How is it that Elon Musk is able to balance full-time gigs as the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX?
Keep in mind that he’s not alone, you have Jack Dorsey balancing Square and Twitter and the late Steve Jobs who famously ran both Apple and Pixar simultaneously.
While I’m not suggesting you go out and build multiple companies, it’s a reality that project managers routinely find themselves in charge of multiple complex projects at the same time.
Seeing as this is one of the most common dilemmas I hear about, I thought I’d share with you our top insights for running multiple projects simultaneously.
ClickUp’s Principles for Managing Multiple Projects:
- Organization & Structure
- Implement Sprints
- Optimize Retention & Decision-Making
- Systematic Status Updates
- High-Level Delegation
So, let’s begin:
#1 Organization & Structure
In project management, as in life, the old maxim holds true: “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”
Revolutionary stuff right?! Now before you run off to tell your friends about my groundbreaking insight, I’d like to elaborate a bit on why there’s more to this than meets the eye.
First of all, it’s easy to spend your time “preparing” but what matters is that everything is in place so that you’re able to flow between one project and another with ease.
It’s not about spending time, it’s about having what you need to perform at a high level:
- Organized communication channels (Slack, ClickUp, Email, etc.)
- Logical categories with organized tasks within your project management software
- Clear processes in place for handling fires should they occur in one – or both – projects.
ClickUp integrates all this functionality in one place, and goes as far as to make toggling across projects a breeze without needing to mentally “shift-gears” as you transition back and forth throughout the day.
Normally, you have to make a number of “projects” for one project – but with ClickUp’s elegant hierarchy, teams can use categories and sections to divide projects into manageable entities
In addition, ClickUp also offers a proprietary “multi-task toolbar” to manage a variety of tasks at once.
While some teams may prefer integrating with a variety of tools for each function, the most important thing is that you have the systems in place that you’ll need to move your projects forward.
#2 Implement Sprints
Even without adopting a full scrum approach, you’d be amazed at the impact Sprints can have in isolation.
By reorienting your team around high-intensity bursts of coordinated effort, you can consolidate work that would otherwise take weeks to complete.
The main reason for this is “Context Switching”, which basically just means that when you’ve been working on a problem all day it’s easy to know what needs to get done and why.
However, if you’re revisiting something after a few days (or weeks), it takes time for you to get back up to the same “cruising speed” you were previously enjoying.
Another reason, though less acute, is the psychological effect of rallying a team around a shared cause.
When you can energize a group and feed off one another with a specific, meaningful goal in mind, you benefit from the obvious byproducts of an engaged and committed team.
Lastly, many projects suffer from a lack of focus in their day-to-day operations.
By focusing on a single goal and doing tasks related to that goal (the foundation of a Sprint), nobody has any uncertainty about what their purpose is or why.
#3 Optimize Retention & Decision Making
It’s important to allow your mind to absorb key information and consider hard decisions before rushing into another deluge of reports from a different team.
While it can sometimes feel like you’re wasting time, planning meetings in a way that allows you to take time and reflect afterwards can have an enormous impact on retention.
By giving yourself this space, you’re increasing your ability to impact your team with compelling insights and better decisions.
The immediacy of results makes this something you should implement with your team no matter what your current situation.
#4 Systematic Status Updates
So, how do you ensure that tasks are being updated (a) regularly and (b) accurately?
If you don’t already have an answer to this question, stop everything you’re doing because, without this, any project management efforts you make are doomed from the get-go.
Even though everybody knows you should “keep people up to date”, few teams have a process in place that ensures systematic status updates.
People want to do a good job, but you have to make it easy for them to do so and make sure they know what to do.
How to Do Systematic Status Updates:
Step 1: Assign ownership for each task to a single individual who is aware of their responsibility for the task.
Step 2: Define your expectations. Write down the exact steps a task owner is expected to follow (in respect to updating its status) and on what timeframe (“update x, y, and z each day” vs. “update x once a week”)
Step 3: Schedule accountability by having third-parties (either an employee in a different department or yourself) review that task owners are following the protocol correctly.
Step 4: Learn from mistakes and improve. If protocol is not being followed, review to see if the effect(s) are better or worse for the overall goals of the team. If worse, look for issues with the protocol itself (ambiguity, imprecision, lack of nuance) that could have caused the breach in protocol and address any specific negative consequences as appropriate. If better, implement/update protocol and reward employee(s) for their creativity and/or initiative.
The most important thing is ensuring that your expectations and clearly defined and that there is no room for misunderstanding.
This is tough to get on day 1, but as long as you reflect after any misunderstandings you’ll be able to develop a system that works extremely smoothly.
#5 High-Level Delegation
While this one is so obvious it’s tempting to leave it off the list, I’ve seen so many teams fail to delegate effectively that it’s clear to me many teams don’t fully understand the fundamentals of delegation.
The three pillars of effective delegation are clarity, authority, and accountability.
Without all three, any delegation efforts you attempt will cause more damage than anything else.
If you’re empowering a designer to build a new landing page, they need to be 100% clear on exactly what the goal is, what the specific expectations are, when the deadline is, what resources they have at their disposal, and what authority they have to make decisions.
Without clarity, your team will take stabs in the dark and will inevitably meander down the wrong path.
However, when the destination and path are both clear, you’re empowering your team in a way that saves you time and effort while also giving them fulfilment.
I recommend using software that forces you to define tasks in a way that is logical and clear for your team, thus minimizing the possibility of issues arising.
The foundation of ClickUp is built upon being able to drill-down to a granular level while at the same time able to observe from a high level perspective.
Click Up’s proprietary box view is a high level starting point which allows you to drill down into any facet of a project.
Not every team should be balancing multiple projects, but sometimes opportunity calls and all of a sudden you have no input on how many projects you manage.
In any case, the best thing you can do is implement the advice above and ensure you have the systems in place to run multiple projects successfully.
Whether you combine multiple tools, or just use ClickUp, it’s crucial that you position yourself to succeed from the outset.