It’s an age-old question. How many projects can one person juggle? Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating – it’s not exactly an age-old question – but it’s a question I’m asked a lot. Let me preface my answer with the fact that I love, love, love project management. The more projects I can manage, the better. I love the variety. I love that I get to talk to many different people on any given day. And I love solving problems. For me, there’s no better job than project management. I’ve been doing it for more than 15 years.
But, managing projects isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people fall into the job; some are pushed in. It doesn’t matter how you came to being a project manager. What matters is how you operate once you’re in the role so you’re successful.
When you’re managing multiple projects, you have to be able to do it efficiently and effectively, or you’ll just get overwhelmed. Great project managers pay attention to detail, yet never lose sight of the “big picture,” are flexible, and tolerate ambiguity. They love spinning a lot of plates and don’t “sweat the small stuff.” Some of these skills can be learned, but other traits you need to be born with. I’d like to share some tips I find helpful when managing multiple projects.
- Every morning, take time to do a mental check of each of your projects. Pull your checklist (yes, this is old school), walk through each project, and think about what’s due, what’s not, etc.
- Focus on one project at a time to complete all the tasks due on a particular day. Doing this helps me keep track of what’s what and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed and switching back and forth between projects with same-day deliverables.
- Keep it simple. This is especially true from the communications standpoint. Less is more. Just share “the need to know” with your client(s). Clients don’t want to get bogged down with the day-to-day details; they just want you to get to the point.
- Prioritize. Distinguish between the urgent/9-1-1 items and the nice-to-do/4-1-1 items. Always complete the 9-1-1 items first. Yes, there’ll be some days when all you get to are the 9-1-1 items, but that’s ok.
- Use your tools and templates. There’s no reason to re-create the wheel for each client. It just makes you less efficient, and frankly, creates more work for you.
- Take your client’s pulse. I, of course, don’t mean this literally. But after each major deliverable is completed or milestone is reached, check in with your client to see how things are going. Did the deliverable meet expectations? Has something else come up that’s giving him/her pause?
- Focus 100% on the client. When talking with clients, always make sure you’re 100% all about them. They don’t need to know, and frankly shouldn’t feel like, they’re one of 5, 10, or 20 projects you’re managing. They must always feel like they’re your only client.
A lot more goes into managing and actually ramping up projects and teams. But I think these seven tips will help you get started or at least help you to determine whether or not project management is for you.
So, how many projects can one person juggle? I’m not telling. I don’t want you to compare yourself to me. How many is too many really is up to the individual project manager. If you enjoy what you’re doing, and if your clients are happy, then you probably aren’t managing too many projects.
What’s your magic number? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on juggling multiple projects.