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Multitasking: Surviving Project Overload (Part One)

By Demetrios Gianniris,
Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Modern technology has created a fast-paced, convenient and portable electronic world with high expectations, little patience, and even less tolerance for error. In the fiercely competitive project management arena, more than ever before, project managers are challenged to do more with less:

  • They are challenged to bring in more profit with less overhead;

  • They are challenged to be more productive in less time; and

  • They are challenged to take on more projects with a thinner support mechanism.multitasking

In order to meet the demands of the society, project managers are often forced to juggle ten or more ongoing projects simultaneously; projects with various complexities, durations and sizes. Often, project managers handling multiple projects are simply overloaded or frustrated, and some wish for better days (and/or better jobs).

The reality is simply this: Multitasking is a requirement in project management today.

In order to maintain a competitive edge, project managers, particularly technology project managers, must be able to cope with multiple projects with no less an expectation of perfection than if their workload consisted just of a single project. The excuse of being “too busy” to be a great project manager simply doesn’t work. It can’t. This is why, more than ever before, project management is not for everyone.

But multitasking can be done - can be learned - and typically becomes better with experience. If you are drowning in your project workload and are about to have a complete meltdown, take a deep breath, step back a moment and take time to reflect on the following techniques:

Back to Basics (Remember Two Fundamentals)

It is difficult to think clearly when you are bombarded with one crisis after another. The truth is, however, there is no better time to step back and remember the fundamentals of project management than now. The two most important fundamentals are planning and communication.

First and foremost, recall your project plan. If you don’t have one, it’s probably one of the reasons you are having a nervous breakdown to begin with. Although the temptation is great to dive right into the project and keep it moving during extremely busy times, you can’t take shortcuts in planning. If you don’t take the time to plan diligently, you won’t be able to follow your plan (or communicate expectations and progress). You also won’t be able to influence it in the future. Careless planning leads to careless execution. Instead, frontload your project at the beginning by taking the time to create a complete project plan. Your time invested will quickly yield returns by turning into a tool which will do most of your hard work for you moving forward.

Time Management (Prioritize Productively)

When it rains it pours, and for many project managers who are overloaded with work and seem to be constantly fighting one crisis after the other, it just doesn’t seem to stop. If it happens to you, step back and reorganize your project schedules by way of priority in a way that is traceable and transparent. You should be able to break your project into small parts with clearly identifiable project milestones (and dependencies thereof).

Prepare to Change (and to Keep Changing)

Setting priorities and developing a plan is just the beginning (especially if priorities are shifting as one crisis follows another). Constantly changing priorities can become a burden and put project resources under immense physiological strain. As the project leader, be aware of how much gear-switching your resources can tolerate before they start tuning out and becoming less productive. Ride momentum on changes that result in traction-gain and prepare to fix bottlenecks and make alterations if your tweaks don’t kick in and produce results quickly.

 You can learn more about Eze Castle Integration's Project Management & Technology Services herehedge fund project management services

Looking for more multitasking tips? Check out this Thursday's follow-up article! In the meantime, get more project management advice here.


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