Any career that requires project management (software, IT, construction, marketing/advertising, etc) is notoriously rough on peoples personal lives. Tight deadlines and a pressing workload make it almost impossible to achieve any kind of work-life balance. Or thats what most people think.
Youve seen them: the lucky few who always seem to be able to leave work on time and have their weekends to themselves, all without missing deadlines and getting chewed out by management.
No, theyre not superhuman. Theyre just very good at managing their time (and, hopefully, everyone elses). But you can learn to duplicate their success. Just follow these three tips step by step:
As a project manager, you should already know how to organize and plan. Only instead of doing it on other peoples behalf, youre doing it on your own. Learn how to maximize your time, whether its during your workday, at home, or on the go.
Create daily tasks lists for yourself. There are many ways of organizing them: in order of priority, the time required, the Pareto Principle, or even in order of recall. Toy around with it and see what works best with your process. Personally, I prefer to prioritize tasks that need to be sent to other people when done (like sending output for QA, reports to management, or task assignments to team members). That way, I dont become the bottleneck, and things can keep moving while I move on to the rest of the items on my list.
Effective project management is difficult if youre constantly interrupted and cant gain momentum on a task. Try to lump your tasks together into specific blocks of time. One hour for email, for example, or three hours for programming. Focus on your current activity and ignore everything and anything else. Once you get to the end of your pre-determined time, stop and move on to the next item. This is where planning and estimation come into place because if your current task eats into the next activitys time, youre just going to end up extending your workday.
Tell your team what youre doing and signal them that youre not to be interrupted (except in case of emergencies). Close your door. Put up a flag. Wear a hat. Whatever tells people that youre concentrating, and cant be bothered with anything else.
Setting boundaries is probably the most important thing you can do to protect your personal time, and the most difficult. Its hard to say no when work comes a-calling, but you have to set firm limits on work hours and make sure everyone else knows them. Make too many exceptions, and people wont take your boundaries seriously.
Learn How to Delegate
The best leaders know the difference between work that they can do, and work that they have to do. Effective delegation is one of the cornerstones of good project management. It doesnt make sense for you to spend an hour doing a task when a team member can do it in thirty minutes.
When you do delegate, choose your tasks wisely and make sure youre not just dumping on them for the sake of having a free afternoon. Remember that your team deserves to have work-life balance, too.
Do you have other tips on ensuring work-life balance? Share them in the comments below!