There is a saying that “Time and tide wait for no man” or even “An ounce of gold will not buy an inch of time”. This means that an individual should understand the value of time to succeed in all areas of life. Time management is defined as managing the time effectively so that the right time is allocated to the right activity. It plays a very important role not only in the organization but also in our personal lives. This is why there are time management techniques which can be used and some these are a really important part of project management as well.
Rules of Time Management
This involves different steps as follows:
1. Effective Planning
Without an effective plan, there is no control. Likewise, without time planning, you cannot manage things properly.
- Prepare a “To Do” list
- Write down the important activities to do in a single day against the time allocated to each activity
- Prioritize the high priority work
- Start finishing task one by one
- Please mark the ones you have finished
- Do not begin fresh work unless you have finished your previous task
- Make sure that you finish the tasks within the allocated time
Note that, more than 90% of the project managers use Microsoft Project as a project management tool for planning their projects. To enhance their planning skills, they attend to MS Project course programs.
2. Setting Goals and Objectives
- Set Goals and objectives clearly. Make sure that goals are realistic and achievable
3. Setting Deadlines
- The best person to set deadlines is you. Hence determine the time and days you require to complete the task
- Set deadlines for yourself
- Work hard to complete the task ahead of deadlines
- Take ownership of work
- Make use of some planner to mark the important dates against the set deadlines
4. Delegation of Responsibilities
- Delegate the Roles and responsibilities on the basis of skills and interest
- Don’t do everything on your own
- Learn to say “No” at the workplace
- Don’t accept the work without understanding the problem in detail
5. Prioritizing activities
- Prioritize the task based on urgency and importance
- Learn to distinguish between important and urgent task
- First, do the task which is important
- Identify which task needs to be done within a day or month and so on
6. Spending the right time on the right activity
- Develop the habit of doing the right thing at the right time
- Don’t waste the entire day on something which can be completed in an hour
- Work done at the wrong time is not of much use
Effective time management techniques involve one to be focused, organized and make use of time properly.
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Time Management Techniques
There are numerous time management techniques in the industry. These time management techniques used in the right manner can help you boost your productivity. Most of the project managers use project management tool options as well to manage time effectively when they are managing the projects. Especially, attending in a MS Project training will enhance your planning skills.
We will be listing a few techniques which will help you in effective time management:
1. Getting Things Done
One of the time management techniques is a five-step method to convert tasks into straightforward ‘To Do” list.
- The first step is to Capture: Jot down every task that comes to your mind.
- The second step is to Clarify: Determine whether a task is actionable and has concrete steps that can be laid out and followed.
- The third step is to Organize: You need to file the tasks under different labels with context such as Office, Request from Manager, etc
- The fourth step is to Reflect: You need to review the tasks from time to time. This means to determine what is next step for the task?
- The last step is to Engage: Once all tasks are listed, identified as actionable, proper filing and task has been reviewed. Now simply start working on them.
The advantage of this time management technique is that all tasks, assignments, and projects are kept in perspective while laying out, so your mind is free and all tasks are laid in front of you.
The disadvantage of this technique is that you will not able to structure your day properly if there are too many items on the list.
2. Eat that frog
This technique aims at prioritizing tasks. First, pick the most important or worst task (This is your frog). Now tackle it as first thing tomorrow. Once you have finished with your frog, you can then move on to other tasks for that day but not before.
It works in a way that you have to identify tasks based on priority and label them.
- The most important task is Task A. Hence you should tackle it or face consequences.
- Task B is the next most important task and you need to handle it after Task A. This means that it is less important but still vital.
- Task C is a task that can be done by you but you wouldn’t face any consequences even if you don’t do it.
- You should delegate Task D to someone else and allocate the time of this task to Task A.
- Task E is the task you don’t really need to do and you are free to eliminate it.
The advantage of this technique is that prioritizing task becomes easier, also doing the most important or worst task firstly guarantees the accomplishment of the rest of the items with ease
The disadvantage of this technique is that if most important task changes during the course of the day then it will become impractical.
This is one of the visual time management techniques that help you track the project. It means that you can track how the tasks move across differently labeled columns. Japan developed this to increase productivity and time management in the manufacturing industry.
The way to use this technique is to take project management software, whitepaper, sticky notes, a pen, and paper.
Now determine the number of stages in your project and create columns accordingly.
Create 4 columns and move task within a project across the stages mentioned as follows:
- Backlog: Here you do brainstorming and define all tasks to be done in the project. Then you need to determine which task you are supposed to move to “To Do” Column and which task can wait a while.
- To Do: This lists the task that you are going to work on.
- In Progress: This lists the task you are currently working on.
- Done: This lists the task you have already finished.
The advantage of this technique is that it gives a clear visual representation of entire work that needs to be done along with progress made so far.
The disadvantage of this technique is that it can be time-consuming. Besides, it may be difficult to predict when your team will finish the task or project because it is using a measure of progress as moving across the columns. Furthermore, it doesn’t order the task in terms of importance and urgency.
This technique works on the bases of timeboxes. Timeboxing often includes fixed deadlines so project managers generally use it.
It works in a way that you allocate time periods (timeboxes) to activities, you work within this time period and then stop once the set time runs out.
The steps are:
- First, you lay out all your activities and tasks on a list
- Then decide what you want to accomplish with these tasks i.e. define your goals
- If a task is important and requires great focus then allocate a longer time period to it (For example 2-3 hours)
- If the task is difficult then parse it and allocate shorter time periods (For example 20-30 mins) to parts of it so that task is easier to manage
- Now start from your first task, and work your way down
- When the allocated time for a task is over, stop working on it and take a break
- Review what you have managed to finish
- Then turn your attention to other timeboxes in your schedule
The advantage of this technique is that it works for a large number of small tasks. Also, it will be easier to keep track of them and tackle them. Further, as deadlines are an important component, so you can focus on achieving as much as you can until the timebox expires.
The disadvantage of this time management technique is that timeboxing doesn’t allow multitasking so you will be able to focus on one task at a time. Besides, it may be challenging to stick to a strict schedule based on timeboxes when there are unavoidable disturbances such as phone calls.
5. Who’s Got the Monkey
This technique is based on delegating tasks. It is generally used by project managers. Here monkeys are tasks and you need to consider how to deal with them.
3 types of monkeys and management time defined as follows:
- Boss-imposed time: It refers to the activities required by the boss
- System-imposed time: This refers to the actions required by a colleague’s requests and questions
- Self-imposed time: It refers to the actions you decide to undertake. You may use it for your own tasks and ideas (i.e. discretionary time) or to tackle subordinates problems and request (i.e. subordinated imposed time)
Now your aim is to eliminate subordinate-imposed time, control system and boss imposed time, and increase the discretionary time.
The steps are:
- First, recognize and describe the monkey i.e. specify what task is and what actions are needed for its completion
- Assigning the monkey i.e.to allocate the monkey to a person
- Ensuring the monkey i.e. make sure that the person handles the monkey appropriately
- If a monkey is important and allows no mistakes then you should recommend what should be done and act if needed
- If you are certain that the person assigned with the monkey can handle it, act and then provide advice
- Keep a check on monkey i.e. specify when you will provide follow up for the monkey to make sure that everything is on track
The advantage of this technique is that managers can effectively use their time. It gives a clear perspective on who is assigned to what. Besides, it is a straightforward way of delegating tasks.
The disadvantage of this technique is that it deals only with management and delegating tasks. Though, it should be combined with other time management techniques for better productivity results overall.
What Are The Time Management Techniques for Project Managers?
Time management for project managers requires planning, scheduling, monitoring and controlling of all project activities. It can also be defined as the management of time spent on the task and progress tracked on tasks and activities.
As per Project Management Institute, Time Management is one of major functions of project management.
Why it is important for Project Managers?
By definition, a project has an official start and end date. Now in order to meet this end date, every project needs a plan or schedule. Therefore every project manager needs to manage the time to ensure that the schedule is met.
For instance, you take a project to renovate the office. Assuming that you will do it in your spare time and therefore you don’t give yourself an end date. Hence you don’t create a project schedule. Also, you don’t regularly do anything to make sure that work is getting done in the office. Now, what will happen?
The answer is that time will pass and years will go on and the project will never get finished. It is faced with delays and issues for this delay could be as follows:
- Either you were too busy to work so you pushed it to the back of your to-do list
- Maybe you didn’t order new plywood on time and had to wait for them to come
- Or you weren’t able to find an electrician and couldn’t complete the wiring work
- You found out too late that inspections need to be booked months in advance and so on…
Hence time management is really critical. Without time management, the project won’t get done on time and may not get done at all.
As per Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), there are 6 main processes in Time Management:
1. Plan Schedule Management
This process involves documenting how you will plan, manage and control the project to the schedule baseline and how you will manage schedule variances.
Here Schedule Management plan is the output of this process. It is part of the project management plan and it helps in estimating and scheduling development process faster by including the following:
- Scheduling methodology and software to be used
- Scheduling baseline for measuring against
- Performance measures that will be used on the project to identify variances early
- A plan for how to schedule variances will be managed
- A process for determining whether a variance must be acted upon
- Type of reports required on a project related to schedule
- Format and frequency of project reporting
- Length of releases and iterations in the agile approach
2. Define Activities
This process involves taking the work packages created in Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and decomposing them into the activities that are required to produce the work package deliverables and thus achieve the project objectives
One of the time management techniques is using decomposition to break work packages into activities.
Rolling wave planning is a technique you can use when it is better not to plan the entire project to the smallest detail in advance. Instead to plan to a higher level and then develop more detailed plans when work is to be done. It is a form of progressive elaboration.
3. Sequence Activities
This process involves taking the activities and sequencing them in order in which work will be performed. The result is a network diagram or project schedule network diagram.
Techniques used to draw this network diagram is PDM i.e. Precedence Diagramming Method
Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM): This method involves nodes or boxes to represent activities and arrows show activity dependencies. There are 4 types of relationships between activities such as Finish to Start (FS), Start to Start (SS), Finish to Finish (FF) and Start to Finish (SF)
You can determine the sequence of activities based on mandatory dependency, discretionary dependency, internal or external dependency and leads n lags.
4. Estimate Activity Duration
When activities have been defined and sequenced then it is the time to estimate how long each activity will take.
You can estimate using time management techniques such as One-point estimating, Analogous estimating, Parametric Estimating, Heuristics, Three-Point Estimating, Bottom Up Estimating and Reserve Analysis.
Reserve Analysis: You can add 2 types of reserves to the schedule i.e. Contingency Reserves and Management Reserve
Contingency Reserve: These reserves are for knowns & unknowns. They are included in the project schedule baseline. They are allocated for identified risks remaining after the responses of risk have been identified.
Management Reserve: They are additional funds and time to cover unforeseen risks that could impact the ability to meet the schedule. They are not part of the schedule baseline.
5. Develop Schedule
Once you complete the network diagram and activity duration estimates, then you need to put the information into scheduling software within the project management information system (PMIS) to create a schedule model.
The schedule model includes all the project data used to calculate schedules such as activities, duration estimates, dependencies, leads, and lags. The project schedule is the output of the schedule model and it consolidates all schedule data.
Representation of schedule includes bar charts and milestone charts.
The schedule is calendar based, approved and realistic. Because it includes all the activities needed to complete the work of the project as well as contingency reserves to manage risk events. The technique used here is the Schedule Network Analysis. Schedule Network Analysis creates the schedule model and ultimately to finalize the project schedule.
The techniques used are:
- Critical Path Method
- Schedule Compression
- Monte Carlo Analysis or What If Analysis
- Resource Optimization
- Agile Release Planning
6. Control Schedule
It involves looking for the things that are causing changes and influencing the sources or root causes of the changes. The activities involved in controlling the schedule are:
- Access the project management information system to review current work performance data and compare actual progress to planned data
- Re-estimate the remaining components of the project
- Conduct performance reviews by analyzing how the project is doing
- Perform data analysis
- Identify the need for changes including corrective and preventive actions
- Follow the change control process
- Continue efforts to optimize the schedule
This process results in work performance information, schedule forecasts and sometimes change requests. Also, it may result in updates to schedule management plan, performance measurement baseline in addition to project documents such as risk register, assumption log, lesson learned register and changes to any other part of the project.
Tools Used for Time Management
There are various tools to manage the time effectively on the project. In turn, they help the projects to meet the deadlines:
- ProWorkFlow: It is an affordable, easy to use, professional web-based solution to manage the project, tasks, and timelines
- Office Timeline: It is a PowerPoint timeline maker for professionals. This is useful to produce Gantt Charts and timelines directly into Microsoft PowerPoint.
- Top Tracker: It is a freely available tool. This is a simple tool for time tracking purpose.
- Click Time: This is a time tracking tool which helps you predict project needs and track budgetary concerns by tracking the amount of time your employees are spending on any given project.
- Hours: It works best for those looking to track their own productivity as well as team time tracking solution.
How to Deal With Delays in Project Management?
Despite you have laid the best plans and project timelines, sometimes a project experiences delay. The causes are generally an underestimated task, some resources that are not allocated appropriately or some staff leaving in the middle of the project, etc. No matter what is the cause of the delay, as a project manager, you have to get things back on track.
There are different ways to deal with such kind of delays in project management.
- Consultation with your stakeholders to agree upon the suitable extension of time
- Prioritize project elements, reduce the project scope or agree on staged delivery
- Crash the schedule: Bring on additional resources on critical path activities or extend working hours and thus spend more money
- Check all dependencies and reallocate the resources
- You can fast track the schedule by assigning activities to be done in parallel that was being done in sequence.
- Check all the time-constrained activities to validate the time frame.
- Check critical path activities and assign a more productive resource to these activities and less productive resources to noncritical path activities.
- Prevent all scope change
All these time management techniques and processes are taught in the PMP training in a very detailed way. If you are working as a project manager or want to work as one, it is ‘time’ to get PMP certified while learning all the time management techniques and everything else used in project management!