Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Strategies For Juggling Multiple Projects

If you run your own business, chances are you have a seemingly endless to-do list that can overwhelm the senses and would lead a more fragile mind into despair. Sometimes the first thing on everyone’s to-do list is to figure out which item on the to-do list to actually do first. Like a car with standard transmission often the hardest thing is just getting the car rolling. Here are a few handy tips and tricks on how to manage all the items on that list so you can get out of first gear and get into the fast lane.

Organize Your Projects

No two projects are created equal and it’s up to you to figure out which ones are high priority versus which ones can wait. You also need to figure out which projects are long-term projects and which ones have imminent deadlines, or ongoing deadlines. Some individual tasks within a particular project are themselves more complicated than others and those need to be sorted out as well. In my case, I have a set of regular tasks that need to be taken care of weekly and then a variety of projects that are, on average, a month’s worth of work and all with deadlines falling at various points throughout the year.

When all the chips are down I have a way to break down all my tasks for the year by month and by week, which then allows me to plan out each day.

Organize Your Week

As a rule, I make sure that any projects with ongoing deadlines I devote a portion of any given day to complete. I also make sure to devote at least 25% of time during any given week to any of my monthly projects (this percentage may increase as any deadline looms). The reason why I make sure to devote this substantial amount of time even early in the process is because I never want to get to a point where I need to devote 100% of my time to a particular project at the expense of the work that is ongoing. Normally it is advisable to put the ongoing work at the front part of the week.

Organize Your Day

Luckily the day comes conveniently broken up into two parts: before lunch and after lunch. Lunch isn’t just a time to gas up and take a much needed break, it’s a great way to set goals. Often, I give myself a set of tasks that I can reasonably complete before lunch. I find that my productivity is highest before lunch so this is when I take care of higher priority projects. I repeat: DO YOUR HIGH PRIORITY WORK BEFORE LUNCH - save the cat videos for after lunch. The afternoon is also a good time to tackle lower priority projects, assess your progress, and plan the next day’s work schedule.

Always Spend At Least a Minute With All Your Projects

Even if it’s as simple as delegating a few minutes of thought, or simply asking a colleague “how far along are we with that?” it’s worth touching base with all your projects at least once a week. Never let a week go by without checking in. The weekend is a time of forgetting and if you don’t make it a habit to check in, that kind of procrastination can lead to a massive crunch or worse - a missed deadline.

Never Devote an Entire Day to One Single Thing

There’s nothing more demoralizing than the prospect of devoting your entire day to one single task performed over and over again. Although sometimes it may be necessary, it’s advisable to restrict assembly line tasks to a portion of the day in order to give the mind a break from that inherent monotony as staying vocationally fresh is a great way to optimize productivity. Conversely, miring oneself in drudgery is tantamount to flicking the “off switch”.

Develop Your Time Management Skills

Time management is a skill just like needlework, cooking, or playing the guitar, and all the same rules apply. Just like any skill it has to be developed to serve you any real purpose and you have to practice to get better at it. There are numerous tools at your disposal to help with all of the advice mentioned above like spreadsheets and calendars where you can jot down, make notes, color code, and organize everything that’s on your plate. Along with helping cut through all the clutter, giving myself a visual sense of what’s ahead really gives me a sense of where to start and how my time can be best used. Naturally, it takes a portion of time to carry out this strategy of organization, but the benefits over the long term are well worth it.