In today’s competitive, knowledge-based corporate world, it has become the norm to see project managers moaning at the number of projects that they handle at any given time. A recent edition of PM Network magazine states that on an average, project managers are asked to handle 8-10 projects at a time! These are high numbers by anyone's standards, and it would not be surprising to see some of these projects fail.

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Though project management is the key to succeeding in such situations, time management and organizational skills play an equally important role in the success of these projects. Various projects compete for the project manager's attention and often fail due to a lack of adequate attention. Though juggling multiple projects at the same time is hard, it is not impossible to do so. 

Three key focus areas for project managers are:

  • Managing time effectively
  • Leveraging people management skills
  • Individual project management skills for successful delivery of the project
The CHAOS report from The Standish Group lists the various reasons why projects succeed. The top three reasons were user involvement, executive management support, and statement of requirements. Apart from these three, the other factors are:
  1. User Involvement
  2. Executive Management Support
  3. Clear Statement of Requirements
  4. Proper Planning
  5. Realistic Expectations
  6. Smaller Project Milestones
  7. Competent Staff
  8. Ownership
  9. Clear Vision & Objectives
  10. Hard-working, Focused Staff

Time-sharing instead of Multitasking Strategy

Effective multitasking is an oxymoron and, as suggested by cognitive psychologist and author of Smart Thinking, Art Markman, the human brain doesn’t multitask; instead it does time-sharing, so as to complete the various tasks in hand.

If the study suggests using time-sharing instead of multi-tasking, integrating project schedules can help us achieve our goals. By integrating project schedules, different phases of various projects can be executed at the same time. The first step in project scheduling is to create a master file of all of the projects in hand. Creating standard reporting and communication templates will save time.

Project Prioritization

Though all the projects in hand are important, it is essential to determine which projects are of a higher priority than others. Simply picking any project of one's choice won't solve the purpose, it is important to analyze the project requirements and its outcome carefully. This outcome has to be aligned with the company's strategic objectives and target dates.

There may be occasions when the projects that you are working on may be put on the back burner because the organization doesn't consider it necessary to focus upon these. In such situations, you will have to automatically take up the next project in line as the higher priority. However, apart from organizational priorities, if two projects are competing for your time and attention, evaluate your projects on two key factors:

ROI: Compare the project costs and benefits. This will give you a clear picture of the projects that are high on ROI.

Budget: The project budget needs to be a major factor for deciding the priority. Factors such as risk exposure and margin for error need to be considered while taking the decision. Also, it is important to keep in mind whether the project is funded internally or externally. If the project is externally funded, the client’s interests should also be considered.

Monitor your Work

It is pretty easy to fall into the trap of monitoring the progress of your work just once in 15 days or so. However, while managing multiple projects at a time, it is important to keep track of the project's progress. Never push any task to monitor to the week that follows; else you will never be able to rectify the project strategy. Regular project tracking will help you re-check the project strategy and make amendments if needed.

Sequence Tasks

How many times have you come across managers who run from pillar to post because they've realized they hadn't got the sequence of work right? Each project is a collection of various small tasks. So, it is easy to break down each project into various small tasks and sequence all of them. Make a checklist of all the tasks to keep track of their progress.


Here’s a brief checklist that may be referred to, while managing multiple projects at any given time:
  • First, evaluate whether you are overloaded. If yes, then it is likely that any new project that you will take up will fail!
  • Make it a habit to periodically prioritize tasks.
  • Analyze whether you have allotted enough time to each task.
  • Create a project calendar sheet that will include all the project milestones along with their dates.
  • Delegate work to your team and have a tracker in place to monitor task progress.
  • Maintain a standard reporting format for all the projects that you handle. Have an integrated project reporting tool that will capture data and present it in the standard reporting format.
  • Conduct regular review meetings and feedback sessions with your team members. This will help in eliminating any current or projected roadblocks, and will maintain the pace of project progress.
Though juggling between multiple projects can be a herculean task, creating a project dashboard will take half of the monitoring work off your shoulder.

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