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.🙂

P.S: Check out the details of Project Management here.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 Tips for Effectively Communicating Project Delays

6 Tips for Effectively Communicating Project Delays

It doesn’t matter how effective you might be at team management; it’s all but impossible to avoid the possibility of something going wrong with projects sometimes. In many cases, problems might be completely out of your hands. Delays are not uncommon, a survey has shown that a staggering 77% of projects run late, with 75% going over budget.

Although delays can be infuriating for all involved, project management will need to keep their focus and concentrate on what to do next. An important part of dealing with delays is communicating them with the client. This can be tricky to do and get the desired results, so here are 6 top tips on how to communicate project delays effectively.

1. Update The Customer as Soon as You Know

Having to tell a client that their project is delayed can be an awkward situation and something that a lot of people would try to avoid if possible. This might lead some people to try and delay telling the client, but this is only likely to worsen the situation.

It’s best to make the client aware of any delays as soon as you know. Doing so will help you maintain your professionalism despite the delay. It will also help give the client time to make other necessary arrangements. If you leave it until the last minute, you can leave the client in a tough situation with no time to fix it.

2. Keep Records

If there is a delay, the client may have questions. In such cases, it’s best to have all the answers available to you. 
Keeping productivity records will ensure you can show the client that you’ve practiced strong team management to keep the project running on time. You can also consider using project management software like the PK4 Time

Project Management in the PK4 TimeTracker

PK4 TimeTracker Gantt Chart

Tracker to help ensure you can show your client that your team has been working hard to reach the best possible performance levels.

Using a project management tool like the  PK4 TimeTracker can help you manage projects, organize tasks and build confidence within your team. You don’t need to shuffle between complex spreadsheets, email and other tools to keep your projects on course. Everything happens within one integrated system. And you’ll have all the time that your team has spent on the project, right at your finger tips. So you can present accurate data to your customer to back up your efforts.  And you can make it easy by giving your contractors access to the PK4 TimeTracker Mobile or Web app, so that tthey can track their time to the project as well, without needing to be in Salesforce.

3. Have a Solution Ready

Before you let your client know about any delays, it’s best to have a solution available. When you have a solution available, it helps to demonstrate that you’re doing what you can to rectify things as soon as possible.

Having a solution is one of the most important aspects of workplace management. Telling the client about your solution will help to take the edge of the bad news and help them to focus on the positives instead. It also allows the client to have their say about your solution, allowing them to contribute to making it work.

It’s important to remain positive yourself. Remember, you’re the professional and project management is what you do best, so you should always give the impression that you’re in control even when overall performance doesn’t go to plan.

4. Don’t Blame Others

Blaming other people for poor performance is a sign of poor team management, no matter how accurate you might be. If the client presses you for specific reasons regarding work priorities or similar, you should be honest with them, but it should never be done to try and deflect blame away from yourself.

Blaming others will make you look very unprofessional and will achieve nothing. It can make you look as though you’re unwilling to accept responsibility yourself, which could make your client concerned about how the rest of the project management will go.

There’s no need even to mention why a project has gone wrong or who is to blame in most cases. The client will usually only be concerned about what is being done to get everything back on track as much as possible. 

5. The Client Is Not Your Enemy

It’s entirely understandable if the client is frustrated at delays. After all, they have their time management and other issues to worry about. However, this does not mean a client becomes the enemy if they express their frustration.
Remember that the client will want the project completed in good time more so than you do, and they will likely cooperate with any attempt at getting things going again. You will likely need their cooperation to keep productivity high and get the project back on track, which means not making enemies.

You should certainly avoid saying it’s the client’s fault; doing so will only make them defensive. Instead, try to focus on work priorities and do what you can to get the client and team members working together to reach the same goal.

6. Update Often

In the case of a delay, it’s a good idea to keep the client regularly updated. They will be eager to know what progress is being made and will likely become frustrated if kept in the dark. You don’t necessarily need to keep in touch with them every day, but you should at least keep them posted on significant developments.

By keeping the client updated, you can help put their mind at rest while also giving them the opportunity to contribute. They may have a way of helping to make everything run as desired, so it’s a very good idea to have them fully on board. 

Summary

While communicating project delays can be awkward, you can make things go much better if you communicate effectively. Remember to communicate as quickly and as honestly as possible and be ready to present a solution. It’s also essential to always remain professional. Avoid blaming other people and instead focus on what you intend to do to overcome the problems you’re facing.

Keeping time management details and other useful records can also be very beneficial. Doing so can help you identify where things went wrong, and they can also show to clients that you’re doing your best if you’re pushed to give explanations. Regardless, it’s best to keep on communicating clearly and do what you can to keep the client and your team working hand in hand with you. 

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Manage Projects Efficiently and Get Paid Faster

Manage Projects Efficiently and Get Paid Faster

Late payments can play havoc with a company’s cash flow. Such disruption can result in shortages meaning there’s a lack of funds to reinvestment in the company or even difficulties paying bills and staff. Regardless, studies have shown that around 64% of small companies have experienced not being paid on invoices for 60 days or longer.

There are various reasons for late payments from clients. One reason is the client lacking funds themselves, while another potential reason is a lack of organization. The company doing the work is also sometimes at fault, such as delayed delivery, quality issues, or administrative problems. 

One way to ensure that you’re paid for projects on time is to run the project as efficiently as possible.

Define the Project Before Starting

One way to help ensure you get paid on time is to define the project before starting. You need to define the scope of the task, which materials are needed, how long it will take, and who will be working on the project.

By defining the project fully, you can give an accurate quote and completion deadline, meaning the client is less likely to have anything to contest when paying. Defining the project will also help ensure you get paid fairly for your work and have everything you need to do the job. 

Track Your Team

Manpower is one of the most important ingredients of just about any project. Your staff’s experience and skills are necessary to get the job done and even the most advanced technology cannot replace most human tasks. However, as important as manpower is for getting a project finished, it is also one of the most expensive aspects. Manpower can also be one of the most difficult variables to manage.

However, solutions like PK4 Tech’s time tracking software can help to make it much easier for you to track and manage your team. For example, the technology can let you know where an employee is at a particular time, what they have been working on, and how long they have spent on certain tasks.

This ability to monitor employees in such a way is beneficial for numerous reasons, including:

  • Error Reduction: It can be very easy to make errors when timesheets are created. People are unlikely to remember all the details of their working week, especially if they have been busy. Time tracking software will help to eliminate errors by tracking your employees’ actions for you. 
  • Improved Billing: Time trackers make it easier to track the amount of time working for clients. The software also makes it easier for you to send reports to your clients to keep up with the work being done and monitor the progress of the project themselves. With everything documented, clients are less likely to have a reason to delay their payments.
  • Monitor Productivity: The average employee will spend around 51% of their working day on unproductive tasks. It’s not necessarily their fault; people just won’t always realize how much time certain tasks are taking. With time tracking software, you can monitor how long employees are spending on tasks, helping you identify where they could be spending their time better.
  • Easy Processing: Processing timesheets can be a time-consuming and menial task for managers, meaning more important tasks are pushed aside. However, time-tracking software makes it much simpler for managers to approve timesheets. Instead of using paper sheets, managers instead have all the details they need on the screen in front of them. The software makes it easy to accept or reject timesheets at the touch of a button, and let employees know why their timesheet was rejected.
  • Budget Monitoring: It can be easy to go over budget if you’re not monitoring your expenses, but time tracking software makes it easy for you. With the right software, you can get the information you need at a glance, helping you make important decisions. 

Time tracking can help you manage your project more efficiently in numerous ways. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, the software can also produce comprehensive reports that give you the information you need to make impactful decisions. Not only that, but time-tracking software can also integrate with other systems, helping you get more value from them. Overall, the software can help you identify the most productive ways to work, while reducing errors and streamlining your processes. Your clients are more likely to pay on time with an efficiently managed process.