Conflicting priorities happen all the time, and a project manager’s main job is prioritizing and managing time. When you have a lot on your plate or, as in my case, multiple projects competing for your time, it can be hard to stay on top of things. But it’s important to know exactly what you spend your time on.
You Can Manage Multiple Projects
When you’re juggling multiple people and projects, it’s only a matter of time before priorities collide. When that happens, it’s easy to lose track of time and let things slide. We can try to put every organization of people and projects into neat little boxes that are idealized templates, but we all know that reality never works that way.
It’s Important to Prioritize and Plan Your Time Effectively
You need to communicate clearly with your team, clients, and stakeholders. You need to be flexible and able to adapt to changes throughout the project lifecycle. In this section, we’ll discuss how you can achieve these goals while dealing with competing priorities.
You also need to prioritize tasks effectively so that you don’t waste time on unimportant or low-value tasks at the expense of higher-value tasks that may require more effort from you or others to complete (and ultimately deliver) successfully.
There Are Three Important Steps to Managing Multiple Projects
- Prioritize your projects and goals. You can’t do everything at once. That’s why it’s important to prioritize your projects. This means don’t spread yourself too thin on different tasks that won’t bring you any income or help you achieve your goals.
- Plan your time effectively. Planning is key when you’ve multiple projects going on. If you plan your time effectively, you can identify which tasks need to be done first and which can wait for later.
- Manage competing priorities. Sometimes there is a conflicting priority between two or more projects that need to be done at the same time. In this case, you need to ensure that each task gets the attention it deserves before moving on to another task on a different project.
Eliminate Low-Priority Tasks and People From Your Day
It’s easy to get bogged down in low-priority tasks. They’re easy, don’t take much energy or effort, and may even be fun. But when we focus on these tasks instead of the ones that really matter, we end up wasting time and energy on things that aren’t as important as we think.
That’s why it’s important to eliminate low-priority tasks from your day. Here are some ideas on how you can do that:
- Prioritize your tasks. Focus on the most important tasks with the most impact and eliminate low-priority tasks.
- When dealing with conflicting priorities, pay attention to the difference between an important task and an urgent task. Sometimes an urgent task isn’t always the highest priority.
- Eliminate low-priority conversations, especially if you’re on a tight deadline. If a conversation doesn’t do anything for you or takes up too much time and energy, eliminate it!
- Don’t rush into conflicting low-priority conflicting demands, especially if they interfere with your time management. Everyone has an urgent task to do and conflicting deadlines, but that doesn’t mean your attention should be on all of them. If you’ve clear goals, you’ll know what’s urgent and what’s not.
- Eliminate low priority meetings from your schedule (or at least ensure they’re productive). If you can’t do this on your own, ask someone to help you prioritize which meetings are really worth attending (and even consider eliminating some altogether).
- Cross out low-priority emails from both ends of the spectrum: those that aren’t really important or urgent enough to warrant follow-up (e.g., “How are you?”)
Manage Your Time
A good time management strategy is essential for any business. It helps you get more done in less time, so you’ve more time for the things that really matter. Here are some strategies for your time management:
- Use a calendar and a project management tool.
- Make lists of things to do.
- Schedule time for tasks.
- Do one thing at a time.
- Use your calendar to avoid distractions.
- Take regular breaks to recharge your batteries.
- Delegate tasks when appropriate; don’t try to do everything yourself.
- Handle emails only once or twice a day, if possible – and only respond to emails that require an immediate response (if at all).
Decide where you want to focus your attention at any given time. You can’t do everything at once – decide what’s most important at the moment, and focus on that until it’s done before moving on to something else.
Assess Project Priorities and Set Clear Expectations for the Team
As a project manager, it’s your job to ensure that all tasks assigned to you and your team are completed on time. To do this effectively, evaluate the priorities of each task before you assign it. For example, if three tasks need to be completed today, and one of them is more important than the other two combined (e.g., making sure a customer demo goes smoothly), focus on completing that task first.
Set clear expectations for all project participants, so they know what’s expected of them. When multiple people are working together on a project, it can be difficult to determine who’s what role or responsibility if there are conflicts between each person’s priorities; however, if you clearly define roles and responsibilities up front, you can avoid future problems.
The easiest way to establish clear expectations and set priorities is to create an online task list where everyone can see all upcoming projects at a glance and know how much time needs to be spent on each one in a specific time frame (e.g., next week). This way, I can avoid being surprised by unexpected changes from other team members because everyone has access.
Set Priorities to Avoid Multitasking and Constant Interruptions
Multitasking and constant interruptions can cause a lot of problems. Here are some tips to help you deal with it:
- Prioritize. Make a list of things that need to get done, and then focus on one thing at a time. Put off the less important tasks until later so you’ve time to get them done right.
- Don’t take on too much. If your workload is too heavy, delegate some of it or look for ways to automate some tasks, so you’ve more time for the important ones.
- Turn off notifications. This can help you avoid distractions while you’re working on something important. This is also a good practice when you want to focus on something important and need some quiet time to get it done right.
Manage Communication Channels
Communication is important for any business. It’s how you share information, ideas and thoughts with your colleagues, customers, and partners.
You can have a single communication channel or several. This way, you can avoid confusion and misunderstandings. It’s also helpful because you can decide how much effort and time each channel requires and then use the channel that best fits your needs.
Make sure you control how they communicate with you, and not the other way around, or you’ll end up spending your time looking for old messages.
Avoid Too Many One-on-One Conversations Unless It’s Necessary
One-on-one meetings cost time and aren’t always efficient because the rest of the team doesn’t know what else is happening. On the other hand, for certain tasks, it can be a waste of time for the entire team to attend a meeting that doesn’t involve them. Therefore, you need to weigh which way is the most efficient and leads to a result.
If you have a team member who needs help with a task, it’s better to send him or her an email or chat message instead of scheduling a meeting. That way, you can track progress and stay in touch with your team at all times.
It’s also important that you don’t schedule too many one-on-one meetings with your team members. Scheduling too many meetings can cause delays and inefficiencies by creating bottlenecks in your project’s workflow.
I Deal With Conflicting Priorities Every Day
No one solution fits all; it depends on the person and their situation.
The most important thing is to know what you want, why you want it, and what’s preventing you from getting it. Then you need to act and make changes as needed until you find what works for you.
- Be honest about your priorities – Know what’s important to you – and why. If there are things that don’t work, don’t ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. Instead, face them and decide if they’re worth dealing with the conflict they bring into your life.
- Set boundaries – If something isn’t working for you because you don’t have enough time or energy, set boundaries so that this task doesn’t take up your schedule or consume all of your free time. For example, if you only have so much time in the day, but there are too many projects on your desk (or in your inbox), learn how to delegate tasks efficiently, so they get done without taking up more time than necessary.
- Find solutions – When something isn’t working, don’t dwell too long on negativity; focus on solutions, and if you don’t have any, see what your team suggests. You may be surprised to find that there are some brilliant people on your team. I personally find team brainstorming enriching and refreshing!
Remember that your priorities won’t always meet everyone’s expectations of you. It’s not always easy to deal with conflicting priorities, especially when you have multiple conflicting priorities and multiple tasks to complete. Your most important task is to make sure that competing priorities don’t keep you from achieving your goal