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Better time management in 7 simple steps

Being a project manager is a very busy role, but with these 7 tips, you can optimise your day, work smarter – not harder – and be more productive as a result. Read on as we help you figure out how to structure your time better in order to proactively get the most out of your days...

1. Know yourself

Work at your most productive times of day. Our first tip is straight forward enough, but so often overlooked. The pandemic has smashed nine-to-five office life and has presented us with a great opportunity to be more flexible with our working hours. To make the most of this opportunity, take a minute to get to know yourself, and reflect on what times of day you work best. Then adjust your day plan accordingly so that your most mentally demanding work is timed for when your concentration peaks, and more straightforward work is carried out when your brain power lulls. Many of us will experience the most alertness in the morning, an afternoon dip, then a second wind of energy late in the afternoon.

2. Conduct a personal stand up

Borrow a much-used tactic from Agile project management – daily scrums! And conduct a one-person stand up meeting each morning. This personal daily check-in should set out what you did yesterday, establish what you are going to work on today, and highlight any blockers you need to overcome. Because after all, productive days don’t just happen –– they take planning!

3. Fix your calendar

If your calendar is choc-a-block – it’s broken! As a project professional, you should never fill your calendar to 100 percent capacity. Maxing out your calendar only sets you up for disappointment when you don’t complete every task. Continually brimming your calendar each day means you are more likely to work late, and puts you more at risk of burnout.

Fix your calendar by only filling it 60-70%. Not only will this allow you contingency time on tasks, but also space for creativity. Imagine the satisfaction when you can start tomorrow’s tasks ahead of time, seize opportunities, and say yes to things!

4. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to things

Conversely, don’t be afraid to say no! As a busy project manager, you can’t be everything for everyone! Say no to unnecessary meetings you don’t need to attend, and to additional work that you don’t have capacity for. Saying no more often will open up moments where you can say yes!

On a day-to-day basis, it can help to switch on ‘do not disturb’ mode as a way to say no to interruptions. This will help you to make progress with the task in hand, and anything non-urgent will wait until you are available.

5. Plan your tomorrow

Just as you conducted a daily stand up at the start of your day, take five minutes at the end of your workday to write down your plans and intentions for the next day. This simple task gets tomorrow’s to-do list out of your head and onto paper, helping you to switch off from work for the rest of your day. What’s more, you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals, simply by writing them down on a daily basis! Topping and tailing your day in this way will take 10-15 minutes but help you to manage the hours of your day far better.

6. Form healthy habits

Strong time management is as much about effective planning as it is about healthy habits. It is all too easy to fall into unhealthy habits, such as staying late at work, but building good habits is harder. Life as a project professional means two days are rarely the same. However, that is not to say that you can’t develop routines and healthy schedules which you can stick to.

Form rituals such as those we’ve already mentioned (topping and tailing your day), and create habits such as working on particular tasks in particular environments. This should be quite easy if you are embracing WFH or hybrid working, but is still achievable through hot-desking in your office. Think about the types of tasks you do and link them to a time and/or place. Your brain will begin to associate these rituals with the task at hand, and you will likely be more focused and productive as a result.

7. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise!

Arguably the biggest factor in time management is how you prioritise your workload. We are guilty of being ‘busy’ all day but not feeling like we have achieved enough. At your morning check-in, set out the bare minimum you want to achieve that day, and make it your priority. Work on it during your most productive period with ‘do not disturb’ mode on. Completing your priority task will give you a far greater sense of productivity than ticking several less important things off your to-do list, and is a much more efficient way to manage your time.