Time is a resource that no project manager can afford to waste. Managing a project is hard work, even for the projects that appear simple. This is because it often calls for a precise balance between the amount of work required and the available resources for it; time being part of those resources. As a project manager, you obviously strive to do the best you can to manage all the resources available for your project. If you have been having trouble meeting deadlines or milestones even after ensuring that the project is being handled correctly, you can relax in the knowledge that you are not alone.
There are certain time wasters that many managers are unaware of, or simply don’t think that they could be eating into the valuable resource of time. Here are the 5 biggest time wasters that may or may not come as a surprise to you, once you realize that they are actually some of the things you do:
Now you may be saying to yourself, ‘that’s not me’; all because procrastination is such a big word that outwardly portrays incompetence to a great extent. I assure you that you would be surprised at how often we do it without even knowing that it is what we are doing. Procrastination by itself is already considered one of the biggest project killers, more so when it involves important and high priority tasks, but there are other instances when you will find yourself procrastinating little things that end up negatively affecting the entire project. You get people who spend half their day debating pointless things. Last week I overheard two people discussing the Nespresso Citiz vs Inissia. Pointless!
Think of the number of times you have called your client or a member of your team but failed to reach them. When that happens, do you normally respond to that by planning to call again later and then forget to do so? The effect of this is almost similar to that of failing to get a timely feedback on important matters, and both of these will turn out to be a form of procrastination when you fail to do something about them promptly. Having a set procedure to make appropriate follow ups can go a long way in saving the time that would otherwise be wasted doing nothing but wait.
Really? Delegation is a time waster? Of course not, delegation is one of the greatest time savers for any project manager that uses it. It is both the lack of any delegation and poor procedures of delegating tasks to your team that form the big hole where all your valuable time ends up in. When you fail to delegate those tasks that can and should be delegated, you end up having to do everything yourself. The time you spend there would have been much more valuable elsewhere.
When you delegate, but fail to do it right, that task may end up being done inappropriately, which will result in you having to do it all again. That’s double time spent on a single task, one of which being a total waste. There is a proper process on how to create a procedure to delegate a task, and if you adhere to that, then delegation will never be a cause for time wasting on your part.
Communication is very important when handling a project. It also turns out to be a big time waster when done without clear purposes or intention. A lot of time can be spent talking on the phone with clients and the team, but if more than half of what you talk about has nothing to do with the project, then save such conversations for a time when you are off work. Time can still be wasted on other forms of communication such as emails and messages if they have nothing to do with the current project or work that you are doing.
Make use of project management software to handle matters of communication and other correspondence such as meetings between concerned parties. The fact that the management program has no emotions makes communication between everyone easier, clearer and more structured making it a great time saver
4. Office Chit Chat
This is a rather obvious time waster, and very few can claim not to be a victim of one or more occasions where they found a certain office conversation too tempting to ignore. Project managers working with a remote team might be among the few who can say they don’t have the problem, but that is not to say that they could never find themselves in such a situation. With things like live chats and conference calls available for them, proper meetings can often degenerate to a chit chat session if there is no proper preparation and a well laid out agenda.
Any unnecessary discussions should be avoided or put to a minimum; otherwise they are collectively going to become a huge time waster for you in the end. It is easy to call some of those chit chats a brainstorming session, but as project manager, you should always be able to discern between the two.
Multitasking is considered a skill, and a special one at that, where time is thought to be saved by doing more than one thing at a time. That is true to some extent, and some managers who are good at multitasking can manage to get a couple more things done at the same time. But the truth about the matter is that multitasking is one of the biggest time wasters for any project manager who does it. Surprised? Well don’t be, because research actually shows that multitasking takes a toll on productivity with regards to how the brain works.
Multitasking only works well for mundane tasks that require very little brain power. As soon as you take on more than one task, or project that requires careful thought and meticulous attention, that’s where problems start. The human brain isn’t wired to give that kind of attention to more than one thing at the same time, and therefore you will end up using more time than would have been required to do those things at different times.
Image: Leticia Chamorro