November 27, 2017

101: Juggling projects

It's happened to all of us: a perfect storm of projects with the same – or nearly the same – deadline. Maybe you hadn't planned it that way, but a project got off track and now aligns with another's timeline … and another. Then upper management surprises you with another large task to present to your team. It's easy to wonder how, or even to doubt you'll get it all done. But, after a deep breath, these tips may help.

Define project tasks, then focus. Begin with a project needing the most attention, whether it's the closest deadline or largest client or most profitable account. Now focus on that, says Heidi K. Gardner and Mark Mortensen, at Harvard Business Review. Decide on must-achieve outcomes and "define which actions are necessary to achieve only those results, and ruthlessly stick to them," the article states. The reason for that is valuable mental space can be taken up by switching your focus from project to project. "The fewer switches you can make in a given day, the better."

Put on the breaks. Take a break, suggests Mike Clayton at It's not just for your sanity. It's also to mark the change when you are switching projects or switching your role in a project. Mentally, your brain will be able to leave the last task behind and focus on the new one at hand.

Manage your manager. When juggling projects, prioritize your task list and before communicating to your team, ensure senior management's priorities are in line with yours. Keep communication open. suggests keeping it short and sweet, but "the more your manager knows about what you're working on and how long it will likely take, the better off you'll be."


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