You may be familiar with the phrase “work smarter, not harder”, but what does that really mean in project management? Many project managers find themselves under a lot of pressure to deliver increasingly challenging outputs to very tight timescales, and as a result can end up putting in long hours and eventually burning themselves out.
Whilst it is acknowledged that projects do require a high level of input, working smarter is all about achieving the deliverables you have promised but without giving yourself a breakdown in the process. If you’ve ever worked alongside another project manager who seems to deliver awesome projects but still swans out of the office at five on the dot, here are some of their secrets that you can use too:
1. Organise and plan: No matter what industry you are in, meticulous planning and rigorous organisation are always the key to time saving later on. You might be tempted to bung those invoices in your in tray for sorting out later on, but what happens when you bung something else on top? Before you know it you’re drowning in paperwork and struggling to keep an eye on your budget. The old phrase “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” rings resoundingly true in project management, so make a plan, stick to it, and give yourself time to stay organised.
2. Embrace technology: Whether you’re an Excel whizz or use designated project management software, the technology is there to help you cut down on your workload and manage your time more effectively. If you aren’t au fait with the latest project management software packages, speak to friends or colleagues about what works for them and use technology to take the pressure off yourself.
3. Delegate effectively: As much as you might like to, you can’t do everything yourself. Recognise the skills and abilities you have within your project team, and delegate as much as possible to the people who work with you, giving yourself more time to get on with managing things. A great project manager will do little of the delivery himself, instead will spend his time supervising, organising, planning and reviewing.
4. Form alliances: In business, there is nothing worth as much as a friendly colleague. Find alliances both within your organisation and outside of it so you have somewhere to go when you have a question or concern. Ensure your manager is making time to meet with you and giving you the support you need as this will help you stay on track with your own development too.
5. Work hard, play hard: Project management is a stressful environment. Your head is full of numbers, names and plans, and sometimes it can be hard to switch it all off at the end of the day. Get out to the gym, go for a bike ride or go see a movie after work to help wind down and balance your work and life a little better.
No matter how good a project manager you are, there will be occasions when you do need to stay past closing time. However, to stay focussed and healthy, it is important that this is the exception and not the norm in your project management environment, so try to work smart and keep a good balance in your profession.
The author has many years’ experience in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking working on complex global projects and managing overseas project teams. She is now a freelance consultant,contributes to a number of blogs including the PM Blogprojectmanagementworks.co.ukand is also editor of the Project Accelerator News website.