Most project manager’s tasks lists are a dozen or more items long, and cover administration, client management, and team coordination. And that doesn’t even cover all the technical aspects of the job. As a result, project managers often jump between multiple tasks and projects in the span of an hour. That can make it difficult to keep your priorities straight.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to keep up with all of your tasks is to take them one at a time, and not do them all at once.
In today’s knowledge-based workplace, it’s important to keep your mind on the task at hand. But the workplace is full of distractions that can still fall under the category of “work”. Email is the biggest productivity offender by far. But you also have co-workers, company memos, or even your own backlog of tasks. Turn off Outlook while you work, and put on headphones to discourage chatty co-workers. Try to keep a list of your current tasks in front of you so you always know what you’re supposed to be doing.
Remember, anything not directly related to your current task is a distraction.
I’ve found that focusing in on one task or category of tasks, finishing it (or doing as much as you can at the moment) and then moving on to the next is much more effective than bouncing back and forth. You have to put one task down in order to do another, even when you’re multitasking. In spreading your efforts across multiple tasks, you’re extending the time it takes to do them all and reducing your productivity.
Multitasking doesn’t just affect time, either. This divided attention makes it easy to forget things and overlook mistakes. Remember what I said about removing distractions? In multitasking, distractions are built into the process.
Concentrate, not Isolate
Focusing on your work doesn’t mean isolating yourself from the outside world. You work in a team environment, and it’s important to keep communication channels open—especially for urgent matters. If a crisis happens in another project, by all means handle it, and then go back to your original schedule (just make sure it really is a crisis).
Also, let people know what you’re doing and when. This transparency encourages team communication and productivity. And who knows, it might even remind other people of their own tasks.
Image credit, Flickr, Mark Hunter