How Project or Program Managers stay organized

Ever wonder how project or program managers stay organized all of the time (or most of it)? As a project or program manager, how do you stay organized and ensure success while running multiple projects at the same time? Some of the most important skills for a PM to have are the ability to organize, communicate, and successfully manage their projects, requirements, schedules, and tasks. Here are several ways to stay organized when running multiple projects at a time:

Project set-up:

  1. First, develop a problem statement. Before you start a project or initiative, answer the question: What problem am I trying to solve? If your project planning doesn’t align with solving that problem, add those thoughts to a “parking lot” list to address later and stick to the original problem statement.
  2. Create a project charter. You should do this no matter how large or small your project is, and no matter how formal or informal your company/team is. Share it with the project team/stakeholders so that you gain buy-in and ensure that everyone is focused on the same goals, scope, and timeline before kicking off the project. It draws a line in the sand and is also something that can be referred to when trying to avoid/manage scope creep as time progresses.

Running a project:

  1. Communicate early, communicate often. Your project’s success relies on it. Even if it is informal communication, always make sure you are communicating with your project team and all stakeholders involved on any updates, changes, and issues.
  2. Keep a weekly progress report…but update it every day. Before the end of the day, make updates on progress and milestones. Add any risks, issues, and achievements. That way, at the end of the week (or whenever you report on progress) you are not scrambling to remember everything that happened over the last few days. 
  3. Pulse check your project schedules. Do this every few days, if not daily. It’s easier to communicate a schedule delay to stakeholders before it happens and offer mitigation solutions rather than after.

Project meetings:

  1. Schedule meetings with purpose. Send an agenda along with every meeting invite (or before the meeting time). This ensures that meeting goals are outlined and that the project team stays true to the agenda. Everyone’s time is valuable, so try to accomplish what you absolutely need to during the time allotted.
  2. Schedule hour-long meetings for 45 minutes instead. The theory is that if there is one hour scheduled for a meeting, the meeting will take the full hour. It takes a few meetings for people to adjust, but everyone is happier and more committed to accomplishing meeting goals and ending the meeting in 45 minutes when they get 15 minutes back in their day.
  3. Allow five minutes at the end of every meeting. This gives you time to go over takeaways, responsibilities, and next steps—and align everyone to action items. 

Project follow-up:

  1. Mark every email with a Task Flag (Outlook) that you send requesting information or an action. As detailed as this seems, this will help keep you organized with following up after days of not receiving a response. That way, you have a reminder to follow-up without having to search for emails.
  2. Send a re-cap email after every team meeting. This will help to highlight what was covered and cover the next steps. Make sure the next steps have owners and deadlines accompanying them to hold everyone accountable. 

These are just a few tips to keep you organized while managing projects and initiatives. Regardless of whether project management is your profession, we can all benefit from a little organization and consistency. What are some tips you use to stay organized?

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