Four Helpful Tips to Project Manage Your Day
British Bulldog, Sir Winston Churchill, once puckered his lips over a wet cigar and grumbled, “Time. You should have managed it better, ol’ chap.”
Okay. Even though I just made that quote up, I think it’s an important sentiment he probably would have said if he knew how you managed your time every day…
We only have a certain amount of time on any given day, so why not optimize what we can do with it? You can laugh, but I created a paper plate award for myself titled World’s Worst Procrastinator.
With this self-proclamation, I feel I can provide some helpful tips from a project management standpoint that will help you carpe that diem, get shit done and slay all day.
Tip #1: Find a tool that helps you manage your day
The chosen ones may be able to remember each of the items they are responsible for completing any given day. However, the rest of us simple-folk may need to rely on tools to assist our giant brains. Here are a few of my favorite tools/tactics that help me get through my day:
Many organizations rely on an internal project management tool to deliver client work on time. At Vertical Measures, we use Workfront and have enjoyed success with our partnership. Regardless of what tool your team uses, make sure it’s easily and highly customizable to your business or personal needs.
We manage all client deliverables via this tool using templates which allow for easily manageable project creation and governance. We can also set up custom projects when needed (which is frequent due to the nature of digital marketing).
Workfront also has very robust reporting, so our team is able to measure the effectiveness of our daily projects; how long it takes to complete a task; which tasks are consistently late or early; which projects billed over hours and so on.
There are other tools out there which may be better suited for smaller scale projects, such as Asana. Teams can collaborate to add tasks, assign to team members, set due dates, share documents and comment. Once a comment is made in the tool, a user is notified via email, so nothing slips through the cracks.
Philipp Haese, Business Operations and Strategy Consultant at trivago boasts about the tool, “Our team is managing many complex projects across trivago, and with Asana we keep all the information we need in one place – so we can get right to work instead of spending time looking through emails, spreadsheets, and handwritten notes.”
Set Up Calendar Alerts
I manage my time using calendar alerts. When organizing my tasks, I set an outlook calendar event with an alert set up (typically 15 minutes prior to the event). I use this when I’m creating an agenda for an upcoming call or a personal alert for when I need to pick up milk at Fry’s. You can also create a calendar event from an email (in Outlook) which makes the process very simple.
[Right click on email > Create > Appointment]
Create Good ol’ Fashioned Checklists
I love technology, I really do. But to me, nothing is more satisfying than that pen-to-paper feeling as I check off tasks on my legal pad (right next to my Baby Groot and Elvis figurines).
I write down items I know I’ll forget; items that don’t necessarily have a due date but need to get done at some point. I’ve filled dozens of legal pads in my day as a project manager and to me, it’s one of the most effective ways to get something done. If I have an action item with your name next to it on my list, you’d better watch out, because I’m coming for you!
Tip #2: Find a Process that Helps Manage Your Time
I typically end my day by creating a to-do list for the next morning. I review my already scheduled meetings, determine what action items are needed prior to those starting and build a list.
What has to get done before mid-day? Work on those items first thing in the morning. Can something wait until the afternoon? Excellent.
Have you ever had so much to do in a day that you don’t know how you’re going to complete it? Me too.
Try setting aside blocks of time to work on certain tasks. For example, if you know you have 36 emails to answer, block off time on your calendar from 1:00-2:00 PM to work on only answering those emails. Time blocking is extremely effective when it comes to prioritizing certain tasks while also letting the rest of the office know you’re too busy to talk about the latest Bachelor episode.
There are some cool features in Gmail and Outlook where you can ignore the rest of the world for a while. Here’s how to ‘Work Offline’ in Outlook. This pauses all incoming emails from being delivered to your inbox until you manually turn it off.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to turn it back on when you’re done!
Tip #3: Email Organization – How to Reach Inbox Zero
As a project manager, I work a lot in my inbox responding to client or internal emails. I’m always striving for inbox zero. If you’re one of those people who has 2,547 unread emails in your inbox, I’m here to help. Here are some important tips for organizing your email:
- Create a folder structure that makes sense to you.
- I have a folder for each client that I work with which is even further broken down by certain projects (when applicable). This method allows me to easily file away certain emails and makes them especially easy to find when I need to reference them in the future.
- When an email has been fully addressed – I file it away. If there are open action items, I leave the email in my inbox as a visual reminder.
Pro Tip: File your sent items, too, so you can see your responses in the same folder.
Tip #4: Effective Meeting Scheduling
Optimizing the time in your day can be as easy as running an effectively scheduled meeting. I’ll admit it, I’m not good a small talk. I get right to the point which makes my meetings runs smoothly and my boyfriend uncomfortable. Here’s what I do:
- Create an agenda beforehand and send to relevant parties
- That way, everyone knows what we plan to cover and gives an outline for the items that need to be discussed.
- Set meeting times from 1 hour to 45 minutes or from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.
- For example, start a meeting at 1:15PM instead of 1:00PM. This allows for people to actually show up on time. If you give people that extra 15 minutes to get to the next meeting room, it allows for the meeting to start as scheduled.
- Don’t use the entire scheduled time!
If you cover everything on the agenda and you still have 15-minutes left in the meeting – let everyone leave! Take easy wins when you can get them and help make everyone on your team more efficient.
Remember, many meetings don’t need to be problem-solving sessions. Instead, they can set a frame work for how we can collaboratively work together to solve the issue offline.
When you effectively manage your time, you’re able to have a more productive day. Everyone is busy, but by having actionable goals, the right tools and following my Pro Tips, you can have the most productive day possible. So you can be chillin’.
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About Shana Sullivan
Shana is a seasoned project manager who specializes in working with businesses to perfect their digital marketing strategy efforts. She oversees a range of projects, from content development for small businesses to in-depth SEO strategies for large enterprise-level organizations. Shana is also a trainer for Vertical Measures, teaching their signature half-day content marketing workshops around the country.
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