Personal Time Management

Personal Time Management is a small subset of project time management, but a topic where tips can be tremendously useful.  Our brains need to focus and remember in order to be productive in our work. So with today’s technology, how do we discipline ourselves to focus until we complete a task? Here’s some great tips:

  • Separate the projects from the tasks on your to-do list.  Tasks are fine in a task list, take less than a few hours, and can be completed alone in one sitting.  Projects do not belong in your task list. Projects will have surprises, and need to be broken down into tasks to be worked (which do go on the task list).  – Tip from Russel Martin and Associates in their 8/1/09 newsletter.
  • If possible, try to have a consistent approach to your daily activities.
  • Do not assume responsibilities for a functional manager’s issues.
  • Reduce negative stress because it results in the hurry pattern, schedule addiction, complaining, poor sleep and alertness issues.
  • Do not overschedule because unexpected things always happen.
  • Understand your projects and your own priorities.
  • Schedule your hardest work that requires focus to be done at your highest energy time of the day. Remove distractions (such as putting your phone on forward and shutting down your e-mail) while you are doing this work.
  • Get organized so that you don’t waste time trying to find things.


Many project managers are juggling 5-7 major projects simultaneously. A great percentage of time is wasted going from point A to P back to B and then to Z. Our team members are equally torn between priorities – trying to keep all of the balls moving forward slightly each day. When done to excess, multitasking can increase your error rate and cause you to lose time, especially as the complexity of the tasks increases.

When you have a flexibility to work as you want to, it is ideal to take your Project A number 1, and plan to work on it solely from start to finish.  It is a novel idea in our society – to do one thing at a time. And it is extremely powerful.

Even focusing on just one large project, say for example juggling a huge corporate event with hundreds of attendees and a staff that is taking direction from you, can require enough of it’s own multi-tasking. But then to be forced to shift your attention to multiple other projects at the same time can make our performance drop significantly as we naturally fight with project and stakeholder confusion, lack of adequate time, slowed communications, and many other problems.

If reducing your project multi-tasking is not possible, here are a few affirmations that you can tell yourself that will help put you into the right project mindset while you are working on one of many.

  • Tell yourself, the work I am doing is sacred and deserves my complete and total attention for this short while. Tell yourself that there is nothing in the world more important than what you are doing at this very moment.
  • If the thoughts of all the other things you have to get done clutter your thoughts, give yourself 5 minutes to write them down with the commitment that after this is done, you will return your FULL attention to the task at hand for a period of time prior to going back to the list you just made.

Time Boxing

Time boxing is deciding on a fixed time period to work on a particular thing. Basically, instead of working on a task until it’s done, you commit to work on it for a specific amount of time. It can help you break large, overwhelming work down into small bites, thereby helping you to overcome your resistance and procrastination.

It can help you focus. For example you can tell yourself that during that time box you will not check e-mail or answer the telephone, thereby eliminating the multi-tasking and distractions that cause painful tasks to get drawn out.