Project Management Tips for Non-Project Managers

Project Management Tips for Non-Project Managers

By Kelsey Miller

Project management is an increasingly important business function, essential to organizations looking to increase the efficiency and timeliness of their work.

The official responsibilities of project managers typically include initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing projects. They also oversee several key tasks in pursuit of successful project completion, including assembling a project team, monitoring project budget, setting timelines, overseeing deliverables, and communicating with stakeholders.

It’s not only project managers that are tasked these types of responsibilities, however. Even without the title of ‘project manager’, many professionals can still benefit from learning the skills and techniques project managers utilize every day. Read on to explore tailored tips to help you improve your project management skills, even if you aren’t a project manager.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Through his years in the industry, Joe Griffin—certified PMP and associate teaching professor in Northeastern’s Master of Science in Project Management program—has discovered that all successful projects have a specific starting and ending point. “Like a marathon runner envisioning the finish line, if you understand that arc and constantly envision your goal, you’ll remain true to it,” he explains. Envisioning your end goal is also impactful when keeping distractions at bay and remaining focused and on-task through the completion of your work.


2. Understand your goal.

When you’re managing any kind of project, it is essential that you understand your overall mission before diving deeply into the many tasks required to complete it, Griffin explains.

During the process, for example, you may find yourself confronted by situations that aim to influence you to change the project’s direction. When situations like this arise, Griffin suggests asking yourself, “What do I need to produce for these influencers to meet their expectations?”

“These items are considered ‘mission critical’ and, ideally, you should feel comfortable declining other requests. Really,” he says.

Although it may seem daunting to say “No” to a request (particularly if it’s from a supervisor,) when you have taken the time to understand the vision of the project beforehand, what you’ve actually done is develop the tools and language needed to properly articulate the realistic goals of the work. In doing this, you will help keep everyone on track toward that predetermined objective.

3. Be considerate

On the personal side of project management, it’s important to take time to communicate with family and friends about the scope of your work, your deadlines, and the amount of focus required to accomplish your goals. This will create a much-needed understanding of your limitations as you work toward the project’s completion.

“When you’re managing a project, it’s easy to get so bogged down that you forget life is actually going on without you,” Griffin says. “Come up for air and let your colleagues and family understand your needs.”

From an in-office angle, it’s important to communicate with your team members about your schedule, working style, and personal life in order to manage expectations.

“Keep your colleagues and classmates informed about your schedule,” Griffin says. “When do you work best? What time do you reserve for personal commitments? Be clear and firm.”

4. Manage risks.

“Risk management is hugely important to project management,” Griffin says, offering the example of an adult learner trying to go back to school while simultaneously balancing work and family responsibilities. He explains the importance of identifying what the risks are in this instance and developing a “risk response strategy” that can be implemented if things don’t go according to plan.

An example of a risk-response strategy within this scenario, “could be as simple as realizing you don’t work well at night,” he says. “Maybe you’re a morning person. Plan a classwork strategy that mitigates the risk of unproductivity. Set aside time in the morning for working and let people know that that is ‘your’ time. Set up a process that works for you—even if it’s at 2 a.m.—and stick to it.”


5. Avoid perfectionism.

It’s human nature to aim for perfection when taking ownership of a project or task, yet there are dozens of factors and unforeseen circumstances that have the ability to negatively influence outcomes. For this reason, Griffin explains that employees should forget about perfectionism and instead focus on simply meeting the predetermined project goals. If the completed project meets the overall expectations of its stakeholders, then you should feel as if your project was a success.

Rather than slowing down the process by focusing on every little detail that could be improved, Griffin also suggests concentrating on big-picture success instead. He provides this example from the classroom as a representation of this idea:

“Each week, my classes have discussion board questions, and students need to post three times. Some post three times, others post 15. You can get full credit either way. Maybe it matters to you personally whether you get a 3.7 versus a 3.4, but nobody else is going to know or care…If you’re balancing other priorities—work, family, and life—recognize that time management and restraint is a big part of success.”

6. Manage your time effectively.

Managing your time effectively is a vital part of successfully completing any project in any setting. There are several time management strategies you can employ in your personal and professional lives to help you achieve success.

Having a well-defined project plan is one of the most productive strategies for time management, as it affects every phase of a project from beginning to end. If you attempt to execute a project without a plan, you will ultimately spend more time throughout the process deciding what needs to be done and how it should take shape. On the other hand, creating a thorough plan ahead of time acts as a roadmap for the project and eliminates the common time wasters that would otherwise be encountered.

Additionally, communication with stakeholders is an important aspect of time management. Delays in communication are some of the biggest time-related issues that project managers and other professionals encounter. To combat this, strive to keep stakeholders actively engaged throughout all stages of a project in order to maintain timeliness.

7. Avoid multitasking.

Although multitasking seems like the best way to get several things done in a fraction of the time, there is one problem: multitasking doesn’t actually work. In fact, our brains aren’t wired to handle more than one or, at most, two complex tasks at a time.

Research from the American Psychological Association found that switching between tasks can actually cause up to a 40 percent loss in productivity, as switching from one task to another causes us to lose focus, attention, and, most importantly, productivity.

Instead, there are strategies you can use to avoid multitasking and complete your work as efficiently as possible. For example, cutting down on interruptions of all kinds can help you improve your focus and boost efficiency, as doing so reduces the frequency of disturbances that can force you to split your attention.


8. Use the proper tools.

In a world where efficiency is key, professionals need to take advantage of the tools available to them that can help make their jobs easier. Project management software tools can help managers, administrators, and other employees deliver projects as effectively as possible by offering features that allow you to manage tasks, track progress, and streamline communication.

When choosing which tools to use, it is important to analyze your needs and identify which options are able to meet your requirements. Having the right project management apps or software in your toolbelt can help you adequately communicate with your team, stay organized, and deliver projects on time.

For those who want to explore the features and benefits of different tools before making a commitment, there are free project management software options worth considering.

Regardless of whether or not you hold a formal project management position or see yourself pursuing one in the future, the core methodologies of project management can be valuable to virtually all professionals.

Project management methodologies are considered to be the tools, techniques, processes, and best practices that guide someone through a set of tasks efficiently. It is no surprise, then, that these methodologies can be applied in any industry to almost any project. Getting familiar with some of the most popular project management methodologies—such as Scrum, Kanban, and Waterfall—can help you identify which process is best suited to your project or industry’s specific needs.




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