10 Strategies For Successfully Managing Multiple Projects
Managing a single project is hectic, but it’s doable for most people. Add several more at the same time, however, and it becomes like juggling. If you lose focus even for a second, everything comes tumbling down.
Despite the difficulty that comes with managing multiple projects, there are some highly skilled project managers who do it flawlessly. The good thing is that just about anyone can learn this important skill.
Below, we’ll share 10 strategies that will turn you into a master juggler with the organizational and prioritization skills required to successfully manage multiple projects at once.
Before we get to that, however, let’s look at the challenges that make working on multiple projects simultaneously such a demanding undertaking.
Biggest Challenges In Managing Multiple Projects?
One of the greatest challenges when managing multiple projects is resource allocation.
It is very unlikely that your organization will have a dedicated team to work on each project that comes up, resulting in a situation where employees have to work on more than one project at the same time.
Having multiple projects to work on leads to work overload for your human resources, which can lead to a drop in performance and satisfaction.
In addition, with people working on multiple projects, it also becomes very easy to lose sight of who is working on what. This, in turn, makes it harder to tell when someone is slacking.
Another challenge that comes with working on multiple projects is that your team has to keep switching focus from one project to the next. This can make them feel overwhelmed and increase the time taken to complete tasks, resulting in missed deadlines and budget overruns.
Managing multiple projects also comes with a prioritization challenge.
When your team is working on multiple projects with competing deadlines, it becomes difficult to decide which project requires more attention. At the same time, giving equal focus to both projects can result in both of them missing deadlines or key milestones.
Finally, multiple projects also present challenges in the form of the sheer effort required to keep track of everything.
When managing a project, there is a lot that needs to be tracked – deadlines, milestones, schedules, tasks, budgets, contracts, client data, deliverables, and so on. When dealing with multiple projects, you have to do this on a much larger scale.
This can get overwhelming, and sometimes, some things will fall through the cracks, leading to delays, missed priorities, and cost overruns.
Proven Strategies To Successfully Manage Multiple Projects
1. Learn How To Manage A Single Project First
You cannot become a knife juggler without being able to toss and catch a single knife. Similarly, it is impossible to manage multiple projects simultaneously if you cannot successfully manage a single project.
Before you start taking on multiple projects, make sure you are conversant with all the aspects of managing a project. This means knowing how to….
- Define why the project is needed
- Capture all the project requirements, estimate the timescales and resources required, and specify the quality of deliverables required
- Prepare a business case to justify spending time and resources on the project
- Come up with a statement of work with clearly defined costs, resources, tasks, and dependencies
- Come up with and implement a project management plan
- Lead and motivate the project team until the project is completed
- Manage project risks, as well as any unexpected changes and other issues
- Monitor the progress of the project against the initial plan
- Manage and properly utilize the project budget
- Maintain constant communications with the project’s stakeholders
- Close and deliver the project successfully, on time, and within budget
Once you are comfortable with managing single projects, you can now consider taking on more projects at once.
2. Develop A Master Plan And Schedule (Including Responsibilities And Goals)
One of the biggest mistakes project managers make when working on multiple projects is planning for each project separately.
The problem with this approach is that it creates room for potential conflict.
For instance, when you assign tasks to your team members independently, you’ll be unable to account for the time they are supposed to be working on the other project.
This results in a situation where someone is supposed to be working on two or more tasks at the exact same time, which is impossible to pull off. This, in turn, leads to inconsistent work, unexpected delays, and some tasks being forgotten due to the extreme pressure on your team.
To prevent this, what you need to do is to come up with an integrated master plan and schedule for all the projects you are working on.
Determine all the tasks and activities required for each project, all key milestones, and the proposed deadline for each project. From there, come up with a single schedule for all the projects you are working on. Think of the multiple projects as a single project with multiple deliverables.
When coming up with a master plan, remember to set reasonable expectations and timelines based on the resources available. You don’t want to assign your team more work than they can reasonably handle.
You also need to factor in time for feedback and approvals, since they also affect the timelines for all projects. For instance, if your team needs to redo some work on one project, this will affect their availability for the other project.
Creating a single schedule for all projects makes it easier for you to identify potential problems before they arise and put in place plans to avoid these problems.
For instance, if two or more projects are expected to hit key milestones simultaneously, you might need to reschedule one project, since key milestones often require a lot of attention from your team.
Once you’ve developed an integrated master plan and schedule for all the projects, the next step is to outline goals and responsibilities for your team.
Make sure that your team members have a clear understanding of all the work that needs to be done for each project, the goals for each piece of work, the timeline for the work, as well as the person responsible for the work.
With such an approach, it will be clear from the get go what each team member needs to be working on at what time, and it is unlikely that any tasks and activities will get forgotten
3. Manage All Your Projects In One Place
Another mistake a lot of people make when managing multiple projects simultaneously is managing each project on different task management software.
The problem with this approach is that it creates silos. There’s no visibility between projects, which makes it harder to keep track of everything. Lack of visibility also creates the risk of double work.
If you want to successfully manage multiple projects, you need to find a single tool or platform that will house all your projects.
Advantages Of Managing All Projects In One Place
Managing all your projects in one place provides several advantages, including…
- Easier progress tracking: A single tool acts as a central hub from where you can track each project’s progress. With a single glance, you can tell whether each project is going according to plan.
- Risk identification: Managing your projects from one central place makes it easier to identify risks and their impact on other projects. For instance, if there’s a delay in one project, you can easily tell how this delay will affect the other projects. This is very difficult when managing each project on a separate platform.
- Easy prioritization: Managing all projects in one central hub also makes it easier for you to prioritize. When all tasks are visible from one place, you can easily determine those that require urgent attention, and those that can wait. When everything is scattered, however, important tasks can easily get forgotten.
- Unified communication: Having a central hub for all projects brings all the teams working on all your projects together and provides a single communication channel. This creates transparency, since everyone knows who is handling what at all times.
4. Delegate Work (But Retain Visibility)
Managing multiple projects comes with a lot of work. Trying to do it all on your own can easily introduce bottlenecks into your projects, since there’s so much to be done within limited time.
Rather than doing it all by yourself, you should delegate some of your work to your team members. Actually, delegation is one of the hallmarks of a good project manager.
Aside from reducing your workload and allowing project tasks and activities to be done faster, delegation also shows that you trust your team members, and builds their capacity for decision making.
The best way to go about delegating is to break down your work into four groups using the Eisenhower matrix, which categorizes tasks based on their urgency and importance.
If a task is both important and urgent, do it immediately. If a task is important but not urgent, schedule it for later. If you have tasks that are urgent but not very important, these are tasks you can safely delegate to your team. Finally, if a task is not important and not urgent, it’s probably not necessary, so you should figure out if it can be eliminated.
It’s good to note, however, that delegating does not mean that you should sit back and lose sight of what is happening. You still need to provide some oversight and ensure that all parts of the project (even those you’ve delegated) are moving as planned.
A good way to retain visibility of projects even when you have delegated tasks is to have a system for reviewing and approving delegated work. This can be done easily using workflow management software.
With an approval process in place, you’ll always know that all delegated work has been completed, and that it has been done to the required standard.
5. Prioritize Work With The Biggest Impact
When working on multiple projects, there will always be tasks and activities competing for resources, whether that is time or manpower.
Since the resources are limited, some tasks will need to be given higher priority than others. The key to successfully managing multiple projects lies in knowing how to prioritize work based on its impact. Work with the biggest impact should be given the biggest priority.
Let’s say, for instance, you are working on two marketing campaign projects. Both projects require a similar amount of time and effort to complete.
The aim of the first project is to build brand awareness among people who have never heard of your business, while the aim of the second project is to launch a new product or service that will help your company capture greater market share.
In such a situation, it makes sense to give greater priority to the product launch, since it is going to have a bigger and more immediate impact – helping you gain market share.
It would be more advisable, therefore, to ensure that the second project has all the necessary resources before allocating resources to the first project.
To prioritize project work, here’s what you can do:
- List down all your projects by order of importance.
- Write down all the tasks involved in each project, and determine the most important tasks for each project.
- Assign priority to tasks based on importance.
For instance, if task 1 from project A and task 1 from project B have competing priorities, but project A is more important than project B, you can prioritize task 1 from project A over task 1 from project B.
6. Avoid Micromanagement
The more projects you are working on, the higher the risk of something going wrong. In a bid to reduce this risk, some managers end up micromanaging their project teams.
Despite your best intentions, micromanagement is never a good thing. It demotivates your team and leaves them doubting your trust in their skills, expertise, and judgment, and often leads to decreased productivity – the very last thing you want when working on multiple projects.
In addition, micromanaging employees is a lot of work in itself. The time spent following up on every little thing your project team is doing could have been better spent working on other aspects of the project.
Rather than micromanaging your project teams, you should focus on creating a multi-project environment where every team member takes responsibility for their work and is accountable for their actions.
Here are some tips on how to avoid micromanaging your project teams when working on multiple projects…
- Get the right people for the job: If you staff your project with qualified people, you are less likely to find yourself having to micromanage. You can trust them to get the work done without having to constantly look over their shoulders.
- Set clear expectations: When you assign someone a task, be sure to establish clear expectations right from the start, and then leave them to prove their skills. The need for micromanagement usually comes up when people don’t know what exactly is required of them.
- Don’t be a perfectionist: Everything doesn’t have to be done your way. There are several ways of achieving results. Give your project team the space to do things their own way.
- Build trust in your team: Ultimately, avoiding micromanagement is all about trusting your team to do what is required of them without the need for constant supervision. The more you build trust in them, the more confident they’ll feel taking on more responsibilities, which can result in projects being done better and faster.
7. Review And Balance The Workload
Regardless of how meticulously you allocate your resources when initiating projects, it is inevitable that plans will change. This is especially true when you are working on multiple projects simultaneously.
Some work might turn out to be more demanding than you had anticipated. Some team members might get emergencies that require them to be away from work. Another project might be added to your workload.
Sticking to the same plan in the face of such unexpected changes is a recipe for disaster. What you need to do as a manager is to keep reviewing your team’s workload and make adjustments where necessary.
If a team member is overloaded with work, you need to reallocate some of their work to other team members. If a team member has little work, you’ll need to assign them more work.
The point here is to make sure everyone in the team has their fair share of tasks, and that you are maximizing the performance of your entire team, while ensuring no one is being overworked.
To be able to effectively review and balance your team’s workload across projects, you need to have a clear view of what everyone is working on across all projects. This is why it is very important to manage your projects in one place.
8. Have Regular Check-Ins With The Team
Using a project management platform is a great way to keep track of how your projects are progressing. It’s good to note, however, that project management platforms have their limits.
Looking at a screen gives a reassuring sense of visibility, but it will not tell you everything that is going on, especially when you have multiple projects on your desk.
To be an effective manager, you need to schedule regular check-ins with your team and get feedback from them. They are the people in the trenches, so they have information about the project that you might not be aware of.
During these check-ins, find out what your team thinks about the projects they are working on, whether they are facing any challenges, whether they have ideas on how to improve the projects, and so on.
After each check-in, take the feedback you’ve gotten from your team and compare it against the initial project plan. If necessary, make adjustments to ensure that all projects remain on track.
9. Track And Save Your Workflows (Instead Of Reinventing The Wheel Every Time)
While most projects have different goals and different deliverables, they often have similar components and set ups.
In spite of this, most project managers always start from scratch when setting up every new project. Unfortunately, this wastes time that could have been spent working on other aspects of the project, or even other projects.
Rather than setting up each project from scratch, a better approach is to track and save workflows that are common among most projects, and then use these workflows as templates.
Whenever another project is added to your plate, rather than doing everything all over again, you can easily use these templates to set up and get everything running within no time.
This also makes it easier for your team to incorporate the new project into their workload, since they’ll be following a standard procedure.
10. Manage Team Expectations And Stakeholders (And Communicate Clearly)
Experienced project managers know that when you are working on multiple projects at once, there are times when it will be impossible to get everything done for everyone, regardless of how much you plan.
In such moments, communicating to stakeholders and managing expectations is very important.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ll be unable to meet your commitments, communicate to everyone who will be affected. Let them know what is happening, why it is happening, and an estimate of when you plan to complete their work.
When you clearly communicate everything that is happening, stakeholders know what to expect at all times. There are no nasty surprises, which often lead to unhappy clients/stakeholders.
Aside from managing stakeholder expectations, it’s also very important to communicate with your team and manage their expectations. Whenever there is a change, don’t just implement the change without explaining the reason behind the change.
This gives your team greater visibility into what is going on, and makes them take ownership of the project. In addition, it provides your team with opportunities to provide feedback on how such changes might affect other projects.
Keep Track Of Multiple Projects With The Right Project Management Software
If you regularly manage multiple projects, it’s a good idea to invest in the right project management software that will make it easier for you to maintain a bird’s eye view of all your projects.
Below are 5 of the best project management platforms for managing multiple projects.
Monday.com is a fully-featured, highly customizable platform that is great for visualizing all your projects. Below are the key features that make Monday.com a great option for multi-project management…
- Scalability: Monday.com allows you to create unlimited projects simultaneously and add your entire team.
- Visualization: The platform comes with a user-friendly interface that provides a visual overview of project progress.
- Context switching: With Monday.com, all you need to switch from one project to the next is a single click.
- Reporting: Get access to powerful reporting that makes it easier to keep track of every aspect of all your projects.
Monday.com has a free forever plan, while paid plans start at $8 per seat per month.
ClickUp provides you with a simple way of managing workflows for multiple projects and optimizing your resources. Some of the key features you get on ClickUp include…
- Portfolios: This gives you a high-level overview of all your projects, which reduces the likelihood of one project getting forgotten as you focus on the other projects.
- Multiple views: ClickUp provides you with multiple options for visualizing your projects, including Gantt chart view, board view, box view, list view, and calendar view.
- Workload view: This feature makes it easy to track each team member’s workload and allocate resources to different projects based on capacity.
- Time tracking: Track the time team members are spending working on different tasks, activities, and projects. This way, you can easily tell when one task or project is being neglected.
You can try ClickUp for free with the free forever plan. Paid plans start at $5 per member per month.
Wrike is a powerful web-based project management software that is best suited for managing complex projects. Wrike gives you access to the following features…
- Spaces: This feature allows you to set up a project control center from where you can monitor and track multiple projects and communicate to all stakeholders and team members.
- Gantt charts: Wrike’s Gantt chart feature makes it easier to keep track of timelines for multiple projects and visualize dependencies between tasks and projects.
- Resource management: Wrike also allows you to monitor each team member’s workload for easier resource management.
- Live activity stream: Wrike gives you updates about any changes made to a project in real-time.
Wrike offers a free forever plan for small teams, while premium plans start at $9.80 per user per month.
Teamwork gives you access to enterprise-level project management features at a very reasonable price. Here’s what you get with Teamwork…
- Portfolio: This feature allows you to view and take action on multiple projects from one central place, without having to navigate to each individual project.
- Cross-project dependencies: Teamwork allows you to set task dependencies across different projects, where a task in one project has to be completed before another task in a different project can start.
- Workloads: By viewing all the work assigned to each team member, Teamwork makes it easier to optimize resource allocation across projects.
Teamwork has a free plan that can support up to 5 members, while premium plans start at $10 per user per month.
Scoro is a highly versatile work management software that comes with an impressive set of features for managing both individual and multiple projects.
Some of Scoro’s key features include…
- Gantt chart view: Scoro’s Gantt chart view makes it easy to track the progress of multiple projects against their planned timelines and monitor task dependencies.
- Resource management tools: Scoro comes with tools that allow you to monitor your team’s workloads, allowing you to allocate resources across different projects based on current and future availability.
- Time tracking: This allows you to keep track of where and how teams are spending their time, which is crucial for managing cross-project prioritization.
Scoro doesn’t have a free plan, but they offer a 14-day free trial. Premium plans start at $26 per user per month.
Managing Multiple Projects FAQ
The best way to manage tasks across multiple projects is to unify all your tasks in one central location.
When working on multiple projects across multiple tools, you have to switch from one tool to another to see upcoming tasks. This increases the risk of something getting overlooked.
When all your tasks are unified in one place, however, you can easily see all tasks from all projects, and even sort them by due date, priority, and so on. With such a system, nothing will fall through the cracks.
In addition, when all your projects are housed under one platform, switching from one project to another is a lot easier, leading to increased productivity.
The best way to manage resources across multiple projects is to use a project management tool to track your resources’ workload.
With such tools, it’s easy to tell when project resources are overloaded, and where resources are not being utilized to the optimum. You can then make adjustments to ensure everyone has a fair share of the workload, but without being overstretched.
It’s also important to make sure your key resources are working on important tasks. It makes no sense to have someone working on a low importance task with no urgency, when there is no one available to work on a higher priority task.
The best way to manage time across multiple projects is to schedule tasks in such a way that there is minimal overlap.
When you schedule two different activities from two different projects for the same time, you or your team members will be forced to multitask, which has been shown to decrease productivity.
What you should do instead is to schedule a bit of time for one task, then another period for the second task, and so on.
The number of projects you can successfully manage at the same time will depend on your capabilities, skills, and experience as a project manager.
The ideal number of projects one can effectively manage simultaneously should not exceed four separate projects. Any more than that, and your productivity will start taking a hit.
In addition, taking on more than 4 projects at the same time could potentially lead to burnout, which can put all projects in jeopardy.
That said, it’s good to note that there are some highly experienced project managers who can manage as many as ten projects at the same time.