Are there people in your department who are exceptional at getting their tasks done on time? Do you have colleagues, that no matter how much seems to be on their plate, they can always remain calm and focused? If you answered yes to either question, then the people you admire have strong project management skills.
These skills are critical for being able to get your work done efficiently, but perhaps more importantly, they enable you to better manage stressful periods and tight deadlines.
Here are our top tips on improving your project management skills – starting now!
The project management skills you need
Project management isn’t a single skill – rather it requires a combination of abilities to ensure you can effectively meet deadlines and manage any change in workload. If you want to improve your skills, or even secure a job as a project manager, look to refine these skills:
- Communication skills
If you want to manage your workload as effectively as possible, you need to be able to talk about it clearly and succinctly. That means talking to colleagues in your team, those in different departments, business leaders and external stakeholders. Being able to communicate well about your work will also make you a practiced delegator, able to call out when the workload and stress is too much.
- Organisational skills
There’s no-one with great project management skills that is without impressive organisational skills. From IT innovators like Bill Gates to CEO of the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva, successful leaders and project managers are organised. It’s a skill at the very heart of project management, as it allows you to handle your workload effectively, manage time and meet deadlines consistently. Being organised is a critical part of developing great project management skills, but there’s no single or perfect way to improve these skills. The best strategy for becoming more organised to find strategies, systems, apps or processes that suit your personality, work type and work space. Never be afraid to experiment in the pursuit of becoming more efficient and organised.
- Teamwork skills
Knowing when and how to engage the best and most qualified people for certain tasks, and being able to work effectively with them is a crucial project management skill, and will help you succeed in getting tasks done faster. A strong ability to work and collaborate with others will also help when you have to delegate tasks, such as dividing projects into smaller, specialised components.
5 key project management steps
In addition to strengthening skills that will help you manage projects and stress more effectively, implement these five steps each time you commence a new body of work to ensure you’ve prioritised the most important task first, and that you have the resources and support you need to get the job done.
- Start strong
Meet with your manager to ensure the projects you’re working on align to wider team, department and organisational priorities. You may find, for example, that some of the assignments you deemed urgent can wait until the new financial quarter commences, or that a web design agency will be engaged to assist with a particular part of the project. In this same discussion, start talking with your manager about the resources you need to complete projects, and agree to timeframes that are ambitious, but able to be met by all parties.
While strong communication skills are important for all elements of project management, they are particularly critical at this stage. This is the stage in which projects, timelines and resources are being decided. It’s also a time in which to be upfront about any concerns you have, so they can resolved early and managed throughout the project’s duration.
- Engage your stakeholders
Seek the contributions and feedback of colleagues, stakeholders and leaders in, and external to your organisation. Use a combination of ideas and strategies to determine the best course of action when you’re confronted with a difficult or unknown situation. Having trouble creating a formula in Excel? Need to pull a complex report from SAP? Chances are, someone on the team has the experience to help you out, saving you time and frustration.
- Be goal oriented
Direct your energy toward situations where you can affect the outcome, and don’t spend time worrying about what you can’t impact or control. You may not be able to move a tight deadline, but you can ask your supervisor to take a project off your plate, at least temporarily, so you can tackle the immediate need. Stay focused on the goals you need and want to achieve, so your work is focussed and pointed too.
- Use apps and tested project management tools
There are many digital (and often free) tools to help you better manage time, projects and people. They offer ways of dividing projects, managing conversations, tracking notes and storing important documents that can help you get organised with ease, and keep you on track throughout the project’s lifespan. Try online programs and apps such as Asana, Trello or Basecamp to really kick your project management skills into gear.
- Be prepared
Use quieter periods in between different projects to prepare for the next busy phase. It can be hard to see the wood from the trees when you’re under pressure, so you’ll thank yourself for having undertaken even a small amount of preparatory work. Organise your files and determine what resources you might need going forward. This will increase your efficiency and allow you to be more productive, having got much of the administrative work out of the way.
Large workloads and challenging deadlines can put anyone’s constitution to the test in the workplace, so don’t be hard on yourself if on occasion you still find you’re stressed or overwhelmed.
Developing project management skills is a career-long pursuit and one that takes time and practice. Implement these project management steps to help you work more efficiently and enjoyably, no matter what role or industry you’re in.