By DeVry University
Whether you are balancing work, school, family, children’s activities or other personal commitments, managing a busy schedule can require a little extra planning to make sure everything runs smoothly.
In business, project managers streamline projects and tasks for large corporations to make sure they are completed efficiently without wasting time or money – and many of their processes can be applied to your personal or work to-do list as well.
Here are 10 project management tips you can use to simplify, delegate or eliminate tasks and lighten your workload:
1. Create Daily Task Lists
Effective project managers continuously balance changing priorities. One way to be more productive is to create a to-do list the night before and then review it before diving into emails or other responsibilities the next day. This helps you sort through what you need to accomplish in the day ahead without getting distracted by things that pop up.
Take on the most urgent tasks as soon as possible. As new tasks or challenges emerge, review your list to see whether they deserve to displace items already on the list or take a higher priority.
2. Control the Process
Projects tend to get sidetracked when there’s a lack of control. The best project managers have a formal process for planning and implementation. They set reasonable goals, delegate whenever possible and manage the process.
3. Set Clear Expectations
Avoid taking on any tasks that don’t have set, clear expectations. When you take on additional tasks, you increase the risk of other things not getting done. If your plate is already full, communicate with your boss and ask them to review your project list with you to help adjust your priorities.
4. Define Outcomes
Besides managing expectations, it’s also crucial to define outcomes so you don’t spend time working on something only to find out you didn’t produce the results that were required. For example, if you are a student and you’re asked to write a paper, you don’t want to spend time creating a ten-page thesis when what your instructor wanted was a one-page summary.
5. Stop Trying to Multitask
When we try to do multiple things at once, our brains are switching quickly between tasks. There’s a pause as we move attention from one task to another, which can cause us to be less efficient.
“The more we multitask, the less we actually accomplish,” says Cynthia Kugu, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Instead, try focusing on one task at a time until it's complete. Be sure to update your to-do list before moving on to the next item.
6. Deal with Problems Quickly
Problems in a process can multiply quickly and they rarely get better with age. When you deal with them early on, they are much easier to manage.
7. Schedule Everything You Can
Project managers use software to plan out every phase of a project. They set deadlines for completion because many phases can’t begin until a previous stage has been completed. Scheduling steps in advance allows you to create deadlines for key tasks so you can try to work ahead. This gives you some flexibility in case new things emerge or priorities shift.
8. Limit Distractions
One of the most important project management tips is to limit distractions. Constantly checking your phone or email can distract you from the project at hand. Commit to checking your messages only at certain intervals, such as during scheduled breaks or mealtimes.
If you’re working from home, there are plenty of other distractions like doing laundry or dishes, sleeping in a little bit longer or watching one more episode on Netflix. Set a schedule and stick to it. Establishing a daily routine can help keep you on task.
Students balancing work, school and family life can face similar challenges. Schedules, lists and deadlines will help here, too. It’s also important to communicate with those around you about the importance of prioritizing your education to make sure they’ll respect any boundaries you put in place to get your work done.
9. Resist Being a Perfectionist
Life is always a balancing act and some things take higher priority than others. When you spend too much time worrying about one thing, you may be taking time away from something more important. Rather than critiquing every element, focus on the big picture.
10. Be Kind to Yourself
There are times where your list is full, and you will not be able to accomplish everything you want to do. It is okay. Among the most valuable project management tips is to give yourself a break from time to time.
When you hit overload, ask for help from your team members or support system. Remember, your job is to get projects completed, not necessarily to do them entirely yourself. When you take on too much, you may let others — or yourself — down. Great project managers know how to say no.
Learn More About Project Management
If these 10 project management tips excite you, consider making a career out of streamlining workflows, managing timelines and bringing projects to completion. At DeVry, our project management degree programs – including our Bachelor’s with a Specialization in Project Management – start every 8 weeks and can be completed 100% online.