Many Project Managers who work ‘off the side’ of an operational desk find their own priorities are as difficult to manage as the team’s workload. The hardest part about managing your own capacity for work is the lack of distance. You don’t get to look through unstressed eyes at the real problem.
Step one for resolving this is to check to see if the project is being affected. Sometimes the problem isn’t in the project. You’ll save a lot of time and confusion if you check for issues to be resolved.
What do you see happening?
When the project manager can’t pay attention to their project these are the common symptoms each with a solution.
- If deadlines are being missed without advance notice – start following up on the next deadlines
- If people stop talking – start talking and they’ll join in
- If you don’t feel like you know what’s going on – start making some calls or drop by people’s desks to ask
How can you resolve it beyond treating symptoms?
It is harder for you to make sure your operational duties and your project management duties don’t keep bumping up against each other. No one wants to feel like they are always about the drop the ball. But because you are ‘leading’ both types of duties, no one nags you to be done on time.
Let’s assume you can’t stop doing the operational duties—although I strongly suggest you look at where you can delegate. The tip I’ve always found the most useful is to plan your next week/month.
On a paper calendar, start plugging in the deadlines for both operational and project work. Look at where they conflict. Then reschedule as much as possible. When you can see what’s coming, you have a better chance of managing it.
The other benefit is that you have something concrete to show your boss or your sponsor if you need to negotiate changes.
A final thought:
Project work is often like a feast or famine. Most project managers will have times when there are not enough hours in the day. Sometimes this can lead to thinking you are not balancing your workload, but you are. Taking a longer perspective of the workload means you see the management part of the project, not just the 18-hour day in front of you.