How to manage multiple projects: practical tips

01 Oct

Managing a lot of projects at the same time takes practice. At the moment I am doing eight (8) simultaneously. It used to be very hard. I sent mails to the wrong people, made adaptations in the wrong files, tested on the wrong platforms, … you name it. But when time goes by, people tend to get a little smarter. (I hope I do anyway) You learn new things by doing, master new skills, manage your time better. That’s the key to managing multiple projects: manage your time.

To help you conquer the mountain of work you might have before you: here are a few tips to make sure the mountain doens’t fall on Mohammed.

1. Take notes

In the initial concept phase of a project, ideas tend to fly around freely and discussion tend to get out of control. To make sure everyone remembers the same thing, make sure to take notes. If you have the time, at the end of the meeting summarize them verbally so everyone knows what is said and what they need to do.

2. Make detailed briefings

After this first meeting, write everything down in a structural way and send it to everyone that has even the slightest of affinity with the project. Everyone needs to know where you’re at. They can always delete the file if they don’t want to read it. And of course it is a great way to cover yourself in case someone says “I didn’t know that.” The answer to this question is easy: “Yes you did. It was in the briefing.” Trust me, after someone asks this question a few times, they will definitely read briefings more carefully.
In this briefing, be sure to include: short project description, contact details of everyone involved, deadlines, open issues, next meeting date (if already set) and a list of next steps.

3. Make structured to do lists

Per project, make a list of what needs to be done. Include deadlines, assignees, reviewers and of course the task. This way, people can just open the document, see what needs to be done by when and do it. In a perfect world this would be done automatically. Alas, the world is not perfect by far, so again, this can be used as a way to say “I told you so.”.

4. Keep versions

When you are making a product and keep revising it. It is best to keep the different versions instead of only saving the last updated file. Not only you can track progress like this, you can always refer to it later if you need to.

5. Categorize!

Whether it is in your file browser, image browser, mail program, or just on your desk: make sure to seperate all projects from each other. For example: In my inbox in Outlook, there is only one (1) mail. Every mail that comes in to my outlook is immediately categorized. I have folders for every project and it’s the best decision I have ever made. If the mail contains a todo, I flag it and get back to it later. If you work this way, every project will remain separate and you will always find the mails you’re looking for much more easily.

6. 1 project / 1 mail

Do not send mails concerning more than one project. This is a sure way to mix everything up.

Bonus tip:

Shut down your mail regularly.
If you’re really swamped, just turn off your mail program. If there are urgent matters people will know where to find you, you can count on it.
In the meantime, you are free to work on any project you choose.

Always keep your cool. Do not get upset. Tomorrow is another day because the world will not end if you don’t answer a mail.

Do you have more handy tips? Comment below and we’ll see if it gets added.



Posted by on October 1, 2009 in My 2 cents


Tags: , ,

2 responses to “How to manage multiple projects: practical tips

  1. PM Hut

    October 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I like your last point and the bonus tip. The email about multiple projects is extremely confusing, and hard to archive (if you setup folders for every project, where are you going to place it). Now about the last tip, this is an excellent one and I use it all the time. There’s nothing worse than wasting the whole day with back and forth emails.

    • mdepiere

      October 2, 2009 at 7:19 am

      Thanks for the comment.
      I hope to me as useful in my posts in the future too.


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