10 Ways Project Managers Stay Organized

As a project manager, you are the person ultimately responsible for keeping the project on track, especially when the pressure’s on.

To be a successful project manager, you need to be able to balance deadlines, a budget, and the quality of work. This can be very stressful even for the simplest of projects, and this is where organizational skills come into play. Lack of organization is detrimental to any project, but there are many ways to ensure you achieve what you set out to do.

Here are ten tips to help you get organized right from the start.

1. Set expectations early

From the beginning, you should let your team or employees know what your expectations for the project are. These should include the quality of work you expect, who is responsible for which tasks, and how your team should communicate with each other. The sooner you explain to your team members what’s expected of them, the easier it will be to ensure everyone is working towards a common goal and will eradicate any confusion and assumptions from the outset.

2. Define scope

As a project manager, the first step in the project planning process is defining its scope. Click To Tweet

As a project manager, the first step in the project planning process is defining its scope. To do this effectively, you need to understand the project’s:

  • Deliverables: What are the expected outputs and outcomes?
  • Costs: Is there a set budget?
  • Timeframe: How long do you have to complete the project?
  • Available resources: What physical, human and financial resources do you have at your disposal?
  • Stakeholders: Who is involved in the project? Who are the influencers, decision makers, and recipients?

3. Follow a template

When managing a project, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Click To Tweet

When managing a project, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If this is your first project, source document templates that you can use as a solid starting point. It will make your job much easier, and it means you will have a set of workable templates for future reference. It is also a good idea to have a log or diary of your work and to keep detailed notes of how you handled certain problems. If then a similar issue arises, you will have something to reference.

4. Review progress against a project plan

A project plan is essentially the roadmap for your project and should contain detailed information about the project’s approved scope, cost, and schedule. To review your progress, ask these questions:

  • Are tasks being completed effectively?
  • Are the original deadlines still realistic compared to how fast work is progressing? If not, are there tasks that should have more focus put on them?
  • Do you still have the right resources necessary to complete the project?

It is important to review progress regularly using updates and feedback from your team. Make this a priority during team meetings so that you’re able to address issues as they arise and adjust the plan if required.

5. Set time limits

There is no better way to make sure something gets done on time than setting achievable timeframes against specific project tasks. A MIT study showed that students will actually work more efficiently when a large piece of work is broken up into smaller tasks with set milestones. You need to make sure that whoever you assign each task to has the skill set and capacity to complete it on time. Setting unrealistic time limits may place undue stress on project resources, resulting in poor quality of work and team member burnout.

6. Meet frequently

As a project manager, it is critical to meet with your team on a regular basis to touch base and communicate project updates, including successes and issues.

A study of over 500,000 meetings found that people are most welcoming of a meeting on Tuesdays at 2:30pm. If you are working in a virtual project team, find a time that works best for the majority of team members. It can be a challenge working across multiple time zones, but to ensure that the same people aren’t subjected to the middle of the night conference call, rotate meeting times.

7. Develop an effective filing system

Managing a project can mean a mountain of paperwork, with several documents created and amended. This can become a nightmare to keep track of and you can waste precious time searching for the latest version of a document.

A proper filing system with clearly defined document naming conventions will ensure a consistent approach to project artifact storage. Check first whether there are set naming conventions used in your organization. If not, there are best practice examples you can follow. Just make sure you are consistent in any approach you take.

8. Efficiently delegate tasks

Being able to delegate tasks is one of the most important skills you can have as a project manager. There is an art to effective delegation, but once you have mastered it, you will take the pressure off yourself and give your team members a sense of responsibility and achievement. Instead of giving each person a large chunk of work to be completed, break everything into smaller tasks.

Don’t be vague when giving directions and make sure each team member knows exactly what the are doing and when it needs to be finished by. You should also make sure the person you are giving the task to has the correct information and ability to complete it.

9. Anticipate issues

We all hope that issues don’t arise, particularly when there are strict timelines to adhere to.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in project land. Developing and keeping risk and issues registers up to date along with addressing issues as soon as possible will help in preventing your project plan from going awry. If there is a major issue threatening to stop your project in its tracks, a predetermined process will reduce anxiety and make it much easier to approach the problem objectively and find an appropriate solution. Regular two-way communication with key stakeholders is also vital to ensuring there are no surprises along the way.

10. Use project management software

Last but certainly not least, effective project management software is invaluable for project managers in today’s predominantly web-based world. You can’t beat online software solutions if you’re looking for a way to keep all key documents in one place, share information with your team and manage tasks in a central hub. Check out Redbooth’s online project management software and forget about having to update complicated spreadsheets and to-do lists.

If you want a better way to organize your projects, sign up for a free trial and start working smarter, not harder.