10 PROJECT MANAGEMENT HACKS TO BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
Project managers don’t just assign tasks, they also assign deadlines which are a necessary evil. There are always one or two employees who don’t need them, but for the rest of us, deadlines are what gets things done. Here are 10 life hacks on how to improve your team’s productivity and never miss the deadline.
Make the Most of Your Team’s Strengths
If you want to achieve higher team productivity, you need to understand what your team members are good at and assign roles accordingly. It’s proven that knowing your team’s strength and giving them their ideal role in the project can result in a higher level of productivity.
#1 Prioritize and delegate work efficiently
The simplest way to encourage and improve team productivity is to keep your priorities and expectations clear right from the start. When you delegate tasks to your team members, describe them about the tasks that you want them to focus on. Set realistic estimates for how much time each employee should devote to their tasks. At the same time, help your team understand the quality work you expect at the end of the project. And most importantly, get out of their way and let them work in their own way.
#2 Conduct fewer and shorter meetings
Nothing kills your team’s productivity more than unnecessary meetings. You indeed need to group up your team members and have regular discussions regarding their work, but that doesn’t mean that you need to schedule a meeting for every matter. Consider using online team collaboration tools or online conference tools for a change. Try to conduct as fewer and shorter meetings as possible.
#3 Tell teams to ask for help when needed
It’s a good habit to try to resolve an issue yourself first, but there is no point in torturing yourself for hours. Tell your team members to ask for help or guidance whenever needed. Now, the trick here is knowing when it’s time to admit that you need help. Tell your team members that if they can’t figure something out on their own after hours of struggle, it’s better to admit that they are stuck and ask for a little inspiration from others.
#4 Promote short breaks during the workday
A healthy mind always brings productive results, and the same goes for your team. So instead of pressurizing your team regarding deadline and deliverables, focus on boosting their energy. Suggest them to take short breaks (10-15 minutes) between work. It will help them rejuvenate their thoughts and concentrate more on their job.
#5 Remove Distractions
Technology can be great, like all those fantastic tool features you can use to control your work and boost your productivity. But technology is also like a flame to the months of our distraction. We fly into it and get burned in the process. You can’t turn back the clock, but there are things you can do. One of the first things you can do to get a handle of your time management is turning off those darn notifications. Not the ones that relate to the timeliness of your tasks, but the constant ping of your computer and phone? The moment you are notified of a new email, social post, or even an old-fashioned phone call is the moment you’re pulled out of your task. It’s essential to set up good habits, and electronic devices can be a problem. By all means, if you’re using a tool, keep that active, but mute the rest.
Other distractions can be physical, like your workspace. Is it cluttered, clean, in the middle of office traffic, isolated? What kind of setting do you work best in? There’s no hard and fast rule here; some people need quiet, while others are more productive in busy environments. Figure out what kind of worker you are and then get your workspace to reflect that temperament. Sartre said hell is other people. Well, maybe, but they certainly can be a distraction. Therefore, you want to create boundaries, like office hours for a college professor, in which you’re available to meet with others. Along these same lines, you want to keep a professional and civil relationship with those you work with. If you’re aiming to be more efficient at work, nothing is more distracting than office drama.
#6 Use Technology
This is the modern world, and we have a lot of great tools that are designed to help us improve productivity. We briefly noted above how software can be part of one of part of your productivity strategies, but it can also be the main thrust of it, too. For one thing, you can create task lists, which are a way to organize and systematically address your work. This gives you one place in which to view what you must do and when it’s due. Even better, you can filter these task lists to customize them by their due date or whatever data column you wish. Things will change, and those changes are going to impact your task list. That might happen while you’re in the office or not. Task management tools, however, are easy to update, and if they’re cloud-based, then you can do so wherever you are, whatever time of day it is.
Tasks aren’t completed in isolation. Whether you’re working with other people or alone, you’re likely going to have a lot of related materials, documents, images, etc. Software features allow you to attach files, notes, and links right at the task level. If you’re working with others, then you can also carry on dialogue at the task level, and that conversation is archived, so you can quickly return to it as needed. Continuing with the no-task-is-an-island theme, if you’re working with others and want to share and collaborate on tasks, you can. With an online tool, you can share the URL, and now others can view your task, and each of you can update it as you progress. Productivity in the workplace is enhanced with the right software.
#7 Automate your project management tools as much as possible
Slack, Google Calendar, email, Project Online, Jira, Planner, whatever: become an expert in the tools you use and the automation opportunities they offer so that you can help yourself and your team painlessly sync information across platforms. Making the most of the tools you use saves you buckets of time in the long run. Instead of repetitively checking in and out of the same tools and notifications, use integrations and fine-tuned settings to help you use tools in precisely the ways you need. Set up integrations between all of your tools where you can.
You can find a solution with existing connectors to your favorite tools like PPM Express – a lightweight portfolio management tool. Data synchronization in PPM Express is covered in multiple ways. For example, you can set up Perpetual synchronization or a specific Synchronization schedule. And integration with JIRA, Project Online, Planner, and Azure DevOps allows users to import projects, resources, data, and link resources to existing users and projects to existing projects in all the different solutions your teams may use.
There is also plenty of other automation you can customize. For example, you can customize Dropbox to be the default screenshot preference on your computer. So that it automatically syncs the image to your account and copies the shareable link to your clipboard. Which, in turn, makes giving feedback or bug reports take mere. Google Calendar has fairly robust notification preferences, which means if you schedule a big meeting a month in advance, you can have it email your team three days before to remind them to prep, without you having to worry about remembering.
#8 Treat your projects as learning opportunities
While each of your projects might fulfill patterns you’ve seen on past projects, treat each new project as a unique learning opportunity for yourself and your team. Take opportunities with new projects to learn a new skill; further, your understanding of a particular topic, take on a difficult challenge, or use it as an opportunity to vary your communication style or how you use and pull data on a project. It can mean the difference between a project that just meets its goals or exceeds them.
I’ve gained tons of knowledge from successful projects and have learned from past mistakes too. The easiest way to set yourself up to learn on new projects is to conduct a project retrospective after the last project finishes. Retrospectives can help you understand what you need to do better as a PM, what your team struggles with, and succeeds at. And it gives you insight into many things that you might not otherwise realize. Ask the following project retrospective questions of everyone on the project team:
- What did we set out to accomplish?
- What happened to this project?
- Why did it happen?
- What are we going to do next time?
Take the answers your team comes up with and apply them to your next project—you can even create process change from retrospectives if it’s needed.
#9 Always know the numbers
Pulling data on a project can give you a strong idea of where a project stands and what issues might appear soon. Become a proponent for pulling data early and often – not just to educate yourself and stay in the know, but to be able to understand the ramifications of account or project-level decisions. Understanding the project numbers as the project is happening gives you a better context for the overall project. It allows you real-time opportunity to bring the numbers to your client or account team if something needs to be adjusted or reconsidered, instead of waiting until the end or critical point of a project. This is what you should keep an eye on:
- Time reports
- Team velocity
- Number of tasks done/in progress/left
- Vacations and resourcing until the launch date
- Budget utilized or left so far
Checking these items weekly helps you immediately see trends that seem outside of the norm of the project, which usually indicates some sort of issue. It also enables you to see if there is any information that might be missing or incorrect early on, avoiding big surprises that might be found out if I’m only checking every few weeks. Pulling time and budget reports is the most significant indicator of project planning issues that you want to understand and communicate with the client along the way.
But looking at task completion rate and team velocity also helps you see if there are internal process hurdles to work through, like a feature being more complicated than anticipated or not having enough resourcing available for a project. Pulling this data and understanding what the project looks like from the reports you pull helps you get a sense of the overall health of a project and review areas that seem problematic before they get to the point of no return.
Also, you can employ a tool that’ll help you prevent disasters and get the upper hand by forecasting numbers. For example, PPM Insights is an AI-powered module that reduces project risks and increases Project Manager’ productivity by discovering issues and problems on the projects, forecasting statuses, and proactively monitoring and notifying stakeholders with alerts. By helping PMs see the signals for approaching issues in advance and change the strategy before project problems status changed to “red.” Besides, it reduces the amount of “manual project monitoring” dramatically. It makes status management less time-consuming.
#10 Educate as much as possible
Provide context for your communication and project decisions to your team and your clients whenever you can. Explain why things are moving in a particular direction, why you need to know the things you’re asking of your team, and explain any deep-rooted technical information to your clients in a way that they can understand without feeling overwhelmed. Similarly, use any question as a learning opportunity for yourself—ask for context from your clients and team, ask for more clarity if you don’t understand a concept, and learn more whenever you can.
Every few months, ask the technical lead on your projects if you can schedule an hour or two to chat more about a concept you don’t understand, especially if it’s being heavily referenced or utilized on your project. Learn all sorts of things: DNS issues, server configurations, and complex integrations that were featured heavily on your projects. This will work to your advantage and help you better plan what information you need to gather from your clients during a project. It will give you a more accurate sense of when an expert is required.