Managing projects can be difficult for small companies, and when there are multiple at the same time, everything can get a bit hectic. Here 10 business owners share tips on how your business can manage multiple projects at once.
Andy Cook, Tettra
One of the problems I often feel myself and see a lot of other entrepreneurs run into is not thinking enough about investing time up front in processes that help save time later.
When you own a business, there’re so many problems that crop out of nowhere and the obvious solution is to just solve the most pressing issue as fast as possible yourself.
However, the optimal strategy is usually to think about how you can solve the root cause of the issue by either eliminating it, or setting up a process where the problem could be solved again by another person before it even bubbles up to you.
This is where a great internal knowledge base comes where you can document processes and repetitive answers is key. It admittedly does take a bit of extra time up front, but the savings in the future can be tremendously valuable.
Victor Hs, vctr (Freelance Seo Specialist in Singapore)
I run a productized marketing biz, microtask.com, a few (small) local publications, niche affiliate/traffic sites & dabble in domaining/crypto. What enabled me to manage decently well with all these, is having a proper filing & recall system – widely underrated.
It takes you a while to get a system up that works for you (i.e notion, google docs, sheets, proper bookmarking, pen & paper) but once you have that system up – everything runs effortlessly.
I use micro for long-term planning, google docs for internal to-do list, then pen & paper my daily to-do list to avoid confusion. And if things get messy, I’ll rewrite my to do list, re-adjusting to the current needs/problems faced.
A good bookmarking system on your web browser, as well as pre-made SOP for repeatable tasks that ‘could’ be forgotten will take away any unnecessary future fatigue as well.
Justin Herring, YEAH! Local
Determine What is Urgent vs. Important
As strange as it may sound, it might be difficult to see the forest for the trees while project deadlines approach. We become so engrossed in our daily chores that we lose sight of which tasks demand immediate attention. By immediate attention, I mean tasks that, if not accomplished, will have a negative influence on the overall project and may result in failure.
Prioritize, prioritize, and then prioritize some more. Prior to responding to an unending list of emails and returning less-than-timely calls, prioritize the most important activities and deal with the most pressing concerns.
Also, don’t try to avoid dealing with issues because you’re trying to escape an unpleasant circumstance. For example, if a client complains about your service, you must address the issue right away and propose a possible satisfactory remedy. You don’t want to keep your client waiting since they’ll grow irritated and perhaps stop utilizing your services.
These problems won’t go away on their own, and they’ll chew at you for a long time. You won’t be able to focus on important projects if this happens.
Allow for Disruptions in Your Schedule
There are several disruptions that might disturb your attention, such as updates from social media, your cell phone, or other individuals. While it’s crucial to prioritise your daily activities, you should also set aside time to address any issues that are interfering with your creative process.
Schedule some time, perhaps an hour or two, and call it “office hours.” Leave all communication lines open during business hours and begin dealing with information from the outside world. This way, you can concentrate on the important tasks at hand and cut down on time spent on less important activities.
Matt Schmidt, Diabetes Life Solutions
The best tip I can share to others who are looking to juggle multiple projects at once is to truly block out distractions. Sounds easy, but as a business owner, we know this can be impossible. Every day we are getting interrupted with phone calls, email messages, text messages from employees or even clients. These distractions are always ongoing.
To be efficient and to tackle your ongoing projects, focus on one task at a time. Before doing so, I recommend setting the phone to airplane mode. This blocks incoming calls, texts, and emails. Now if your project requires you working on a computer, consider using an app such as Inbox When Ready. This hides any incoming emails.
Once you’ve eliminated these distractions, get to work for let’s say one hour. After one hour of being 100% focused, take a 15-20 minute break and check your messages. If needed, you can return a call or message if something is urgent.
Austin Mullins, Conversion Media
Being in a client-focused business, managing many projects at once is a constant. Over time, I’ve picked up a few tips on making it all work:
Understand Your Capacity
The key to not taking on too much is knowing how much capacity you have. The easiest way to determine this is to have your entire team time tracking, and developing time estimates for all common tasks. Then, by knowing what each person is assigned to do over a given period, you’ll also be able to know approximately how much unallocated time you have at each level, to better predict when you’ll need to hire or remove responsibilities to take on a new project.
Centralized Task & Dependency Tracking
When the team doesn’t understand the broader picture, and can’t identify bottlenecks (or isn’t empowered to speak up about them), it’s easy for inefficiencies to bring projects to a grinding halt. Instead, have one place where you have all your dependencies listed, with individual due dates for each. Then, ensure your team feels comfortable speaking up and suggesting alternatives when any one step is taking too long and blocking them. Over time, you’re likely to end up with more skilled employees (who are willing to take more on to keep things moving), and more efficient processes.
Give Ownership to Others
Attempting to micromanage things as the number of projects your team is tackling is a recipe for burnout. If you haven’t already, start to carve out areas of responsibility and entrust others to oversee processes within a given sphere. Over time, the team as a whole will be able to take on more, with less management oversight.
Review Project Statuses & Bottlenecks Early and Often
When you have a lot of projects rolling at once, it’s easy to get swamped and not realize that one of them has fallen painfully behind schedule. For that reason, it’s usually good to have weekly meetings where you review the status of each project, whether it’s on track with expected timeline, what the next steps are, and if there are any blockers that could impede progress.
Carlos Obregon, Bloom Digital Marketing
Being able to manage, I should say properly manage, multiple projects while keeping your sanity requires organization skills as well as the proper tools. Luckily there is a good number of both free and paid tools that can make a big difference in your project management skill on a day to day basis.
I can tell you that my fave tool is not just one but a combination of tools that compliment each other. Starting with email, I use Todoist to process my emails by classifying my emails by task and priority. From here the tasks go to Trello, where I am able to share cards (tasks) with other team members and assign sub-tasks to team members. Master these two tools and you will save hours every week.
Kim Leary, Squibble Design
Running a digital agency means handling multiple projects on a daily basis. Typically at Squibble we manage up to 9 projects at a time and they range from complete website rebuilds to entire re-brands so there’s always a lot of moving parts.
We always start every project with a kick-off session. Together, with the client, we plan out all the deliverables on both sides. Early understanding of the expectations means that individuals remain accountable. Deadlines are then set against the task owner. It is a lot of time to invest upfront, especially when most designers are eager to get stuck in but it enables projects to stay on track.
At the moment we use Asana to manage all the projects because we want the client to have visibility too. However, we’re currently exploring further specialist options so that we can track individual project financials and profitability.
The one thing that can’t be replicated by a platform is communication though. This is at the heart of what we do. Emails and Slack are great but they remove all emotion and this makes it difficult to build rapport and empathy. I would always favour picking up the phone over sending an email if I need to update one of our clients.
Esther Strauss, Stepbystepbusiness
The most important thing to do when managing multiple projects is to prioritise. Setting daily, weekly, and monthly priorities and goals is critical to keeping all projects moving. The tasks involved need to be clearly delegated to team members, and they need to be fully aware of the priorities. Deadlines should be set for critical tasks, and the business owner needs to lead by monitoring progress and deadlines and assigning accountability.
All of this can be easily managed by using a project management tool. A good project management tool allows you to assign projects and tasks to individuals and allows workflows to move through a pipeline. It also gives the entire team an overview of where the projects stand, as well as their individual priorities on an ongoing basis. The system should also allow for easy communication and collaboration. The key to making the system work is to make sure that everyone is fully utilizing.
Nestor Vazquez, SEO MEXICO
Create a timeline for each project
I like to create a timeline for each project, this helps me to stay organized and make sure that I’m hitting all of the deadlines that I’ve set.
Delegate tasks whenever possible
Another key to managing multiple projects is delegation, add your team to your favourite project management tool so they can help with tasks whenever possible. I’ve learned that it’s important to delegate tasks whenever possible, not only does this free up my time so I can focus on other projects, but it also helps to keep the team moving forward. Establish clear communication channels, in my case I like to chat by Slack with my team and when I need to talk I prefer to use Discord.
Patrick Garde, ExaWeb Corporation
In my experience with our digital marketing agency, we managed many projects at once with the help of a project management tool like Monday.com and a workplace collaboration app like Slack.
With Monday.com, I believe our processes are now more efficient than not using a project management tool. We were able to use templates and automate manual tasks. Most of the time, we take advantage of having Project Dashboards to visualize data quickly, which allows us to make decisions efficiently. We also use the Gantt chart to keep track of important metrics.
We planned and collaborated with different departments and team members under one roof with Slack. We set up a channel for each project and team so that every piece of information about the project is located in one channel. Also, we can message each team separately as they have their respective channels.