Top 7 Tips for Managing Multiple Projects
By Kevin Kearns
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My mom belongs to a group called the Red Hat Society. When she says "Great, another hat!" she actually means "Great, another hat!" When you hear this at work, the person means something entirely different. The difference is, my mom actually has a new hat, whereas the rest of us simply have another responsibility. Taking on new projects and multi-tasking seems to be common across all industries. The good news about this trend is that people accomplish more. The not-so-good news is that most people are not natural born multi-taskers. This results in more work at sub-par quality and/or burned-out leaders!
These seven tips have been created to help you manage multiple projects, with less stress
- Just Say No!: "Not Gonna Do It - Wouldn't Be Prudent." We can all agree, it is disappointing to have people say "no" to us when we ask them to accomplish a task. We can also agree it is more disappointing when a person says yes and then does not complete the task. If you honestly cannot accomplish a task, say "no." It may be painful at the time, but you save everyone from more pain later. You may be in a position where saying no is not an option, or your "no" response is rejected. When that is the case, continue to the other six tips.
- Think Big Picture: How Do All of These "Hats" fit on The Big Hat Rack? If you can see how all these hats fit together to help your organization achieve its objectives, it may make the extra effort worthwhile. Another part of the big picture is that you will learn and grow from the experience of dealing with more hats. The hat handling of today will build your capacity to handle more in the future. Looking at the big picture, allows you to see that there may be a big return on investment in these hats.
- Pass It On: Delegate Appropriate Tasks or Projects. Help build the hat handling capacity of your staff. You are hurting them and yourself by handling everything. Even if the project is too important to hand off, pick a few small associated tasks for them to complete. The more hats they can handle, the brighter their future. Their brighter future just so happens to mean fewer hats for you today!
- Organize & Prioritize: It's Not Always First Come First Serve. We all have too much data passing through our minds to remember all of it. Great leaders organize their responsibilities to achieve more. Just as important, great leaders prioritize those responsibilities. It does little good to complete a bunch of minor projects when the higher priority project is left undone. It would be great to get them all done, but if you have to choose, organize and prioritize so that you make the best use of your time.
- Don't Forget!: Review, Review, Review. Most leaders are familiar with that sinking feeling when they realize they missed a deadline. With hats flying to and fro, it is no wonder that some hats get dropped, stepped on, and just plain neglected. Developing the habit of reviewing your present and future deadlines will help you avoid forgetting hats. Many leaders find it useful to review their deadlines at the end of the day or at the beginning of the next day.
- If The Hat Fits...: But If It Doesn't Fit - Give it Away or Throw It OUT! "We have always done it that way" is a terrible justification to keep doing something that way. If you have a hat that has outgrown its usefulness, consider doing something with it. Perhaps a large hat can now be downsized by cutting away needless aspects. Can this hat be handled by someone on your team? Simply throwing the hat away may be the best option.
- Learn to Juggle Hats!: Expect More Hats to Come. The telephone didn't do it. The fax machine didn't do it. Email sure hasn't done it. None of the great time savers are saving time as hoped. So far, the hats keep finding out how to fill that saved time. Perhaps hats are like those Chinese handcuffs, the more you struggle to get free, the tighter the grip. The secret to becoming free is to stop wrestling with your situation - accept that the unexpected hats will keep coming.
In boxing, they say it is the punch you don't expect that does the most damage. However, if you prepare yourself before hand, you lessen its effect, or hopefully avoid the punch altogether. The above tips are meant to help you prepare for those hats that sometimes feel like punches. Can you hear the theme from Rocky playing in the background? Now go get 'em Champ!
Kevin Kearns is President of Kearns Advantage (http://www.kearnsadvantage.com), a leadership coaching company. Kearns Advantage works with business leaders to define and improve results, guaranteed! Kevin holds a Master of Science degree in Organization Development and is a member of the Coachville Graduate School of Coaching. Kevin also mediates business disputes for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.
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Article Submitted On: November 02, 2004