5 Project Management Tips for Non-Project Managers

Project Management

by Joseph Griffin

Kevin Currie

Joseph A. Griffin,  PMP®  is a faculty member in Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Project Management program. He is an active member of the international chapter of the Project Management Institute, and serves as the VP of Professional Development for the PMI-Metrolina chapter in Charlotte, NC.

As a certified Project Management Professional, people always ask me how to best manage their time. Here are some of my secret tips. They’re especially useful in balancing classwork with a career and personal life.  

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Before beginning a project, stop and think: “Where do I start, and where do I want to end up?” All successful projects have a specific starting and ending point. Like a marathon runner envisioning the finish line, if you understand that arc and constantly envision your goal, you’ll remain true to it. Envisioning your end goal will also help you push aside distractions. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Understand your scope.

When you’re managing any kind of project you need to understand your mission.You will be constantly bombarded with people attempting to change the project’s direction. You need to be able to say “no” to protect your scope. If you’re not sure what the scope of a project is, talk to your stakeholders (anyone who has a vested interest in your project). Ask yourself: What do I need to produce for these influencers to meet their expectations? These items are considered “mission critical.” Feel comfortable declining other requests. Really!

3. Be considerate.

When you’re managing a project, it’s easy to get so bogged down that you forget life is actually going on without you. Come up for air and let your colleagues and family understand your needs. Good communication will only help you prioritize your time. Make sure to let your family know how much time you need to spend on various projects and carve out that time in advance; by the same token, keep your colleagues and classmates informed about your schedule. When do you work best? What time do you reserve for personal commitments? Be clear and firm.  

4. Manage risks.

Risk management is hugely important to project management, especially for adult learners trying to balance work with school. Identify risks, analyze them and plan a risk-response strategy. This could be as simple as realizing that you don’t work well at night; maybe you’re a morning person. So plan a classwork strategy that mitigates the risk of unproductivity. Set aside time in the morning for working and let people know that this is “your” time. Set up a process that works for you, even if it’s at 2 a.m., and stick to it!

5. Avoid perfectionism.

Guess what: Completing a project “perfectly” is a waste of energy and a waste of effort. Maybe it matters to you personally whether you get a 3.7 versus a 3.4—but nobody else is going to know or care! Here’s an example. Each week, my classes have discussion board questions. Students need to post three times. Some post three times; others post 15. You get full credit either way. If you’re balancing other priorities—work, family life—recognize that time management and restraint is a big part of success.


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