The life of a project manager is challenging. Without the right set of tools, it becomes too difficult to manage and organize projects efficiently.
A project manager has to handle multiple things simultaneously, managing teams, their tasks, and the project while keeping everything organized and running smoothly.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to organize projects efficiently as a project manager.
These are not golden nuggets of wisdom that will change your life overnight. This is a great place to start if you’re looking for some tips on how to get your projects organized.
Fasten your seatbelt, then, as we’re about to take off on a whistle-stop tour of some of the critical phases of project management and how you can effectively organize your projects at each stage.
5 Key Phases of the Project Management Process
Before we get you on a ride on how to organize projects effectively, let’s just briefly touch on the key phases of the project management process.
Step 1: Initiation
You couldn’t start a project without first so-called initiating it. This is the phase where you’ll develop a project charter and get sign-off from all the relevant stakeholders.
You’ll need to think about the project’s objectives, what success looks like, and who needs to be involved for the project to be successful. That’s when you start to develop a project plan and put together a team, yet without going into too much detail, as this will come later.
Step 2: Planning
Have you heard of a principle “garbage in, garbage out“? It definitely applies to the planning stage of a project.
The better you plan, the smoother your execution is going to be. This is when you’ll really start to think about all of the moving parts of your project and how they’re going to fit together. You’ll also need to consider any risks that might pop up.
Step 3: Execution
Turn your plans into reality by putting them into action. This is when you start to see your project really take shape.
Your team will be working hard to deliver on all of the objectives that you’ve set out and making sure that everything is going according to plan. You need to stay on top of things at this stage and keep an eye out for any potential issues that might arise.
Step 4: Monitoring & Control
You can’t just set your project off and then forget about it until the end (even if it actually sounds super tempting).
You need to monitor and control it throughout its entirety to make sure that everything is on track.
Regular check-ins with your team are a must but don’t go to another extreme by micromanaging everything. Find a happy balance that works for you and your team.
To review the progress of your project, you can make use of various tools and techniques, such as Gantt charts or earned value analysis – but we could also recommend Nifty right here.
Step 5: Closing
Have you just shipped your project? Well done you. But your job isn’t quite done yet.
You need to close off your project by making sure that all of the objectives have been met and that all of the stakeholders are happy. Once you’ve done that, you can officially call your project complete. And well done, again!
How to effectively organize project management
Since we’re behind the stages of the project management process, it’s time to give some insights on how you can effectively organize your projects.
Projects are not easy to handle. If they were, everyone would be doing it and there wouldn’t be a need for this guide in the first place. So, we hope that these tips will help you get your projects better organized and make your job a little bit easier.
#1 Set clear expectations and priorities
Not leaving enough room for interpretation is the first step to avoid any issues later on. You need to be clear about what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Not only in front of your team but also in front of your stakeholders.
The same goes for setting priorities. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. The importance of tasks should be determined and then communicated to everyone who is working on the project.
This also is the right place to start thinking about risks. What could go wrong and how would that impact the project? And, if so, who should be held accountable, and how to solve the problem?
Specify as many details as you can upfront to avoid any issues later.
#2 Use project management software from the very beginning
When starting a project, most people tend to underestimate just how much work it’s going to be and how quickly it will start piling up. The reality is, projects are complex beasts and they need to be treated as such.
Even if you think you’ll be better off managing everything yourself, we urge you to at least consider using project management software for individuals from the beginning. It will make your life so much easier, we promise.
Automating various tasks, such as setting deadlines, assigning tasks, and sending reminders, can save you many precious hours in the long run.
Nifty is a great tool for managing projects of all shapes and sizes.
#3 Define project scope
This step is an absolute must. Defining the scope of your project will help you (and everyone else involved) keep track of what needs to be done and, just as importantly, what doesn’t need to be done. Trying to do too much will only lead to subpar results and a lot of frustrated team members.
Lack of defining project scope, or not being precise enough, is one of the most common causes of project failure. It’s also an easy way to achieve infamous scope creep – a situation where the scope of your project gradually starts expanding without anyone noticing.
To avoid scope creep, ensure you are clear about what’s included in the scope of your project and what’s not. Define it in detail and document it well. This will help you keep everyone on track and prevent any unnecessary tasks from being added to the project.
With the right project management software, you don’t need to worry about your project getting out of hand.
Let’s say that you run services like business IT support by EC-MSP. Defining each collaboration’s project scope and requirements is a must since IT support projects can be very long and in-depth. It is only beneficial for everyone to clarify that from the beginning.
#4 Make a mind map
While this step is not strictly necessary, we find that making a mind map of your project can be extremely helpful in getting a better overview of the tasks at hand.
If you’ve never made a mind map before, don’t worry, it’s straightforward. Mind maps are basically just a way to organize information visually. You can use them to brainstorm ideas, take notes, or in this case, plan a project.
To create a mind map for your project, start by writing the name of your project in the middle of a blank page. Then, start adding all the tasks that need to be done around it. You can organize them in any way you want, but we find it helpful to group them by theme. For example, all the tasks that need to be done before the project can start or all the tasks that need to be done in parallel.
Once you have all your tasks down, you can start adding more details to each of them. This is where you can start getting into the nitty-gritty and ensure that nothing gets forgotten.
You can easily expand your mind map as the project progresses and new tasks arise.
#5 Create a project plan
We have mentioned that before, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to create a detailed project plan before you start working on a project.
Having a crystal clear vision of what and how needs to be done is crucial for the success of any project. A project plan will help you stay on track and ensure that everyone involved knows what their responsibilities are.
Creating a project plan doesn’t need to be complicated.
You can start by listing all the tasks that need to be done and then assigning them to specific team members. Add dependencies, as usual in projects; one task can’t be started before another is completed. And especially in larger scale projects, it’s important to add estimated durations for each task.
This will give you a good idea of how long the project will take and if any tasks need to be prioritized.
#6 Set deadlines – and don’t miss them
Deadlines are like oxygen for projects. Without them, nothing would get done.
Setting deadlines is important to keep the project moving forward and ensure that everyone involved is aware of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.
Of course, meeting deadlines is just as important as setting them in the first place. When you are creating your project plan, be realistic about the deadlines. And if any tasks you think might be at risk of not being completed on time, flag them so you can keep an eye on them.
Missing deadlines is one of the quickest ways to kill a project. It will cause frustration and can lead to a loss of motivation. So do your best to avoid it.
Nifty makes it straightforward to set deadlines for each task and project. You can add assignees and they get notified about the deadlines and are also notified if someone changes them:
In case the assignees miss the deadline, we notify them with in-app notification, push notification as well as over email:
You should also set up a couple of buffers around your deadlines. While we don’t recommend missing deadlines, sometimes things happen that are out of your control. By setting up a buffer, you can account for these and ensure that the project is completed on time.
#7 Set KPIs and OKRs
Why do you run that particular project? What are your goals?
Before starting to work on a project, it’s important to think about the bigger picture and what you are actually trying to achieve with the project. This will help you stay focused and motivated when things get tough.
There are two ways that can help you with this – setting KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).
KPIs are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals you set for your project. They help you track your project’s progress and ensure that you are on track to meet your objectives.
Examples of KPIs you can set for your project are:
- The number of new customers you acquire
- The amount of money you generate in revenue
- The number of new leads you generate
OKRs, however, are a bit broader and more general. They are the objectives you want to achieve with your project and the key results you need to reach those objectives – and they should be achieved within a certain timeframe.
Examples of OKRs you can set for your project are:
- Increase market share by X% in the next year
- Generate $X million in revenue in the next quarter
Both KPIs and OKRs can be extremely helpful in keeping your projects organized and on track.
#8 Delegate tasks where possible
Learning how to delegate big chunks of tasks is one of the essential skills a project manager can have – but one of the most difficult to possess.
Of course, you can’t delegate everything – there will always be some tasks that only you can do. But for most tasks, it’s important to learn how to delegate effectively.
Delegating doesn’t mean that you are giving away all responsibility for the task. It just means that you assign the task to someone better suited to do it.
For example, if you are working on a project that requires design work, you might delegate the task of creating the designs to a designer on your team. And that’s fair enough! You might be a great project manager, but that doesn’t mean you are also a great designer. Or, if you need to manage multiple Facebook pages, you can outsource it further and use software for scheduling.
Delegating tasks also has the added benefit of freeing up your time so you can focus on other aspects of the project. And it will help to develop the skills of the people on your team. Depending upon your use case, you should consider using task management software at some point in your project.
#9 Use pre-built templates to ease your work
Various templates aren’t here just to collect dust but to make your project manager’s life easier.
If you are working on a project that is similar to one that you have done in the past, then you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by using a pre-built template. Or, you can look at some online templates to streamline your work.
For example, if you are working on a website development project, you can use a template containing all the necessary pages and sections. This will save you from starting from scratch every time you work on a new project. You can create such in Figma or Miro and make it a linkable asset within Nifty.
#10 Always leave room for unplanned issues
How many times has a project gone completely according to plan?
No matter how well you organize and plan your projects, there will always be unplanned issues that come up. That’s just the nature of projects.
The important thing is to be prepared for when these issues arise. Always leave some room in your budget and schedule for unplanned issues. These might include things like scope creep, unforeseen problems, or last-minute changes.
And make sure you have a contingency plan in place if something goes wrong. You won’t predict everything, but you can be prepared for anything. Projects are “liquid,” – meaning they can change shape anytime.
Running projects is no walk in the park. We all know it. If you want to successfully see your projects through to the end, you need to be organized.
In the end, effective project management all comes down to good organization and planning. The better you are at setting clear expectations and priorities, creating a project plan, delegating tasks, using templates to your advantage, and leaving room for the unexpected, the more likely you will succeed.
It might be too much for many project managers, but fortunately, tools and resources are available to help you stay organized. With the right mindset, skills, and systems in place, you can master project management and take your projects from start to finish with ease.
Nifty is here to help you with that. Our project management software is designed to help you keep your projects organized from start to finish. We’ve got all the features and tools you need to manage your projects effectively – from budgeting to task management to Gantt charts.