How to Manage a Project while Doing your Regular Job

If you are reading this post, then like many other managers and PMs, you may have been given an extra duty of “Project Manager” for a new project in your organization. Not that your management has relieved you of your normal job role and duties—they just think you are the best person to manage this project and think you can handle it.

If you are a “git-r-done” kind of person, this is going to be a common occurrence. In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s likely that you’ll have more than one thing to work on at any given time for your whole career. To address this situation, I thought I would share eight (8) tips on how to juggle multiple projects and work – while keeping your sanity:

  1. Learn to Prioritize! If you had a full time job or your “work plate” was full already, then it is obvious you will have to prioritize tasks and projects in order to survive. Prioritization means determining the order for dealing with tasks. But the key to successful prioritization is using the right factor to determine the relative importance of each task. Tatyana Sussex suggests 6 steps to this in “How to Prioritize Work When Everything is #1.” One of her main points is to differentiate between what is urgent vs. important.
  2. Plan and document each project or work target. The old saying “Plan your work and work your plan” has been attributed to many people, from Vince Lombardi to Margaret Thatcher. But I bet it comes from experienced managers who probably had the same type of workload as I’ve had! What this means to me is starting with a clear agreement on what “done” looks like. (By the way, this is a key part of Agile/Scrum projects) This defines the end game. It also requires having a common understanding of this end game with the project sponsor and key stakeholders. All of this must be in place before you establish a timeline of actionable steps and begin to work through them. I addressed the importance of project planning in a previous post.
  3. Find the right resources and assign the work! You don’t need to do every task and part of a project yourself. Recruit, steal, find and assign people and resources to get the tasks and work done. An earlier post by Dr. Karen McGraw on how to interview and select the right candidate addressing recruiting the right people. Another key skill is knowing how to work with people at all levels: peers, subordinates and bosses because the project’s ultimate success will depend on it. Finally, when you assign a task, do so with clear and specific requirements and targets, then get out of the way—DON’T micromanage.
  4. Learn to be Flexible. Change is a fact of life, and so is uncertainty. Even the best plan is not immune to the unexpected. In the middle of one of our projects nature dealt us a flood that put lives, property, and the project at risk. Be willing to scale up or down to suit real-time project needs. Making course corrections or changing priorities when events happen is the best strategy to keep all of your work and projects moving forward.
  5. Streamline the work and tasks. Eliminate unnecessary work and non-productive tasks! I am always amazed at how projects and work processes have wasted effort included in the requirements. In addition, during your project you may be asked to do more with less, as organizational needs and situations change. I provided some suggestions for doing this in a previous post.
  6. Communicate often and effectively. Learn to communicate effectively and spend less time checking up on work. Put processes and tools in place that can communicate status easily and quickly. Learn what communication is best for each project member and each part of the project. Email may not always be best, and online conference calls may be wasteful in time. (In a previous post I offered tips to help you manage your email.) Use a variety of communication techniques which streamline messaging and help you to manage communication more effectively.
  7. Know your own limits. Knowing your limits means managing expectations, understanding your own limitations, and being realistic about them. This is a key productivity concept for any program manager. When you get overloaded, you are not effective. Taking on too much will be detrimental to your overall productivity and to your well-being. Personally I get real grouchy when I am in overload mode. Molly Connor provides some tips for things you can say to help you manage within your personal limitations.
  8. Get something accomplished every day. I try to set targets for each day that allow me to feel good when a complete items each day. They don’t all have to be large or significant, but the key is to get the work products and project tasks completed. To achieve my targets, I schedule chunks of uninterrupted time whenever I can. Research shows that it takes your brain 15 minutes to re-focus after an interruption. Convey the concept to your resources and team members. Some people even create a “To Stop List” in order to get rid of distractions that can get in the way of achieving tasks.

I wish I had used some of these tips early in my career – I wouldn’t have burned so much mid-night oil! See which of these tips you can implement in your work style as you are assigned those “extra” projects.

If you have additional tips for juggling lots of work and projects, please share as a comment.


Does Your Desk Tell Secrets About You?

OK- I had a lot of fun with last week’s post!  Thanks for the comments and emails (And phone calls).  This whole desktop thing seems to have struck a nerve with a few of you….

I want you to try a little experiment. Pick five people at random in your company – preferably ones you do not know well. Go by their desks and observe their desktop stuff. What you can deduce about them from the objects on the desktop? Did you form an opinion about what is important to them or how well they might be doing their jobs? Now, go back to your cubicle or office and look at your own desk.

Sam Gosling, a psychology professor at THE UNIVERSITY – known to outsiders as The University of Texas at Austin – recently authored a book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You that purports to study how people’s belongings exhibit their personalities. When it comes to the most essential components of our personality, he believes that the things we display and the way we arrange them says quite a bit about who we really are.

Here are a few of his observations, quoted from his 2008 interview with National Public Radio’s Neal Conan and some reader comments from Amazon:

  • Question: do the desk owner’s family photos face him or the visitor? Hmm.
  • Is the desk that is cluttered with baseball stuff a sign of a collector or a hoarder? (depends on the organization)
  • Introverts place fewer personal items on their desks than extroverts.
  • People with candy for visitors are inviting and outgoing.
  • Do not judge someone based on one characteristic of his or her stuff.


Others have observed that women’s offices contain more symbols of relationships, while men tend to have sports items or certificates acknowledging personal achievements. Ahh, this pop psychology stuff gives me a headache. However, I know from personal experience that some people reach conclusions about your work habits from observing the organization of your desk. Here’s a scenario I observed many years ago, while working at a company primarily involved in building hardware:

I was walking through cube-land with an older senior manager. The area was populated with hardware engineers – primarily EEs and software engineers. The manager commented in passing, “I can always tell the desks of the software engineers, there is stuff everywhere” (this was not offered as a compliment.) Looking around, you could see some desks held only a calculator, neatly stacked papers and a pencil cup. While on other desks, there were sticky notes all over CRTs (remember CRTs?), cartoons stuck with pushpins into a cork board and stress squeeze balls in neon colors.

So, my conclusion: If you work in a large company, where people who do not know you may pass your workspace, tidy up a bit. Put papers into folders and folders into file drawers. Use electronic storage and filing whenever possible. Arrange personal items and mementos outside of the central working area. And, above all if you are a PM or manager, have a candy bowl and offer good stuff to visitors. I personally love dark chocolate!

The Lazy Project Manager's Blog

The Home of Productive Laziness Thoughts

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

A Girl's Guide to Project Management

Project Management musings for one and all

LeadingAnswers: Leadership and Agile Project Management Blog

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Project Management Hut

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Herding Cats

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management


Pushing the Edges Out ...


Just another site