6 Project Management Tips for the PM Who Does Everything

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If you’re a project manager who does everything from evangelizing project management software to retrieving lost passwords to chasing staff to fill out timesheets to organizing office pot plants, you’ll relate to Zoe.

Played to perfection by New York actress Kristen Schaal, Zoe is the genius character created for cloud-based HR software company Gusto, by the makers of the Old Spice viral commercials.

Zoe is the HR Manager who does everything. Does she remind you of a project manager, too?

Project Management Tips

As a project manager who juggles everything for everyone, how can you take better control of what’s going on around you and not lose your sanity in the process?

Here are our top six project management tips for the PM who does everything:

1. Overestimate your budget

Nothing causes more stress to a project manager than a cut to their budget. When upper management reduces the resources bucket, the almost-impossible becomes the impossible. A project manager who hasn’t allowed room in their budget for cuts will cause unnecessary stress for their already hardworking team.

But project management expert Keith Miller, who has spent 30 years managing projects for companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, NextDC, and Ezidebit, says it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Your budget will always be cut. You will always miss something. You will always be given wrong numbers. So, pad your numbers like crazy.”

2. Stop being a superhero

While being a superhero has an allure to it, there is no real glory in being an overworked, underpaid superhero in the office. Smart, experienced project managers know that there’s no shame in reaching out to your colleagues to ask for help. Chances are, they’re already leaning on you.

Too rejection-averse to ask for help? Take heart: a series of studies found that people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help.

People generally like to help. It makes them feel valued. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help and/or delegate when you need to. You might be surprised how many people oblige and want to help share your burden.

3. Respond only via your project management software

You can preach the benefits of project management software all day long, but if your team knows that they don’t have to log requests in their PM tool because you respond more quickly via email, that’s exactly the antiquated system that they will continue to use.

Project managers need to walk the talk: they need to be strict and organise their own inbox of tasks and get others to do the same. Yes, it’s a discipline, but once everyone is on board, it’s undeniably the most cost-effective and accountable way for teams to log requests, track time, and achieve meaningful outcomes for their organisation.

4. Get away from your desk

You are being paid as a project manager because of your ability to think things through clearly and juggle ever-changing contingencies. But if sitting at your desk means you’re constantly being interrupted, it’s time to work elsewhere.

Ideally, find a space where you can sit anonymously, where no one can find you. For example, an office or quiet corner elsewhere in your building, a local coworking space, or an office at home.

I once knew a project manager who was so desperate for some headspace that she grabbed her laptop and rode the train back-and-forth for three hours just to get some work done!

And if you’re feeling guilty, remember, you’re not running away indefinitely, you’re just trying to clear your head so you can focus on solving the problems you’re paid to solve, rather than fielding constant questions and running around herding cats.

5.  Keep your sense of humour

Speaking of cats, UK joint venture Axelos put out a brilliant video about herding cats to promote their Prince2 project management certification. As a project manager, it’s the type of video you need to save in your bookmarks and watch every time your head feels like exploding at work.

Nothing relieves stress as fast as a good laugh.

If cat videos aren’t your thing, find another video that makes you laugh and store that in your bookmarks instead. That will make it super easy to click play every time you need a comedy fix to alleviate tension at work.

6. Say no to almost everything

A revolutionary concept perhaps, but if you’re genuinely stretched so far that your productivity, health, and sanity suffer, it’s time to start saying no to some (or all) of the endless requests for your time and energy.

If you feel guilty or intimidated to say no straight away, buy yourself some time. For example, to give yourself time to think about an answer and to politely make someone aware that you’re incredibly busy, try “Can I please get back to you in 24 hours?” To postpone a meeting for a week in the hope that the person solves their problem beforehand, try “This week is crazy but next week would be perfect.”

Still can’t say no? Take inspiration from Warren Buffett, who famously said: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Got more tips to help project managers who can relate to Zoe?

As you know, being a project manager is hard. You’re constantly juggling requests and priorities, all the while trying to stay calm and reassuring to everyone around you.

So, if you’ve got more tips for project managers who do everything, please share them in the comments below. We’d love to read them, learn from them, and implement them!

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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About the Author


Andrea Martins

Andrea Martins helps customers collaborate, track time and invoice with Trigger App. Trigger integrates with Xero, FreshBooks, Dropbox, Zapier, Basecamp, Highrise, Bugsnag and more.


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