Tips from a Project Manager on Managing Your Workflow
As a full-stack marketing agency in Charleston, SC, we get it: workflows can be complex and elaborate. But project management itself doesn’t have to be. Despite the ever-changing landscape, managing multiple projects can be made less overwhelming if you know the right steps to take. That does not mean that it’s easy by any stretch, but at least you will have a default process in your back pocket. If you’re stuck in a ‘too many tabs too little time’ mentality, this post is for you. With a few tricks from our Project Manager, Victoria (who is a pro at staying ahead of deadlines and making sure the TDG team doesn’t lose our minds), you can get your workflows back under wraps!
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Every project begins with a plan. The key to a good plan, though, is to make sure you have your ducks accounted for and lined up in a nice, streamlined row. That means having the right tools and being able to effectively schedule, budget, and delegate. To maximize your efficiency, first, develop a broad plan of action, then break it down into more detailed, specific plans. As pessimistic as it sounds, you need to be a forward thinker: what could go wrong? Who is going to be responsible for what? Is the timeline reasonable? How can expectations be managed? Be thorough, but keep in mind that plans change, oftentimes at the worst times. Be flexible, adaptable, and open so that you can stay the course despite unexpected road bumps.
Tap Into the Power of Teamwork
You need to be able to bring out the best from all of your team members because, ultimately, the success of a project depends on the skills and abilities of the group. Doing so requires soft skills like communication, problem-solving, leadership, conflict resolution, decision making, organization, and so on and so forth. With these in your toolbelt, you can better allocate tasks and responsibilities based on the inherent strengths and weaknesses of every individual on the team. Once you have mastered this approach, you can tap into a whole new level of efficiency.
Leverage Project Management Tools
Technology can make or break the success of your projects. We can’t stress how important it is to invest in the right software and systems, even if your ‘investment’ is simply an investment of your time to set up your spreadsheets and internal controls and reminders for deadlines and contacts. Think about your internal needs and where your current workflow is lacking. Maybe you need a centralized platform to store files or collaborate and communicate. If you don’t have one already, you should also have a standardized way to track the progress of your projects. Regardless of which type of software and/or tools you opt to use, taking the time to do it right from the start can make all the difference in keeping your workflow manageable.
Log Everything (Yes, everything)
This entails something a bit more official than just writing what you have done on a sticky note. Every event, conversation, brainstorming session, task, and milestone should be logged and time-stamped for four main reasons. First, this helps keep an accurate record and timeline of events for the clients to review when the next billing cycle rolls around. Second, it acts as protection in terms of contract terms and liability for your team. When things start falling outside of the original project scope, you can evaluate the best way to move forward without disrupting the current workflow. Lastly, your team can review a project and find ways to improve for next time.
Clearly Communicate Plans & Procedures
Communication is key to a streamlined workflow. Make sure team members are CLEAR with project expectations, budgets, and time frames from the get-go. It’s better to get it all out there from the start so projects don’t get stalled or stretched thin. If (and when) you do get stuck or hit a snag, don’t let it sit. Procrastination is not your friend! Regular team meetings are a great way to keep everyone in the loop with project status updates. It’s also important to keep the lines of communication between you, your team, and your collective clients are always open. Honesty is the best policy, which is why it’s crucial to foster a collaborative culture in your office. You don’t want people to feel like they can’t come forward with questions, suggestions, or doubts, which can lead to frustration and hinder workplace productivity.
Evaluate Your Performance Goals
Once a project has been “completed”, it’s easy to overlook what should be your last step: performance analysis. (Hint: this is another place where having the proper technology comes into play). Evaluating project performance is an opportunity to improve things in the future and give recognition for a job well done. That way, if you plan to take on similar projects down the road, you can do so efficiently and effectively. To be able to properly measure performance, though, we need to take it back to the planning stage, where you should be setting priorities. These project goals should be lofty yet SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Don’t Get Complacent
Project management isn’t a one-and-done deal. While having a standardized process across the board is helpful, you should still revisit the procedures that are in place from time to time. Optimization is key! Be on the lookout for opportunities to improve the status quo. Actively think about the things that are working well and those that aren’t working so well. Are there consistent bottlenecks in your workflow? Is the performance of your team up to par? Keep asking the why’s until you figure out the root of the problem. Identifying these key areas of focus that you want to either fix or improve helps to break down the process. Once you have, start working to tackle one at a time. This can help you minimize company waste and maximize the value of your current resources.
There are endless ways to make your workflow more manageable, but putting a few of these tips into practice should at least give you a helpful starting point. Got another great idea for keeping your projects manageable? Reach out to us, we’d love to share it!