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Whether you are a project manager or product manager, chances are that your job has you running around in circles, trying to make sure that everyone’s responsibilities are met.

Every project or product manager had to deal with one dreaded aspect of the job: Responsibility overload.

Handing your own tasks while managing your team and multiple projects can be challenging. Here are a few tips on how to deal with “too many tasks.”

1. Schedule time for unexpected needs

You know the drill – just when you think everything is going smoothly, things unexpectedly throw your schedule off-guard. Overrun meetings, tasks that finish late, customer problems that require immediate attention are some example of problems that usually arise at the last minute. By leaving some open time in your schedule in the morning and in the afternoon to deal with unpredicted needs, you will be able to get more things done, even if extra work presents itself.

2. Follow the 80-20 rule

While project or product management may be your main responsibility, you most likely have other responsibilities. As a general rule, do not let your main responsibilities exceed 80%of your time. Use the remaining 20% of your time to work on other responsibilities. For example, you may need to work with external stakeholders, fill out reports or participate in meetings for other projects. By ensuring that your main responsibilities don’t exceed 80% of your time, you will have better control over your projects, as well as your additional tasks.

3. Prioritize your other tasks

All additional tasks will always be requested as “urgent.” In order to prioritize them, make a list of all your non-main responsibilities (admin tasks, meetings etc) and rank them in order of importance. Of course, the meaning of “importance” varies from company to company. You may choose to asses the tasks based on:
– Value to the organization
– Time sensitivity and urgency
– Value to you personally, when successfully completed
– Consequences to you personally when not successfully completed

4. Learn to say no

A simple “no’ can make your day less stressful. If you can’t fit something in your schedule, let providing that it is not “urgent” (see the list above to determine what “urgent” is), it’s best to put it off until the next day. Check your schedule before accepting new requests. If you can fit something in without filling up the time you reserved for unexpected need (see #1), go for it. If not, just say no. This way, you are ensuring that the task will be done more efficiently at a later time, which will show your team that you are reliable.

5. Reassess your workload

Keep reassessing your workload throughout your project, about once each quarter. Keep your team updated on on the status of the project and tasks and work with them to ensure no dates are missed and that everyone is on the same page.

Got tips on how to deal with too many tasks or projects? Share them with us!

Source: 101 Project Management Problems and How To Solve Them, by Tom Kendrick.

Related blog posts:
What is Project Management? – A Video Infographic
Top 5 Gaps in Product Development
Good project management: Turning panic into process

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