Projects tend to be completely different from other types of work in their use of your time. Rather than a constant rhythm you will most likely find that you get some really busy spells and then a lot of quiet time while you wait for things to happen.
The problem for some project managers is that it takes them a while to adjust to this way of working, and it can certainly be tricky to find the best way of using your time most effectively. The end result is that you could end up spending a lot more time than you need to on some things.
Being able to make the most of your working day no matter how busy you are is one of the big learning points for anyone who is new to the project world, but what about the other issues which could waste a lot of your time?
Opinion among project staff is usually divided over the usefulness of project meetings and there is no doubt that they can waste a lot of time if not carried out properly. I think that these are essential for keeping the project team and stakeholders up to date but they have to be handled professionally. A two hour meeting with extra traveling time has to bring you some results in order for it to be worth the effort. You will want to have an agenda, take minutes and have some clear outcomes which you want to see achieved during the meeting. Video conferencing facilities are worth considering if the attendees are geographically dispersed, and it can even be worthwhile to avoid a relatively short journey to a different office for a short meeting.
Taking on Too Much Work
One of the first things a project manager needs to do is find out who in their team can do which tasks. Delegation is the only sure way to avoid taking on too much work personally. If there is a severe lack of skills in certain areas within your team then it is going to be a far better option to get them trained up than to take on the whole workload yourself. Anyone who is new to a management role in any type of industry is faced with the task of seeing themselves as a manager instead of a team member. This means using their time efficiently and making sure that the team takes on the work which is better handled by them.
Coming to important decisions isn’t always easy and it usually helps to spend some time thinking them over first. This is just common sense but not all of us can reach a decision in the same amount of time as others. The problem is that the clock keeps ticking while you put off a decision. In many projects, a hold up on one issue can have a serious effect on other areas. If you have analyzed all of the information and still can’t make up your mind, then it is time to explore other options for moving things forward. Do you need to gather more facts or would it help to let another member of the team give you their opinion? There is no shame in seeking a second opinion or in going back and asking for more details on the matter. By taking a step back in either of these ways you can ensure that you don’t waste a lot of time in endlessly analyzing something which you simply can’t come to a decision on.
Not Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time
This is a bit of a vague sounding time waster perhaps so let’s look at an example to see what I mean. You might have ten things which need done so which one do you choose? The easiest one? The one which you have just got an email about? The one which will give the biggest immediate benefit? There is no easy answer to this and only by knowing the whole of the project plan and understanding the possible effects of your actions can you expect to be able to choose the right one. Typically, this skill of choosing the right option at the right time will come with experience and you can expect to make a few errors along the way. In the meantime, you should think about the impact of each task you choose to do before you go ahead with it.
So what are some additional time wasters that you have experienced as a project manager? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.