Keys to Managing Multiple Projects Within a Busy Agency
Linsay Foley Traffic Director
Managing multiple projects can be a daunting task even for the most seasoned project manager. Earlier in my career, I maybe had three to five big projects going at the same time, but now I manage multiple projects, and at times, it can be very stressful.
At Kinetic, we have over 100 active projects assigned to various members of our 16-person team. While these aren’t all assigned to my account team, you can imagine the number of projects that I (and the other project managers) touch every day. Here are a few strategies I keep in mind to better manage my time and keep projects moving forward
It is important to prioritize tasks or to-dos; otherwise, all tasks seem equally important or urgent. Then the question is, “Where do I start?”
I always ask myself, “What I can do to keep the project moving forward?” This may include getting project details to members of the creative team, building a schedule in our project management system, reaching out to vendors for print estimates or scheduling a client presentation, to name a few. Knowing which tasks have the greater impact helps me prioritize effectively and know what to tackle first.
MAKE A TO-DO LIST
When I have a laundry list of to-dos, it is easy to multitask and not dedicate full attention to the task at hand. That’s when the turtle race happens. You know, it’s when you’re juggling multiple tasks and can’t seem to get a single thing done. We’ve all been there.
One thing that works well for me is to create a to-do list every morning. I take the time to identify the top priorities, smaller tasks that can be batched and easily taken care of, and tasks that can wait. It helps schedule out my day and keeps me grounded.
Project managers probably interrupt their fellow team members with the most emails or Skype messages with deadlines, project specs, files, FYIs and questions … so many questions. We tend to check in often and make sure we’re apprised of the latest information.
Knowing the status of a task or the project overall or even projects coming down the pipeline is important so we can identify any potential problems, discuss solutions before any major delays occur and keep the work moving forward.
PLAN BUT BE FLEXIBLE
What is the scope, budget and timeline? What are the final deliverables? What are the potential risks? Who will be assigned to the tasks? Does that person have capacity to take on the task? Those are just a few of the questions that need to be answered before work begins to help streamline the project.
As much as I personally love a strict schedule, I remind myself that even the best-laid plans can still go awry. Interruptions, emergencies, unexpected rush projects are inevitable and can be frustrating. I always try to keep an open mind and flexible attitude. It goes a long way in helping deal with the ups and downs of managing multiple projects.
At Kinetic, we use a project management tool called Workamajig or the “Jig” as we call it. It is the hub for all projects and gives us real-time insights into all projects flowing through the agency.
With the click of a button, we can view everything from project schedules and task assignments to allocated hours and budgets to staff resourcing and more. We can view high-level information or drill down to the smallest details – like the day a person will work on a task and how many hours they can spend on the task. The Jig is an essential tool that saves us time and makes managing multiple projects a little less stressful.
For many project managers like me, personal checklists and project management tools are essential strategies. So is overcommunicating with others and remaining flexible to respond to changing circumstances.
Working as part of a collaborative team is also a key to juggling multiple projects. Fostering a culture of teamwork is another important strategy that keeps Kinetic moving forward.
Linsay has been managing client projects and budgets at Kinetic since February 2016. She comes from a newspaper background where she coordinated the production of more than 100 special projects a year. She thrives in a fast-paced world, inspired by awesome clients and a great team.
When Linsay isn’t wearing her project manager hat, she’s spending time with her husband and three rescue pups, Rusty, Mickey and Bryan, watching her favorite musicals (over and over again) or searching Pinterest for the next recipe to test out.