Project managers have many tasks to juggle, and they’re accountable for exceptional time management skills to complete projects on time. Accordingly, one of their most important responsibilities is effectively managing their time, so they can cover their most important priorities and meet all their deadlines.

What do successful project managers do differently? And how can you learn from them?

The Value of Project Managers

Project managers are indispensable for a wide variety of projects, including web development projects. Typically, they must work with a variety of people in order to accomplish a series of specific objectives.

For example, in web project development, the project manager will usually work with clients, designers, developers, and testers.

Over the course of several weeks, the project manager will be responsible for making sure the overall project stays on track, hitting each milestone within a given time frame and at an acceptable level of quality or completeness.

One of the interesting qualities of a project manager is that they’re responsible for time management in two different capacities. First, they must manage their own time. Project managers have a number of individual responsibilities and tasks to complete and a finite amount of time in each day, so they need to be prudent about how they spend their time. Second, they must manage external resources and other people in a way that allows them to manage their time more effectively.

Obviously, each individual in the context of a given project is going to be responsible for managing their own time. But project managers are, at the highest level, responsible for allocating resources and coordinating people to ensure that time is managed and allocated properly.

Time Management Secrets of Successful Project Managers

These are the time management secrets of successful project managers:

1. They use the right platforms.

Project management platforms come in many varieties, and some are better than others, with more features, better organizational tools, a smoother flow, and more intuitive usability. Of course, there’s an element of subjectivity here; not all project managers are going to agree on what constitutes a good platform. However, almost all effective project managers share a discerning nature when it comes to choosing this centralized source of truth.

2. They understand deadlines in context.

Project managers often have to work backward, starting with a deadline and figuring out how to manage time as that deadline approaches. One of the most important strategies for doing this effectively is understanding deadlines in context.

For example, there might be a deadline to produce design comps for a website within three weeks, but the context here is that developers will need approved comps to start critical development processes immediately after this deadline. This means adhering to the design comp deadline is essential for the project to keep moving forward, and therefore may need to take higher priority over other, less important or more flexible deadlines.

This aspect of critical thinking is crucial for project managers to manage time appropriately in the pursuit of high-level goals.

3. They use priority hierarchies.

In line with this, most project managers use some kind of priority hierarchy or matrix to help them decide between competing priorities in direct conflict with each other.

For example, the “Eisenhower matrix” is a commonly used hierarchy matrix that can establish priority levels based on both urgency and importance. What’s important is that a project manager has some consistent method of evaluating priority level, so they can use it across many different contexts and in a repeatable way. When there are two seemingly equally important tasks to complete, and only enough time to complete one of them, this framework can help project managers choose one over the other.

4. They anticipate issues.

Problems inevitably arise in any sufficiently complicated project to be managed and executed. The difference between successful and unsuccessful project managers is in how they approach these inevitable problems. Good time management requires you to not only respond to issues in a time-efficient manner, but to also anticipate those issues so you have time to prepare for them and have the foresight to account for them.

As a simple example, skilled project managers sometimes build a few extra days into a timeline to account for any issues that might come up in the meantime.

5. They start from the high level.

When relaying directives, project managers start from the high level. They understand that in order to be successful as a team, each individual in the team needs to understand the context of what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean every individual team member needs to be fully educated on every aspect of the project, but they should have a thorough understanding of their role and their context within that project.

[Related: Propel Yourself to the Top 1%: 20 Rules for Uncommon Success in 2024]

6. They communicate clearly and proactively.

Communication has the power to prevent most conflicts and resolve the few that slip by and become significant. That’s why effective project managers make it a point to communicate as clearly and proactively as possible. When creating tasks in project management platforms, holding meetings with individuals, or conveying requests from clients, they meticulously check their work to avoid ambiguities or potential points of confusion. They also jump on potential issues as quickly as possible to mitigate their effects.

7. They use meticulous, itemized time estimates.

Project managers with excellent time management skills also make use of very detailed, itemized time estimates. When they tell a client that a specific project is going to take a month, this figure isn’t a ballpark number, nor is it improvised on the spot. They make time estimates for each individual component of the project and add them together. It leads to more accurate time estimates and allows for superior updating if any individual component goes awry.

8. They keep meetings focused and tight.

Meetings may be important, but they’re frequently unproductive – and excellent project managers know this well. You can’t eliminate meetings altogether, but you can make them much more focused and much tighter. Typically, this means only inviting people who are truly essential to the meeting, keeping the meeting as short as possible, and adhering to a strict agenda so the meeting doesn’t deviate from its intended course. It’s a simple strategy that can save hundreds of cumulative man-hours in the long run.

9. They recognize delays early – and work around them.

Even the best project managers face unexpected delays. Good time managers distinguish themselves by recognizing delays early and finding ways to work around them. They communicate delays to clients directly, whenever relevant, and do what they can to make up for shortfalls in other areas. They may also be willing to find compromises whenever primary time-based goals reveal themselves to be no longer achievable.

10. They know how and when to delegate.

Project managers are, arguably, professional delegators. Even so, it’s important for them to be able to delegate responsibilities effectively when necessary. Prudent time managers know when it’s appropriate to step in and handle something. And, they know when it’s appropriate to call someone else in to take over the work. They also know when it’s time to hire an assistant or a partner to share the workload.

11. They recognize individual strengths and weaknesses.

As a project manager, you can manage your time much more effectively by recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses. Assigning tasks to the people best capable of completing them and adjusting your time estimates based on the capabilities of your crew are crucial for hitting your milestones consistently.

12. They can switch hats quickly.

It’s easy to lose time when you’re switching hats ineffectively throughout the day. Jumping from one department to another can be mentally exhausting and confusing. But, the best project managers have techniques to minimize attrition here. Keeping detailed notes on your interactions with each department, using different communication channels for different purposes, and segmenting your time proactively when possible can all help.

13. They share their secrets with others.

Finally, we should recognize that excellent project managers are also willing to share their time management secrets with other people. After all, project managers can’t be effective at time management unless the teams they coordinate are also effective at it. The more collaborative the project management environment is, and the more team members can learn from each other, the better.

Whether you’re trying to be a highly effective project manager, or you just want to discover better time management strategies for your own profession, these best-kept secrets can give you the information and direction you need. Feel free to adopt these strategies and adjust them to your own personal management style. Or, consider using them in combination with your own tactics to perfect your approach to the art of time management.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Sora Shimazak; Pexels; Thank you.