, ask a team member, client, or specialist for input. You can also look at project progress history.
Step 3: Once you have listed out all the essential tasks and activities, now it’s time to build a realistic timeline for your projects. Because you have done your homework and have estimated the amount of time each task will take, your project schedule is realistic and that much easier to manage. This puts you in a better position to deliver multiple projects on time and on budget.
Step 4: Once you have completed both those steps, you can then delegate work. Build those tasks into a team or an individual calendar for you to track each day.
Get into the habit of checking your daily calendar each day to see what needs to be done.
2. Learn How to Prioritize.
I start my day off every morning by writing down the top five or six priorities for all my projects that need to get done for that day. These often include delivery deadlines, sending proposals, making phone calls, and so on. I try to minimize my list to the top five or six tasks. If my list gets any longer, then it becomes overwhelming. And that overwhelming feeling kills productivity.
As the day goes on, I cross tasks off my list as I complete them. If I found that I whipped through my top five or six priorities, I then tackle some of the lower priority tasks. If I get through those, then I try to get ahead on the next day.
If you aren’t a “write-it-down” kind of person, there are some to-do list and task management apps available (more on this later in this article).
The moral of the story here is to learn how to prioritize. If you set priorities for each day, you will be more focused and productive. Not only will you find it easier to get done what needs to done for the day, but you likely will also see that you get more done. I think that's one of the best project management tips.
Now you are really cooking with fire!
3. Keep a Schedule.
As mentioned briefly above, the best way to plan and prioritize is by using a calendar. This could be an individual calendar that you manage or one that you share with your team. If you lead teams, then recording when tasks and deadlines of all projects are due will help everyone stay on the same page regarding what is due when as well as the priorities.
4. Build a File System.
We recommend building a file system in the cloud to store assets, files, and documents for each project. How you file and store your projects can make a big difference. Dropbox and Google Drive are some examples.
Using a cloud-based system increases collaboration and file sharing among team members. This makes it easy for them to access the files and resources they need at any time, and from anywhere in the world. It also prevents sending files back and forth through email, duplicating multiple versions of the same document, and creating mass confusion.
A cloud-based folder system saves a TON of time and headaches when it comes to tracking multiple projects. It is also safer and more secure.
5. Stand Up Meetings.
One of the best ways to keep track of multiple projects is to hold periodic team meetings. These meetings don’t have to take up a ton of time. They can be quick “stand up” meetings to monitor and report the status of each project to see how everything is going, identify roadblocks and challenges, make decisions, and solve problems to keep projects moving.
These meetings also give the project manager a clear picture view of where each project stands and what needs to be done.
6. Automate Where Possible.
I have to admit it… I only recently discovered the power of task automation. Yes, I recommend automated solutions for my clients, but rarely do I follow my own advice.
I work with and manage so many projects, tasks, and teams each day that the little things add up. To become more efficient, save time, and get more done, I recently started finding creative ways to automate those little, repetitive tasks that were becoming a time-suck.
I started by making a chart of what I do each day, how much time I spend on each task, what and who the task is for, and what the best solution would be. From there, I designed an ideal workflow and determined the opportunities for automation.
All in all, task and project automation can help streamline and save time spent on doing the repetitive, time-consuming, and daily tasks for several projects. This helps to increase productivity and bandwidth for you to work on more high-level, essential functions. Automation also mitigates project risks and reduces costs.
Leveraging automation also increases your organization’s level of agility, allowing you and your team to focus on strategic project planning and execution. And we all know that the more time and effort you put into project planning, the more successful your projects likely to be.
7. Trust in a Task Management Tool.
Using a project management software or task management tool is your best friend. It can help you keep track of tasks, milestones, and deadlines associated with each project. No more spreadsheets. No more guesswork.
There are a ton of project management and task management tools available today. Asana, Trello, Teamwork, Wrike, Todoist are just a few examples of some affordable, accessible, and popular tools. They come with a wealth of features designed to help basic project and task management.
Once you adopt a specific platform, commit to using it. Every day. Remember, it can take up to two weeks to form a new habit, so allow yourself and your team time to adapt to it.
Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s best to explore each one to see which works best for you and your team in terms of managing and tracking multiple projects simultaneously.
So, which tool do I use? I will be honest… I currently use and have used all of the tools listed above, and then some. Most of my clients have already adopted a project management or task management tool before I come on board. If they don’t, I recommend the tool that I think will work best for them based on their business model, process, type of the projects, and their working style.
However, Rindle is my favorite tool above all. I’m a visual learner through and through. Therefore, I find visualization tools to work much better for me.
Rindle makes it incredibly easy for companies and organizations to manage projects, prioritize and assign tasks, track deadlines, and enhance collaboration among team members. Rindle also comes out-of-the-box with powerful project automation capabilities.
After Project Planning—What’s Next?
Let’s say you just spent a ton of time planning your projects, developing a communication plan for your team, meeting formats, a project timeline, a work breakdown structure—the works. So, what’s next?
Once you have done this for each project, you now have a master calendar to follow. You know all the task due dates and deadlines ahead of time. Now, set aside time in your day each day to go down the list of priorities and responsibilities and follow up with project team members and clients accordingly. You can move from project to project all in one fell swoop, and more efficiently, rather than multitasking.
If you struggle with time management each day, then try breaking out your calendar into blocks. You can schedule or block out 30-minute or hourly sessions dedicated to each project. This framework allows you to monitor or check in on the status of each of your projects each day.
Find whatever strategies work best for you and run with them.
Manage Multiple Projects with Rindle
All in all, I find that incorporating any level of visualization into project management is the easiest way to manage multiple projects.
And here’s another secret… You don’t actually have to be a seasoned project manager to make a visual workflow tool work for you and your team. It is incredibly easy to adopt, implement, and understand, regardless of skill level or experience.
A visual workflow creates a level of transparency among team members and ensures that everyone has a bird's eye view of every project and is working toward the same goals.
If you are struggling with managing multiple projects or in the market for a new project management system or task management tool, then give Rindle a try today.