Do you have the luxury of managing just one project at a time? Some project managers do – most don’t. I’m not sure I ever have and I’m thinking I might just get bored managing one initiative at a time. Variety is the spice of life… they say.

Yes, you won’t get bored managing several busy projects together, but you could get overloaded or become disorganized and start to miss deadlines if you’re not careful. It’s not for everyone and if two projects get very busy at the same time… well, I imagine you can guess what might happen if you get too far overloaded.

Let’s consider these 4 tips for successfully managing several projects at a time…

Break each project into an hour of effort per day. You have one hour to do something – one hour to be productive, to get a task completed, to delegate tasks, to have a meeting…whatever it is…you have one hour to do it. Does this sound familiar? If you’ve ever managed multiple projects at a time, then you know what I’m talking about. There are lots of things you can do in an hour each day, but usually managing a project isn’t one of those things that comes to mind. But in fact, that’s what many of us are doing. To actually “effectively” manage a project in one-hour segments of time we need to be:

Well-organizedFocused on what is in front of us at that moment on a specific project’s tasks in the project management software schedule, not the next project on our listStubbornRitualistic – maintain a good weekly schedule so we know where we are at a given time of the week in terms of tasks and planned workAn efficient and effective communicator

Send out at least one team / client communication of a highlight or status to keep everyone on the same path and page. The best project managers are great communicators and the most successful projects are the ones where everyone stays on the same page throughout the engagement. The PM and project team ensures this is happening by sending out at least a brief project status update daily to everyone involved in the front line of managing the project – including the project customer. I believe in being as transparent with the customer as possibly in order to achieve the most cooperation and success.

Spend part of the hour per day mentioned above on the weekly status report and ensuring all tasks are running smoothly. Throwing the status project report together at the last minute leaves you, your team and the customer ill-prepared to have a meaningful weekly project status call. Make sure it’s a solid report – and one of the best ways to do that is to spend a few minutes every day ensuring that it’s ready for the, say, Thursday status call. And if it’s every Thursday, then have a detailed discussion the day before with your entire project team to make sure the status report is as up to date and accurate as possible. Then, let the project status report drive the status call with the client every week. Easy.

Check project financials regularly. The money part is often the hardest part for most project managers – especially the new or less experienced ones. If you are managing the budget closely, then it should be fairly easy to keep it within 10% of budget all the way to the end of the engagement. If you don’t tend to it often, then it’s too easy for a project budget to get out of control – especially if you’re handling 4-5 projects. A 50% overage is nearly impossible to fix and project failure is imminent.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this – spending consistent time on your projects… proactively… can help ensure your success when you are managing multiple engagements at one time. Readers – what are your thoughts? What are your secrets to success when juggling 4-6 projects at a time? Please share and discuss.