Managing Multiple Projects

In recent weeks, the number of projects I’ve been involved with has rapidly grown, from the few constants and a couple small projects, to several large projects, a few smaller projects, and a constant turn-over of hourly projects. When I sat down one day to work, and realized that I had 8 active projects to work on personally that day, I spent a few minutes thinking about how to approach all those projects, and keep all my clients happy.

The problem is actually one that many small businesses that grow face at some point in their transitionary period – where the word becomes more than one person can handle, and yet there is not quite enough work, or enough regular work, to justify employing another person to help out. A typical work-work goes from 40 hours to 60 hours to 80 hours – and there is still a reluctance to hire someone, despite the fact that there’s enough work for two. I digress, though, as this is the topic of another article regarding growth, expansion, and the first hire.

The first thing I did when I realized that I had more demands on my time than I was able to track was that I wrote down a detailed list of all the projects I was working on. For each project, I wrote down what the next few tasks were, and if there was a real deadline involved.

Each morning, I would clear the list of all completed tasks, and add in the next set of tasks for each project. I would then figure out which tasks were most important, and therefore had to be done immediately, which projects I hadn’t worked on in the last few days, and therefore deserve attention, and which were waiting for some other input out of my control.

I found that merely creating and looking at this list increased my productivity, for a few reasons.

First, it gave me the ability to clearly see where I stood on each project.

Second, it reduced the likelihood of me forgetting a project, thereby impacting relationships with my clients.

Third, it helped me by providing satisfaction at marking another item as complete, limiting the number of items I would start one day and leave hanging, incomplete, until the next day.

A piece of advice given to me by Jeremy Lichtman of Lichtman Consulting was as follows. Make sure you work every day on every project, even for a few minutes. The reasoning is that by putting in some effort every day, even the low priority projects will get worked on, as well as the projects that have become irritants. Otherwise, you run the risk of having low priority projects never get completed until they become high priorities, which is usually at the expense of a client relationship.

Do you have any other suggestions to share? Please comment, I would love to hear from you.