Project Management that actually WORKS

Project Management that actually WORKS

Managing a project can get real hairy real quickly. Look at our own process as an example:

  • We begin with a great idea – taken from our storehouse of great ideas, Jira, of course.
  • We talk through of how we think it should work within our context.
  • We write out the details of what we think should be done.
  • We break down the stuff that needs to get done into small segments – 8-to-16-hour work-items.
  • We figure out the skills needed for each of these work-items.
  •  We use a Gantt Chart to set up Tasks.
  • We assign those tasks to various people using a Resources mechanism.
  • We get to work.

Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, not at all. Yes, all the pieces are in place, but how do we know how things are going on a day-to-day basis? For example, someone takes off for a day fo personal reasons – how do we know about that? And how do we figure out how that will affect the project? If you’re anything like a typical team, there are always other things that intrude on your work – customer issues, tech issues, laptop failures, you name it. And they all impact someone’s ability to deliver on the tasks they have to work on. Yes, they may have a nice dashboard that shows what they should be working on today. And they may even have ways ot marking those things as Done when done. But that’s when things are done – what about when things are being done? How do we know if things are slowing down?

The best way we’ve found is to do the following:

  1. Begin with setting the number of hours each assignment takes, right in the assignment
  2. Break the assigned hours across the days that someone’s to work on the task – say, 4 hours a day for 6 days if it takes 6 days to deliver
  3. Get everyone to track the hours that they spend on each of their task, every day, using an effect time-tracker
  4. Get people to report PTO requests regularly
  5. Report the hours spent on each task against the hours that should have been spent by now, based on the daily breakdown and the time-tracked hours
  6. Talk to people when these hours don’t match, help them fix things early.

With this simple mechanism in place, you can tell if things are slowing down, very early in the game. You can tell ahead of time if your project needs more people, more time, more money, a new laptop, whatever. That’s how you can make sure that your project management is actually working.

Now, you can do all of this and more using PK4 TimeTracker and our Project Management add-on.

  • With the Gantt chart, you can plan your whole project out, with work-breakdown at a Task level.
  • You can then assign those tasks to various people having multiple people doing things on each task, if needed.
  • People can use the Tasks tab to track when they need to do, as can you for your project.
  • Everyone can request and track PTO requests as they come up.
  • People can report the time they’ve spent on each task – they can use Salesforce, a web app, a mobile app, Jira, Slack or a Chrome Extension to report time worked.
  • If you have stages in your project, you can track those stages for each task on the Kanban Board.
  • You can see who’s working on what, what days they’re overloaded on, what days they’re on PTO – all via the Resources tab.
  • You can set up any number of Salesforce reports to track work-breakdown and time at every level of detail.

The key thing in all this is that you can track tasks as they get done, based on the time that people report for each task assignment. This gives you a much clearer idea of how things are going than jotting down notes during meetings.

Hopefully, this will get you sleeping better.🙂

Check out the details of Project Management here.

 

How to Increase Productivity with a Time Audit

How to Increase Productivity with a Time Audit

Not completing your tasks in your working day can be very frustrating. It might mean you have to spend more of your spare time catching up, or maybe some tasks will become neglected. Regardless, many of us have felt as though we could get more done or that we have more time. The solution might be easier than you think.

One way to help give your productivity a boost is to run a time audit. This article looks at what a time audit is and how to

What is a Time Audit?

Simply put, a time audit involves examining what you work on throughout the day. Doing so will help you identify how you can improve your time management. Many people will use their time inefficiently in two main ways:

  • Procrastination

We’ve all done it. We get at our desk, about ready to crack on and get stuff done, but we first choose to have a quick look on social media. We start off intending to spend just a few minutes catching up, but before we know it, an hour has passed, and we’ve still got nothing done.

In some cases, we are not even aware of how much time we are spending on social media and other distractions. However, a time audit will help let you know how much time you are wasting and the results can be quite surprising. Seeing such results can also help compel you to improve your productivity.

  • Unproductive Tasks

Some of our tasks can be time-consuming and not particularly productive. For example, you might spend a lot of time checking your emails each morning, taking time away from more valuable jobs.

A time audit will help you identify which unproductive tasks you are spending too much time on, helping you reorganize your day. For example, you could try delegating some tasks to somebody else and consider using automation tools to do your menial tasks for you.

How to run a Time Audit?

Before you run a time audit, you will first need to get prepared. One of the first things you should do is to define your goals and place your tasks into categories. Armed with this information, it will become easier for you to analyze the report and identify where time management improvements can be made.

A time audit is not difficult to run, provided you have the right tools. These tools include:

  • Time Tracking Apps

Using a time-tracking app is probably the easiest and most effective way to run a time audit. Various platforms are available, including the PK4 TimeTracker. The platform offers powerful reports and analysis that help you run an audit that will help you get the answers you need.

Such a platform will automatically monitor what you are working for and record the data for use later. Having the information available digitally will let you run reports that help break down your working day into intuitive graphs, charts, and other information.

  • Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets may not be as high-tech as time-tracking tools, but they can still be very effective when used right. Of course, you will need a timer to record how much time you are spending on certain tasks, and you will need to enter the information into the spreadsheet.

If you are good with spreadsheets, you will also be able to create your own graphs and other reports. These reports will then help you organize your day to boost your productivity.

  • Pen and Paper

Pen and paper are the crudest methods available, but they can still be effective. You will obviously need to write everything down clearly, while you will also need to time yourself manually. It will help if you draw a table first so you have an appropriate place to write down your observations.

Analyzing Your Audit

Time Audit Reports in PK4 TimeTrackerTime audits are a powerful tool because they help you take accountability for how you work. In acknowledging where you could be doing better, you can then ‘own’ it, which is an essential step before tackling the situation.

It will help if you are as objective as possible when analyzing your audit. Taking an objective approach involved using making decisions based on facts rather than feelings. Trying to take a subjective approach could lead to you starting to make excuses, making it harder for you to accept accountability.

Acting on Your Audit

A time audit is of no use to you if you don’t act on it, so make sure you use the information to put a plan in place. Such a plan will typically involve ways of ensuring your time is spent on productive tasks. As mentioned previously, you could try delegating your tasks or maybe consider adopting automation where appropriate. If necessary, you could also consider having your access to social media blocked to prevent you from spending so much time on Facebook and other platforms.

Summary

A time audit can be easy to run, especially if you have the right tools for the job. Remember that it’s best to be objective and be hard on yourself if necessary. Doing so will help you accept accountability and set about reorganizing your day to increase your productivity.

With your day optimized to make you more productive, you will get much more done in your working day. You will spend less of your personal time trying to catch up, while the more important tasks will get the attention they deserve.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Using The Pomodoro Technique To Be More Productive

Using The Pomodoro Technique To Be More Productive

We all have a limited amount of time in the day, making it essential to make the most of the time we have. Busy people have searched for time management methods help them maximize their productivity, and one solution developed is the Pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro technique was developed by Italian author and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo. Francesco developed the technique with help from a tomato timer, and the Italian word for tomato is pomodoro, which is how the method got its name.

The method is simple: You set the timer to 25 minutes and get to work. Once the 25 minutes (known as a pomodoro) is up, you have a 5-minute break. You then repeat the process again. After four pomodoros, you take a longer break of between 15-20 minutes.

As simple as this time management technique is, it can be very effective.

Urgency

When working for long spells at a time, it’s easy to think you have plenty of time, thus reducing your urgency. This lack of urgency means you’re prone to browsing the web or getting involved with other distractions, affecting how much work you get done.

However, when using the Pomodoro time management technique, you will be breaking your work down into short sprints rather than a few long sessions. With just 25 minutes on the clock, you’re more eager to get as much done as you can, thus creating urgency. Approaching your work with more urgency will help you get more done in the limited time you have available. 

Regular Breaks

When working for long periods without a break, the mind will inevitably become tired. You can become slow, have difficulty focusing, and you might even become irritable. When this happens, your productivity is bound to take a hit no matter how hard you might try.

When using the Pomodoro method, you will be taking breaks regularly. Every 25 minutes, in fact. While the break will only be five minutes long, that’s all it takes for the mind to refresh itself to some degree. When the five minutes are up, and you get back to work again, you will be feeling much fresher and more productive.

Motivation

Spending hours on tasks can cause us to lose enthusiasm for our work. When we don’t feel like working, our productivity is bound to drop, meaning we get less work done.

Taking regular breaks will help to separate the working day into short sprints. Working in short sprints with breaks will help to keep you feeling fresh and enthused about the task at hand.

Gamifies Working

The Pomodoro time management technique helps to gamify working, making the working day easier and even a little fun. Each time you turn the timer on, you are in a race against the clock to get as much as you can before the time is up.

When trying to win the game, you will be focused intently on your task, boosting your productivity.

Dealing With Distractions

Distractions are inevitable. Whether you’re working from home or at the office, somebody or something will eventually break your flow. The good news is that Cirillo also developed the following system that helps you deal with distractions effectively. Distractions are inevitable. Whether you’re working from home or at the office, somebody or something will eventually break your flow. The good news is that Cirillo also developed the following system that helps you deal with distractions effectively. 

  • Inform: If somebody is distracting you from your work, politely inform them that you need to focus on your task. 
  • Negotiate: Arrange a time when you have some time spare.
  • Schedule: Make sure to schedule when you will meet with the person.
  • Call Back: Once your pomodoro is complete, get back to the person who was disturbing you. 

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro method is easy to use, but it still takes a little organization. Here’s what you need to do.

  • Buy a Timer: You will need some way to time each Pomodoro. Most timers will do, and the easier it is to use, the better. You can also try using time tracking software like the easy to use PK4 TimeTracker.
  • Plan Your Day: Write down all the tasks you need to get completed. It’s best to rank them in accordance and assign a Pomodoro to each one. 
  • Allow for Overflow Pomodoros: Some tasks will take longer than 25 minutes, and it’s not always practical to split them into more than one. This makes it a good idea to allow for overflow pomodoros, so you have allocated enough time for the day. 

While the Pomodoro method initially stipulates sprints of 25 minutes, you can experiment to find what works best for you. Try shortening or lengthening the time of each pomodoro, while you can also try experimenting with the length of breaks. The overall objective is the get as much work done as you can, so do whatever works best for you.

Summary

One of the best things about the pomodoro technique is that it’s so easy to use. All it takes is to find a suitable timer, a little preparation, and you’re ready to go. When using the method, you should find you increase your focus when you are working, helping to boost your overall productivity.
Remember that it’s also fine to experiment to find what works best for you. You can even try using different types of timers, from the original tomato timer after which the technique is named to digital time-tracking tools.
Regardless, using time management techniques for better productivity can help transform your working day for the better. 

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash 

 

How to Blog Effectively Using a Kanban Board

How to Blog Effectively Using a Kanban Board

Any blogger can tell you it’s important to be organized to help keep your productivity up. Otherwise, you could easily find yourself spending time working out what needs to be done next. Being unorganized also increases the risk that you will miss something altogether, potentially leading to missed deadlines and poor overall project management.

One tool that many bloggers use to help them stay organized is the Kanban Board. The Kanban board involves setting up columns in which tasks are placed according to where they are in the blogging process. So, for example, you can have a column for your ideas, a column for blog outlines, and so on. 

Kanban boards are easy to use, especially with help from PK4 TimeTrackers project management module that makes it easy for users to use Kanban boards in Salesforce. It couldn’t be easier to create new cards for each task, and you can simply drag and drop cards into place as each task progresses. 

This article looks at how a Kanban board can help bloggers work efficiently to boost their productivity.

1. Better Visualization

One of the best advantages of using a Kanban board is that it helps you visualize your workflow at a glance. With your workflow visualized, it becomes easier for you to manage your workflow and identify which tasks should take priority. Being able to see what needs to be done in this way also means you spend less time on project management and more time on getting jobs done.

2. Improve Productivity

As mentioned, Kanban boards mean you spend less time managing projects, boosting your productivity. And there are other benefits, such as being able to track how long certain tasks are taking. Kanban boards help you track cycle time, which is how long a task takes from start to finish, while it also helps you track how many tasks you’ve finished in a given period. This information can then be used to help make your workflow more productive.

3. Manage Your Workload

While it’s good to be busy, we can sometimes bite off more than we can chew. When that happens, we can end up with missed deadlines and unhappy clients. Unhappy clients can often be avoided by not taking on too much work in the first place, and a Kanban board can be very helpful in this regard. Good project management sometimes means saying ‘no’ and letting people know that you’re full. A Kanban board makes it easier for you to visualize when you can’t take on more work.

4. Enhance Flexibility

 A Kanban board helps make it easy for you to make changes to your workflow. This is because there are no set dates or procedures with a Kanban board – you can just move the cards around as you see fit. For example, suppose an urgent job has come up that needs prioritizing. You can simply move the new job into a high-priority category so you and anybody else know to focus on it first. Such flexibility makes it easier for you to react whenever an issue comes up, helping you to keep on top.

5. Distribute Workloads Effectively

Many bloggers will have other people working with them, and distributing tasks effectively will help tasks get done well and on time. It also helps avoid overloading members of your team, which helps to keep productivity high and ensure their morale doesn’t suffer. Kanban boards make it easy for you to visualize who has a heavy workload, helping you spread the workload more evenly, which improves project management.

6. Improve Focus

 We often hear about multi-tasking and how it supposedly helps people get more done. However, quite the opposite is true. A Kanban board makes it easier for you to focus on the tasks that have the highest priority, focusing on one task at a time. With an improved focus on each task, that task will be completed sooner, and you can move on to the next one. A Kanban board also make it easier to assign accountability, so others in your team know what to focus on.

7. Improve Collaboration

Collaboration is essential for good project management, and Kanban boards help make collaboration much easier. Digital Kanban boards in particular are excellent for collaborating because everybody with access to the board has an up-to-date picture of what needs to be done and who is responsible for it. Team members can also comment on individual tasks or the board overall, helping to ensure everybody is working as a team so productivity stays high.

Summary

A Kanban board can be a very powerful tool for bloggers. When used right, a board can help enhance productivity and efficiency not just for you but also for others working with you. A Kanban board will also make it easier for you to assign accountability so you know who is responsible for what. 

Bloggers who use a Kanban board will also find it easier to manage their workloads and distribute work to their team. Kanban boards also help improve flexibility, and collaboration also becomes easier. 

Perhaps best of all is that Kanban boards are very easy to use and very affordable. In most cases, a simple whiteboard or similar will do with post-it notes used as cards that can easily be moved from column to column. Digital versions are also available, which makes them even easier to use, and some Kanban board software platforms are even available for free, albeit with limited functions.

 

Photo by Eden Constantino on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

6 Ways to Become An Accountable Teammate

6 Ways to Become An Accountable Teammate

People work much more effectively as a team when compared to working as a group of individuals. However, in order for teamwork to be effective, each member of the team must do their part. If just one member of the team falters, it can adversely affect the whole group, and projects can be delayed or even worse.

One way to help ensure that all team members are participating is for all team members to accept accountability for their roles. Once team members are accountable, they know they’re responsible for certain tasks while the rest of the team understands their and others’ roles in the group.

This leads to the question of how you can become an accountable teammate, and this article looks to answer that question.

1. Work Efficiently

As a member of a team, individuals have the responsibility of ensuring they’re working efficiently and effectively. Otherwise, tasks might be delayed or not completed to the required standards. However, a lot of people may not be working efficiently without being aware of it.

To help you ensure you’re working efficiency, you can use time tracking software like the PK4 TimeTracker to monitor how much time you’re spending on particular tasks. The results are often surprising, with people finding out that they’re spending a lot of their time on unproductive jobs. Knowing this information then allows you to make adjustments to get your productivity back on track. 

2. Avoid Excuses

If you’re responsible for something that goes wrong – own it. Hold your hand up, acknowledge that you’re at fault and look to rectify the issue as soon as possible. One of the worst things you can do is to make excuses, and you should definitely avoid blaming other people.

You should also ensure you make people aware of the situation as soon as possible. You might find it tempting to keep it quiet in the hope it’ll work out, but this is only likely to make the matter worse. Instead, speak up about any project delays straight away so you can use teamwork with your colleagues, enabling you to fix the problem as soon as possible.

3. Embrace Failure

As a famous Scotsman once quipped, even the best-made plans can go wrong. This won’t necessarily be your fault or anybody else’s, while at other times the reason for the failure might be down to you. Don’t shirk away from such failures. Instead, you should embrace them. While failure obviously has its downsides, it can also be treated as an opportunity.

Once you embrace a failure, you can then own it and deal with it. Embracing a failure also helps you do one of the best things you can do in such a situation, which is to learn from it. When you are embracing your failures, working to correct them and learning from them, you become an accountable member of the team.

4. Declare Your Responsibilities

For teamwork to be effective, it’s important that everybody know who is responsible for what. That way, if something is behind schedule or gets done badly, people know who to turn to. If nobody is accepting responsibility for the role then there’s nobody to turn to, potentially making it very difficult to accept the situation.

To be an accountable teammate, you should declare your responsibility upfront so everybody knows who to speak to should they need to. This can also benefit you because people know who to approach to help prevent a problem from happening, if needed. Not only should you declare your responsibilities, but your teammates should do also.

5. Set Targets

All team members should set themselves targets that help ensure they deliver what is needed, and on time. You should also share your targets with your teammates so everybody knows what is expected of each other as well as themselves.

Another advantage of setting targets is that it helps the team as a unit tell if they’re being realistic and will contribute to successful project management. Setting targets together as a team gives everybody the opportunity to speak out if they feel the plan is flawed in any way.

6. Provide Regular Updates

Providing regular updates on your progress helps to ensure everything is going according to plan. Not only will providing updates help let your teammates know you’re on target, but it’s also an opportunity for you to update yourself. If something isn’t to specification or if it’s running late, then regular updates allow you to fix issues before they become a serious problem.

Providing regular updates will also help make it clear to others what your role is, thus ensuring you maximize your accountability and provide a strong teamwork ethic. Of course, the rest of the team should also provide regular updates making project management easier.

Become an Accountable Team Member and Enhance Your Career

Being an accountable team member provides various benefits to your team by helping to ensure projects are completed successfully. Perhaps even better is that accepting accountability is beneficial for you.

Accepting accountability will help make you a valuable team member, meaning you provide a positive contribution. Being adept at teamwork and contributing will likely be noticed and, hopefully, rewarded with promotions and positions that will help to further your career.

What’s more is that becoming accountable isn’t necessarily difficult, and it can even help to make your job easier. Make sure you’re spending your time effectively, embrace failure so you can learn from it, be open about your responsibilities, and do what you can to contribute to overall project management. Don’t forget that you should expect the same from your teammates also.

If you have any other tips on becoming an accountable team member, do share it with us in the comments. Would love to hear from you.

Photo by StockSnap on Pixabay

 

7 Tips to Make Team Meetings Productive

7 Tips to Make Team Meetings Productive

Productivity is an essential metric for businesses. Without high performance levels, targets aren’t met, and the bottom line can be affected, potentially jeopardizing the company. Some methods can keep performance levels high. For example, time tracking software like the PK4 TimeTracker will help make time management easier and limit wasted time.  

Individual employees must work together as a team for maximum project management effectiveness. However, getting individuals to work together can be easier said than done, with meetings often necessary to help the team gel as a unit.

Regular meetings can help make team management easier and boost productivity by getting everybody together and discussing roles and processes. Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your team meetings.

1. Create An Agenda

No meetings should begin without a meeting agenda. You should also send a message to others beforehand to ask if there’s anything they’d like to add to the schedule. Once you’ve created your agenda, you should ensure that everybody has a copy before the meeting starts.

An agenda is important because it helps ensure that everything is covered. A plan will also help ensure there’s enough time to cover everything, and it also helps you allocate time to agenda items to ensure they don’t’ run over.

During a meeting, it’s easy for people to come up with ideas that are not on the agenda, which could derail the meeting. However, such ideas may be valuable and should not be wasted. A solution to the issue is the parking lot technique that lets ideas be ‘parked’ so they can be revisited later.

2. Create the Right Environment

For a meeting to be constructive, it needs to be held in the right environment. The right environment means being in a place where you are not disturbed and where everybody has the opportunity to speak freely. Also, make sure that there’s plenty of space, everybody is comfortable, and you have all the tools you need.

In some cases, it can be constructive to hold team meetings in a casual environment with beanbags and other comfortable sitting arrangements. Helping people relax can help them think easier, helping their creativity to come out.

If your meeting involves remote workers, make sure all the equipment is in place at both ends. It’s a good idea to check equipment first to help ensure audio and video is clear and any other required functionality is working.

3. Assign Meeting Roles

Some meeting attendees should be given specific roles that will help ensure the meeting goes smoothly and is productive. The manager will usually lead the meeting, while other important roles include note-taking and time keeping.

It can also be a great idea in some meetings to assign somebody the role of devil’s advocate. This person will have the responsibility of challenging ideas to provoke thought. The devil’s advocate doesn’t necessarily have to disagree with ideas they are challenging – it’s more of a brainstorming exercise. 

4. Talk About Teamwork Not Reports

 Team meetings should ideally be about teamwork and work priorities. For example, team meetings should cover matters like roles within the team and if there is anything team members can do to be helping each other more.

It might be tempting to use a team meeting to distribute reports on project management, but this would be a waste of valuable time. Instead, reports can be sent before the meeting is held, so time is spent on more productive discussions. It’s a good idea to send the reports in plenty of time, so everybody has a chance to read them.

5. Assign Accountability

It’s all very well talking about what needs to be done, but one of the key issues is ensuring people know who is responsible. During the meeting make sure to assign accountability to the appropriate people so everybody understands who is responsible. Not only does this help the person responsible understand their role, but it also helps the rest of the team understand their position in the group. Assigning accountability during a meeting is also effective team management because it allows people to voice any concerns they might have. 

6. Ask For Feedback

No meetings should be a monologue coming from the meeting leader. Instead, they should be an opportunity for everybody to get involved and say their piece. Not only should you allow people to speak, but you should actively encourage them to speak. If needed, make sure to address everybody individually to make sure they know they have a voice.

Active listening is also very important for workplace management. Active listening means letting people speak and considering everything they are saying. Don’t be too quick to pass something off if it doesn’t sit well to begin with; the person speaking might have a very good point. 

7. Make Meetings Fun

Meetings can become boring and, when things get boring, even the most attentive of people can begin to drift away. However, if you make your team meetings fun, then you’re likely to keep everybody’s attention. So add some wit to your meetings to help make them enjoyable, while you can also try role play for a fun way to help team members understand other people’s roles in the team.

Of course, it’s important to remain professional and ensure that everything is covered. If things start getting a little too rowdy, it’s best to bring everybody’s attention back to work priorities. 

Summary

These are just a few tips that will help ensure that you get as much as possible from your meetings. Different types of organizations will need to adopt different models according to the nature of their work. For example, some will need to focus on creativity during their team meetings, while others will have more of a focus on technical issues.

Regardless, if you prepare and execute your meetings accordingly, they should help make project management easier. Do share any other tips that you find useful to make meetings more productive.

Photo by Joseph Mucira on Pixabay