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James Schleigher
James Schleigher

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Busy vs. Productive: 5 Tips to Improve Time Management Skills for Project Managers

2019 has already come down to the last quarter, which means many of you have been busier than ever with all of the annual reports. Regardless of how many extra hours you’ve put in, the to-do list still appears to be never-ending. You started to wonder why you’re always busy but it doesn’t look like you’re being productive at work.

Everyone has the same amount of time every day - the same 24 hours no matter who you are and what you’re doing for a living - you have exactly 24 hours, no more no less. However, many people still complain about “having too much on my plate” but “so little time to do anything” while others seem to successfully optimize their schedule to make the most of every day.

The answer is “time management” skill. You don’t have to work overtime everyday or pull an all-nighter every now and then to be productive. Many people only work for exact 8 hours per day and still meet the deadlines. We’ve put together some proven simple tips for you to follow in order to stop being busy and start being productive.

1. Schedule your to do list

Pre-loading your day with a good to-do list and a calendar works like a charm. Start your day with a task that is easy and enjoyable. No one asks you to move a mountain on a Monday morning, and you shouldn’t ask yourself the same thing. Write down everything you need to accomplish for one week then break down into several digestible to-do lists.

You can integrate your task list to Google Calendar to view what you have to do in a day so that you can get yourself well-prepared. Block off the most productive time in your calendar for some important tasks. No matter what happens, you should always stick to the as-planned schedule.

2. Set priorities for each task

Prioritizing is very important when it comes to agile project management. However, a task list with every task being labeled as “high priority” can backfire on your productivity. If you have too many things on your plate, group them by due dates first then start categorizing the priority level from there.

The tasks with the highest priority should always be pinned to the top of the task list. Even if you think every task is equally important, start with the one that holds the biggest consequence if you don’t complete it. Instead of being freaked out at the long list, just pick up a task and you will get more done eventually.

productivity tips

3. Eliminate distractions

If you’re terrible at being focused on your work, maybe you can get some help from a productivity app. You can set a reminder on your phone to tell you when to start working on a task, when to take a break or when the task is due.

The Pomodoro is a good time management technique that you should know. You will get a 25-minute interval to get focused and work on your tasks, followed by a 5-minute break. During the “focus state”, you cannot do anything but focus on your tasks without any hassle.

4. Track progress

One of the key tips to time management is to consistently track your progress. Trust your hunch when you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything, you’re probably right. Check your task list to see if you’ve made any progress recently.

It’s human nature to have limited self-control, but procrastination can be overcome when you do a daily productivity review. If you’re not sure how to track your work, maybe a project management software or a task management app can help you.

5. Set some boundaries

Don’t try to be a superhero and squeeze everything into a tight schedule. Excellent time management skills don’t require you to stress yourself out to overwork. Instead, you should get things done effectively and be productive while still maintaining a good mental health.

When you think you’re already overloaded with your to do list, start saying no to the irrelevant tasks. You’re given with that much time, don’t sacrifice your sanity with a never-ending list. Take time out, get rest, have a life outside your office, etc. A good project manager is the one that knows how to balance between life and job, not a workaholic who is busy all the time.

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