When it comes to project management, one of the key concerns that any project manager will have is productivity. In fact, increasing productivity is always an important consideration for any project manager, whether they have been working in the field for years or are newly qualified. Being able to deliver the required results to clients and stakeholders is something that every project manager wants to achieve.
Productivity is often used as a measure of how well things are progressing, and whether a team are operating efficiently. As is to be expected, just like with other areas of leadership, the levels of productivity in a team will begin when a project manager themselves begins to improve at what they do.
As a project manager it is therefore not enough to simply look at how you can assist you team in becoming more productive in the workplace, it is also important to consider way in which you can also increase your own personal productivity.
How can you increase your own productivity?
The type of person who usually ends up being a project manager is someone who is good at getting things done. The problem is once you become a project manager there are even more things to do, and no more time to do them in. Prioritising is vital if you want to keep on top of everything. To this end, one simple project management tool that you can use to help you achieve this is the Eisenhower Matrix.
This is a method that can help you to categorise your tasks based on their levels of importance and urgency, then you can prioritise them. There are four categories your tasks may fall into:
- Urgent and important
- Not urgent, but important
- Not important, but urgent
- Not urgent and not important
Drawing a simple chart to visualise and using the Eisenhower Method regularly will help you to make prioritising something you do as a matter of course on any project you undertake.
Strategically schedule your day
Whether you are one of those people who arrive at work full of energy or someone who needs a strong cup of coffee before you can begin it is important to think about when you are most productive at work. Schedule the most difficult tasks on your list for this period. Save the more basic tasks for that period in the day when you are not quite as productive. For some, this may be first thing in the morning, for others, a post lunch slump.
One of the most important things any project manager needs to remember is that they are, only human, just like the rest of the team. This means that it is simply not possible to do everything. Learning to delegate some of the less important tasks can be tricky but this is a skill that you need to learn, and preferably sooner rather than later. When you don’t delegate your workload, it may be more than one person can actually handle and trying to keep on top of this can easily lead to burn out.
Distractions are all around us and like it or not it is these distractions, no matter how small they are, that are destroying our productivity. Put your mobile on silent, and turn off your notifications for your emails, remove the basic distractions that can destroy your focus for the work that you need to do.
If you always thought multitasking was the way to go with a heavy workload then think again. Scientific research has actually found that multitasking, switching quickly between a number of different tasks, can actually take more time and energy that just working on one task and then moving to the next. So create your list of work that needs to be done, in order of importance, and work through it one task at a time.
Taking breaks, particularly when you feel snowed under, may seem counterproductive but again there has been significant research in this area that shows that taking breaks can in fact help to increase productivity levels. Regular breaks can help with both mental and physical health and give you a chance to boost your energy for whatever task you are tackling.
Of course if you are in the “flow” of a particular piece of work it is wise to wait until you have finished before you take a break. A break can be as simple as grabbing a coffee, taking a short walk, or even doing another task like tidying your desk.
Reduce your number of meetings
There is no doubt that meetings are a vital necessity when it comes to project management however there is a good deal of thought around the topic “meetings that could have been emails.” Not every meeting is actually necessary so before you call a meeting ask yourself, could this be dealt with in a series of emails that would save every ones time?
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t schedule any meetings, in fact there are some things that can really only be dealt with in a meeting type setting. Some people actually prefer face to face meetings as well, so it is worth considering this when deciding what to deal with via email and what to deal with as an in person meeting.
So having looked at a number of ways in which a project manager themselves can increase their own productivity with just a few relatively simple and easy to make changes to the everyday routine it is important to also look at how a project manager can also help their team to increase productivity. Remember it is often easier to lead by example so a good project manager will make sure that they have looked at their own working practises.
How can you increase the productivity of your team?
Goals should be realistic
Just as goals are a vital part of the workload for a project manager in terms of being productive, they are also essential for members of a team. Every single individual who is involved in a project needs goals, and they need to be good ones. When there is a lack of well defined goals in place for a project this can be a major problem that will contribute to failure of the project.
Take time before a project gets underway to sit down and work out what the goals should be. They need to be realistic, measurable and above all clear. In order to do this you may find that asking the following questions can be incredibly helpful:
- Is this goal achievable with the time, resources, and project management skills that are available to us – in other words are we being realistic?
- Do we understand exactly what is being asked of us? – is the information that we have clear?
- Are there quantifiable indicators that we can use to judge our success in respect of each goal? – is this measurable?
Any goals that you put in place for a team will of course be different to those that you set for yourself and that is understandable. When you are preparing your project plan you need to remember to ask your team for their input. Ask them what their goals should be not just as individuals but also as a team.
When it comes to the planning of any project it is really important to consider those all important Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), these should be in the form of
- project timelines
- quality expectations
It is important to check on your KPI’s over the course of your project, and also to keep track on the progress of the project. This will allow you to catch any of those issues that can cause problems to your productivity levels and give you the chance to make any necessary corrections quickly. Good reporting tools can help with this, but it is important to make sure everyone knows how to use them for maximum effectiveness. W
When you reach a KPI it is important to celebrate this with your team, it will alert everyone to the fact that you have achieved one of your goals but perhaps more importantly it will help to show the members of the team that they are appreciated.
We have already touched on meetings, and it is certainly that case that not all meetings are necessary however if you do need to have a meeting it is worth considering the “standing meeting.” As the name suggests this is a meeting where everyone is standing up, you might sometimes here them referred to as “stand-ups.”
As can be expected when everyone is standing up for a meeting, and not slumped in a chair, there is less likely hood of time being wasted. People will be more to the point, issued resolved and everyone free to return to their desks much quicker. In short if you don’t want a lengthy meeting, but a meeting is necessary, consider making it a more productive stand-up.
A healthy work environment
A positive work environment can help to increase productivity in a number of different ways. When team members are feeling happy, they are more likely to take risks, calculated ones, with their work, think creatively and be more organised at work. They are also more likely to support the other members of the team.
A healthy, happy, work environment is one that can actively boost productivity. Happy people enjoy what they are doing and when you enjoy your work you want to succeed which has a positive effect on the entire team and adds up to an increase in overall productivity.
Having the right tools
If you don’t have the right tools for the job, it can make things much harder, and this can have a significant impact on productivity. You wouldn’t try to cut a tree down with a butter knife so don’t expect your team to work without the right project management tools in place. This means having the right software, but more importantly ensuring that everyone actually knows how to use it properly. There is nothing worse, and more frustrating than promoting something as being really helpful but then now making sure people know how it can be helpful. Frustration can really slow productivity down.
The bottom line
There are plenty of things that you can do as a project manager to help improve the productivity of your team. However, the biggest thing that you can do to help productivity levels is communicate with your team, listen to them, and promote a happy working environment. After all, when people are happy, they stay in their roles. Happy people are more productive, so don’t spread the resources you have too thin and remember that with the right planning you can actually achieve more by doing less.
About the Author
Paul Naybour is the Business Development Director for Parallel Project Training. He is a well-known speaker in the APM Branch Network, a Project Management Trainer and Consultant. He also runs the PM news site Project Accelerator.