When you’re managing multiple projects, sometimes things get a little fuzzy. After all, there are too many moving pieces like deadlines, resources, inventory, and budget.
You need the right plan, processes, and tools to succeed.
Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can follow to manage multiple projects like an absolute pro.
In this article, we’ll review some common challenges of managing multiple projects and eight strategies to combat the same. We’ll also share how to stay organized as a project manager tackling multiple projects.
What are the problems in managing multiple projects?
Multiple projects can produce many challenges. Here are the common ones:
Is multitasking not your cup of tea? Don’t fret because multitasking is a myth.
According to Professor Earl Miller, a Neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you can lose up to 40% productivity by multitasking!
That’s because engaging in multiple tasks requires constant context change, which is mentally draining. So, instead of churning out quality work, you end up in a whirlwind of stress and subpar results.
2. Too much information
The more projects you tackle, the more information you need to take in — for example, the different deadlines, schedules, strategies, contracts, and client requirements.
The enormous amount of data is bound to cause information overload. After all, it's simply beyond human capacity for a project manager to process everything.
The consequences? Negative feelings, demotivation, or failure.
3. Resource and project deadlines overlap
When managing multiple projects, the same team members can take on tasks from different projects. The issues arise when their workload or deadlines are poorly managed, leading to resource overlap.
For example, you assign a person with two tasks for two projects, each requiring 20 work hours per week. But the person only works 30 hours per week.
The result: Burnout, overscheduling, and missed deadlines.
The same overlap can happen with project due dates. This can be problematic without proper workload and resource management.
4. Ad-hoc projects
Ad-hoc projects are a manager’s nightmare!
They were never in your project plan to start with. Yet you have to deal with them because they’re usually urgent. For example, a last-minute client request you can’t deny, a PR catastrophe, or a cyber attack.
Thanks to ad-hoc projects, project managers may be forced to tend to the urgencies, interrupting or derailing carefully contracted plans.
How do you manage multiple projects without being overwhelmed?
Here are some strategies you can adopt to tackle multiple projects:
1. Plan your goals and set expectations
The success of a project depends on how well every team member knows the project goals, the project timelines, and what’s expected of them — right from the start.
So, your first strategy should be to plan goals and set expectations. It’s like a roadmap that’ll allow you to avoid resource overlap, decrease workload, predict risks, and leave room for flexibility or last-minute adjustments.
Here’s how you can plan your goals and set expectations:
- Create specific project plans for each project to organize processes, resources, and tasks.
- Start with a project overview before outlining a project plan for complex projects.
- Determine what your deliverables are and break them down into tasks.
- Estimate the duration and deadlines of each task.
- Design a project schedule and timeline that doesn’t allow project clashes.
2. Use tools to manage multiple projects from one place
According to Wellington’s 2021 annual report, 47% of participants don’t have access to real-time project KPIs. That’s a large number of people unaware of their project’s status and happenings.
Now, imagine the lack of visibility and information there can be when one has to handle numerous projects.
But with the right tools, this isn’t the case. For instance, tools like Motion create a digital project manager that centralizes all your project’s tasks, communications, reports, and workflows under one roof.
What takes the cake is Motion’s AI power. Once you create tasks, it automatically schedules them by considering priorities, dependencies, and deadlines — largely reducing project planning and scheduling efforts.
3. Learn to prioritize tasks
Let’s face it — multitasking is a myth!
So, ditch this concept and learn to focus on a single, most urgent task — a task with dependencies or one that’ll make an impact (because not all tasks are equal).
But how do you prioritize? Here’s a quick checklist you can use to identify priorities:
- Financial value: Will it bring in large sums of money? If yes, it’s a priority.
- Non-completion risk: Will it cost you a client? Can it stop other project’s progress? If so, bump it up the list.
- Strategic fit: If a task naturally fits right in your strategic pathway, it’s a priority.
You can also harness the power of the priority matrix to identify urgent and important tasks better.
4. Track workload and timelines
Did you know that employees are productive for only 2 hours and 23 minutes each day?
This means you need to track your team’s work capacities to prevent burnout, inferior-quality output, demotivation, and missed deadlines.
To dodge those potential disasters, take a step back and get the full picture of your team's workloads and timelines across all projects. This is best done using a project or workload management tool.
These apps let you track workloads daily so your team doesn’t waste time communicating their capacities. Plus, having visibility into workload allows you to easily reshuffle and delegate tasks, depending on your priorities, to stay on course.
Speaking of staying on course, you also want to pay attention to each project’s timeline. Set start and due dates while considering your team’s workload to avoid project resource conflicts.
5. Delegate work
As a manager tackling multiple projects, you’ll always have too much on your plate. Additionally, the urge to manage everything can lead to micromanagement — a big no-no.
The solution? Delegation!
Delegating tasks reduces your workload and holds the assignees accountable for their actions. It also gives them a sense of authority, which increases employee satisfaction.
Ready to delegate?
- Task your trusted colleagues to help clear out your plate a little.
- Assign simple tasks your associates can accomplish so you can focus on the more complex tasks.
- Choose teammates with the bandwidth to take on more work.
But hold on. Even after you've passed the baton, remember to track progress. You wouldn't want any surprises, right?
6. Ensure clear communication
When juggling multiple projects, the number of people involved can be enormous. You have the team members, stakeholders, and clients — all from different projects!
Communication becomes crucial because the right people need the right directions, information, and updates at the right time. If not, you may spend more money and time than intended. In the worst cases, multiple projects can cease progressing or fall apart entirely.
Effective communication is also important to find quick solutions to issues and keep everyone relevant in the loop about shifting priorities. In other words, proper communication also empowers flexibility.
7. Manage client expectations
They say honesty is the best policy. And it’s true. You want to be transparent with your clients regarding timelines and resources — especially when handling multiple projects.
Why? Because one client’s last-minute demands can hamper other projects’ progress, resulting in resource overlap. Make sure you have effective change management in place to prevent scope creep.
Managing client expectations from the get-go can reduce the possibility of eleventh-hour requests that cause stress, leading to subpar work.
8. Track work progress at all times
This one is obvious but crucial!
Tracking your work or project progress can reveal areas needing improvement, like identifying processes requiring updates, tasks that are taking unusually long, tasks that need reallocation, and such.
Here’s how you can keep tabs on progress:
- Using to-do lists or project management tools.
- Conducting weekly reviews to ensure no one is behind schedule and update them about their weekly goals.
- Hosting team meetings when needed to update everyone about changing priorities and new information.
- Use a project management tool that can give you real-time status.
To learn more, check out our ultimate project tracking guide.
How do you stay organized and manage multiple projects?
Though it sounds intimidating, it’s not impossible with these simple tips:
1. Save effective workflows and discard old habits
Do you ever repeat the same tasks that could easily be automated? Or do you notice a workflow that takes forever to complete?
Well, don’t be shy. First, eliminate tasks or processes that slow you down and replace them with new, more effective ones. Second, rely on technologies that make your life easier, like automation, templates, and AI.
For example, if you host meetings every Friday, you can use an automated calendar app to send out invitations automatically. This way, you don’t clog your brain with meeting reminders. Instead, you focus on a more important task, like deciding the meeting’s agenda.
Looking for tools to make your workflow and processes simpler? Check out this list of the very best organization apps.
2. Embrace time-blocking
Managing multiple tasks can take up a lot of head space and guilt you into trying to handle almost every task. Often, this can result in you taking on a task that isn’t a priority or relevant to your ongoing projects.
One of the best cures is time-blocking. The technique helps project managers focus on high-priority tasks to optimize productivity and time management — while discouraging multitasking.
3. Remain optimistic
Here’s the thing: even with all the strategies in the world, you can’t achieve project success without some optimism. It's the secret weapon against stress and chaos.
That’s probably why a study by Leadership IQ revealed that “optimistic employees are 103% more likely to love their jobs.” As a project manager or business owner, you have to create an optimistic environment for your team to achieve project success.
Ready to conquer the chaos of your project-packed life?
Managing multiple projects can be challenging, but effective ways to streamline the process exist. By employing the above strategies, you can ensure team members do their bit on time — without making them or you overly stressed out!
And it can all happen on a simple tool like Motion. With Motion’s powerful AI, you can automatically create the most efficient plans and schedules based on priorities — automatically delivering the right task at the right time. Stop figuring out what to work on next. Let Motion do that, and make managing multiple projects a breeze.
If you’re ready to start managing with AI, start today with Motion’s free 7-day trial.