I’m juggling a lot of projects, and I don’t feel like I’m winning.
If you’ve ever taken a project management course, you gained knowledge and skills to complete projects on time and under budget. You discovered how to get things done through people who might be “volunteers”—they’ve been assigned to your project team but don’t report to you. You have what it takes to run a project well.
But what happens when you have multiple projects? All those great techniques still work, but it can be overwhelming when you have multiple moving pieces with varying degrees of importance and urgency. Everything feels important, so you end up with a giant game of “whack-a-mole” where you deal with the noisiest issue at the time.
As the number of projects grows, so does your level of anxiety. Completing one task is never satisfying because you’re juggling so many others—and you never feel any closure.
As you grow into your job and gain increased responsibility, it’s natural to be offered (or assigned) more and more projects. You don’t want to turn them down since you want to be seen as a team player. How can you stay on top of multiple projects without feeling overwhelmed? Consider these three problem-solving skills:
Never say “Yes” immediately.
If you feel overwhelmed, it’s probably because you didn’t think you could say “No.” Learn to postpone saying “Yes” until you’ve had a chance to triage the opportunity against current commitments. You won’t be seen as uncooperative but rather as a wise steward of your time and resources.
No matter who’s asking, practice a postponed response: “That sounds like a great opportunity—thanks for asking. Let me check the things I’ve already committed to and see if it makes sense.”
If your boss is pressuring you, be agreeable but realistic: “I’m happy to take this on, but something else you’ve given me will have to wait. What’s your priority on this?”
Build a prioritization filter.
When juggling multiple project tasks, establish a set of priorities you can use to weigh each against the other:
Ask your boss which projects are most important to them and the organization, and use their response to determine the order to work on things.
Decide which people’s requests get top priority—whom you’ll answer the phone for immediately and whom you’ll send to voicemail.
Determine which project takes priority over another so you can focus correctly.
Consider upcoming deadlines that will move tasks into a higher priority.
Schedule your highest-priority tasks.
We like quick wins, so we tend to do the easy tasks first. We get check marks, which feels good, but we’re not moving forward.
List all the tasks you’re currently committed to, then estimate the amount of time needed to complete them. Add at least twenty percent as a buffer since almost everything takes longer than we think. Then, make an appointment on your calendar for each one and protect it the way you would an important meeting with your manager.
It’s OK to work on multiple projects at the same time. You can work hard and fast. But don’t be known for your juggling skills; be known for results. Give every task your full attention, focusing on the things that matter most.
The goal isn’t juggling; it’s finishing. Stay focused, and you’ll feel like you’re winning again.