The How-To: Five Tips For Smart Project Management
For companies to succeed in today's world it is more important than ever to be working as smart as possible. There are many areas a company can look at to make improvements but we've looked at five key areas we believe are crucial as a great starting point.
1. Focus on core strengths
As an entrepreneur, it's important to identify what your strengths are and to make these areas your main focus. It's impossible to be good at everything, but as a startup or a small business, it's also sometimes impossible to recruit additional help from day one because of all the costs associated with hiring.
Try to avoid doing everything yourself because the standard of work will suffer and your health with suffer too. It won't be long until you're working all the hours available in a day, and still feel like you're going around in circles. Contrary to popular belief, help is actually all around you, and it doesn't have to be expensive.
Shifts in flexible working attitudes means that highly skilled and experienced experts are available and willing to support companies on a task-by-task or project-by-project basis. Being able to outsource even small bits of work enables companies to manage their headcount and their budgets whilst, better still, achieving their goals.
2. Be clear on deliverables and expected outcomes
This is about making sure you're doing the basics right. SMART objectives are the simplest way to provide structure to getting things done. Most of us are aware of this methodology, but how many of us take the time to ensure we are applying this every time we set objectives?
There are several definitions for what SMART stands for, but think of it as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. Ask yourself each time you set an objective, no matter how small, how does it fit into these five areas? It's easy to say: "I want to increase my profit" but you should be saying: "I want to see an increase in net profit of 20% from start of Q2 to end of Q4", and of course this has to be a realistic increase and it has to be achievable with the pipeline and customer base available. Having this level of detail when setting objectives gives clarity, accountability and traceability.
3. Utilize technology
The days of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office-based work are fast becoming a thing of the past. Technology allows us to be connected, to contribute, to collaborate and to communicate from almost anywhere on the planet. Make use of this when you can. Keeping costs low is probably the number one priority for entrepreneurs. Technology can actually help achieve this. For example, can you log on and work from home or from co-working spaces rather than paying rent in an office? If you are a bigger company and you have an office, can you utilize certain types of software to take care of manual repetitive tasks to help keep overheads to a minimum? Can you enable your team to work remotely, meaning you could take a smaller office allowing staff to hot desk? There are programs available to enable teams working in this way to collaborate.
4. Automate processes
Automating processes is an easy way to make sure the monotonous, labour-intensive tasks can be handled efficiently and cost-effectively. There are several areas that can be fully or partially automated that can help a business to work smarter.
Take a look at your processes and break them down as far as possible. This will then easily enable you to look at each task and decide how it should be dealt with and who or what should be handling it. Is there a gap in your accounting? Look at something like Quickbooks or Xero to help manage things for you and do away with many manual tasks. If you are finding it difficult to keep track of customers and client or you are spending too much time looking for notes of previous conversations, look at a CRM to help you. Some of these are even free to use but even so, others have become much more affordable, making them more accessible to smaller businesses. Finding it hard to keep track of who's doing what and where you are with certain bits of work, then look at something like Asana to help you with project management. These are just examples, but they will help you save time to focus on what you do best.
5. Create a work-life balance
The final point is arguably the most important. Finding time for the important things in your life. Sometimes we focus so much on work that we neglect the things that are truly important. Bronnie Ware's article, 5 Regrets of the Dying is a great example of how what we believe to be important right now is probably not as important as we really think. Bronnie spent years working as a palliative care nurse and worked closely with patients who had gone home to die. She talked to them openly and frankly about their lives and in particular the regrets they had when looking back. The article is a great read, but interestingly the second biggest regret these people had was working too hard. In fact, every single male patient she had said they'd wished they'd not worked so hard and had spent more time with their children and their families and doing things they enjoyed more often. It's all too easy to be consumed by work and technology as people are accessible on emails and smartphones all the time, but a conscious effort has to be made to find time for other things in our lives. As entrepreneurs we all have dreams and aspirations which is what drives us, but we mustn't forget that there is nothing more important than health and family. Learn to switch off and find the time for something other than work. If we don't, we may regret it one day!
Related: Hustling Smarter (Not Harder)