Projects are stressful. Working on a tight deadline is even more stressful, and can lead to feelings of burnout and wasted effort. Some people thrive under the pressure, but most of us are constantly wishing we had more time in the day and a more productive day at that.
Organizations today expect you to become increasingly more efficient with your time and effort, so the need to improve your productivity is not only crucial to the project at hand, but your own career. So, how can you streamline your projects to get work done faster?
Here are 5 practice tips that will to help increase your project productivity:
1. Find the Shortcuts in Your Plan
You do have a plan, right? It makes no sense to approach any project without first taking the time to draft a plan so that you can complete it on time and within budget.
Even if someone else is the de facto project manager, guiding the overall plan, it doesn’t hurt for you to make your own project plan or (if you can) gain visibility into the plan.
Your project plan doesn’t have to be extremely complex. But do take time to make sure you’ve documented the major milestones and goals for each section of your project.
Now look at that plan closely, carefully. There are probably some sections or tasks that can be removed to get you where you want to be quicker without sacrificing any of your basic goals. If you have to, look at the plan from different perspectives and invite colleagues in to give advice. Those conversations will likely open up areas that you can tighten or schedule more efficiently.
2. Automate What You Can
There are going to be a slew of things you have to do in the course of your project that are repetitive and tedious, but are nonetheless important to track your progress. While you can’t delete them from the process, you can find ways to automate core functions, so they’re not taking up your valuable time.
Use your existing apps and tools, or investigate project management software apps out there to help you, as those have a lot of automation features to make your job so much easier. For example, you don’t have to manually figure out, by tracking for hours in an Excel spreadsheet, if your project is on track. There are one-click reports and real-time dashboards that do that for you.
Some of the other tasks that may be better suited for whatever management software you’re using would be your weekly status updates, filling out a timesheet or expense forms. All these and probably more of your day-to-day tasks can be automated to free your time for more important, productive matters.
3. Know that Plans Change
You have a plan (now that you’re cut to the bone for maximum efficiency) and you’ve set aside the routine work to be automated, so now what? Don’t put that plan on the table and forget about it. You have to follow the plan, naturally, but sometimes the plan will have to adapt to the changing environment of your project.
And projects are constantly in flux.
The important thing is that you are the one who evolves the plan, because you are the one who is overseeing all the various moving parts. Therefore, maybe you can work with your teammates or vendors or suppliers to discover new ways to squeeze a bit more efficiency from the plan as it changes in real time.
In other words, when plans change… use those changed to your advantage where you can to maximize efficiency throughout the entire project.
4. Move Things (and People) Around
What this means is that sometimes you can apply more of your resources to your project and get it done faster. Of course, you may not have the budget or time to finagle this, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move around what you already have. Take something away from one aspect of the job and shift it to another that needs it more.
This is a way to maximize your efficiency. If one part of your plan is going smoothly, maybe even ahead of schedule, then you can turn your attention and the resources you had been using on that side of the project, to another part of the work that is in more critical need. This change can only be temporary, but by not staying fixed and remaining fluid in your management of the work, you can get more done.
There are some tasks you’ll find in your work that are more time-consuming than others. There’s also your own capacity to get things done and the inevitable burnout that can occur if you give every part of your project the same amount of concentrated energy. It’s just not realistic to work that way.
One way to avoid this burnout is by picking out the more complex parts of the project and completing them first, if at all possible. This keeps you and your teammates fresh and morale higher during the hump part and ending of the work. They’ll be more likely to face the final stages of the work with a good mindset.
Projects are work. There’s no way around it. But they don’t have to always be laborious. You can look at the project with a critical eye and devise a smart and efficient plan to tackle it, while staying flexible in the process to find efficiencies in the change. Productivity isn’t magic. Follow these simple rules, though, and you’ll reap positive results.