How to handle properly time in project management?

Comment manager son temps en gestion de projet ?
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7 min read

In this article, we present you the laws and theories about time management in projects. It is essential to understand the principles of time management, in order to have impact on them, especially if you are working using Agile’s methods!

To go further, you will discover here some solutions to structure your tasks, as well as your teammate’s. After reading this article, you will be the queen  (or the king) of organization!

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I- The laws in project’s management

Many people have looked into time management in complex projects. Each of them has given birth to a different law. As a matter of fact, all of them are guided by a common goal: explaining why time management can be a real misery!

Why is it so hard to properly estimate the time necessary to realize a task?

The first problem during the estimation of the necessary time to realize a task is to do a proper estimation! Those few laws will explain why this estimation can be tricky.

Parkinson’s law

Parkinson’s law explains that your team will always use all the time available to realize an imposed duty.

In other words, if you give your team three extra days to finalize the User Story n°6, they will spread the workload on the whole time vacant, even if two days would have been enough to succeed the task!

Time management - Parkinson's law

📢 The work can stretch on forever: the more the deadline is pushed, the more time you will take to finish the task. Since nature abhors emptiness, we will use the whole time at our disposal, even if it means being less efficient.

Hofstadter’s law

Known as schedule slippage’s law, Hofstadter’s law reports an universal difficulty:

“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

You have got it, even knowing you won’t plan enough time to realize your task, the time you will actually plan to realize it won’t be sufficient (yes, this “mise en abyme” gives dizziness). 😵

Illich’s law

The law written by Illich indicates:

After a certain amount of hours, the productivity of the time spent on a specific task decreases first, to become negative thereafter.

📢 To remedy the problems linked to a decreased of activity, you have to manage your work’s and break’s time. To this end, try to always finish a task you begin (yes, even if you dislike this specific task)! In order to facilitate this job, you can split a complex task into several ones less binding. This way, you are certain to always be in the first part of the following graph.

Time management - Illich's law

The research of immediate pleasure in simple tasks

Who has never postponed a task due to the time or the energy it requires? I won’t judge, it still happens to me sometimes. 🙄

Pareto and Laborit also have identified this behavior in project management.

Pareto’s principle

Pareto’s law expresses a fact known by everyone but rarely quantified: 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the solution.

In project management, this law means that 80% of the product’s creation require 20% of the team’s effort.

Time management - Pareto's law

You can say “this is a good thing”!

Yes, BUT: if 80% of the workload asks 20% of your time, this means that the 20% of the work remaining will require 80% of your time. 

📢 There will necessarily be a moment in your project where your team will have the feeling to be less performant, because the teammates will have to provide a lot of work for only a few results.

When your team will address those 20% of the workload (representing 80% of the global effort) you will have to make sure the team members don’t lose courage, and especially that they don’t delay those time-consuming tasks!

Laborit’s law

Laborit’s law is also nicknamed the law of minimal effort. Laborit had brought to light that our brain conditions us to escape of fight against difficult tasks. We are guided by the research of immediate pleasure!

📢 In other words, we prefer to work on simple tasks, and have the tendency to postpone to the following days more complex’s tasks (hello procrastination).

The everyday life, blocking point in projects

Finally, our everyday life also has impact on projects’ management. Have you ever heard of Murphy or Carlson’s laws?

Murphy’s law

Everyone has already lived this situation: you are late for an important meeting. You take your car, praying for all the traffic lights to be green, and tragedy! Your luck has left you, all the traffic lights of your road turn red in front of you.

Let me tell you that it isn’t a question of misfortune. You simply have lived the illustration of Murphy’s law!

This law announces:

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

📢 Are you saying pessimist ? Not that much actually. What Murphy is expressing with this law is quite simple and can be easily illustrated in project’s management. All events that could go wrong will!

Your development can crash when you add it to the project, your teammate can catch the flue, and your client can ultimately change his mind, forcing you to review all your work! Those elements need to be taken into account when you plan and distribute the tasks.

Carlon’s law

You are always interrupted and can’t work properly? Carlson states in his law that we are disturbed in average every 12 minutes! It can be by a colleague, a client or a supplier, by a phone call, an email or in real… The disruptions are more and more numerous, and always more frequent.

The consequences are several: loss in efficiency, in energy, trouble to focus…

Time management - Carlson's law
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II – How to handle better my time in project management?

Now that all the principles linked to time management in projects have been presented, let’s see together the solutions you can implement in your teams to lead your project to success in the more effective way.

Time, a question of priority and satisfaction

How to manage yours and your team’s time? At Go2Scale, we don’t own the miraculous cure (which is quite normal, nobody has it!). Instead, we offer you a list of advices to improve your time management.

1. Set your emotion aside

In project management, the prioritization of tasks can not be done according to your wishes, but to the project’s realities! By taking into account your desires and by realizing which tasks are your favorite and which are not, you can analyze if the tasks’ distribution is purely objective or not! It is likewise for your teammates. 

2. Communicate with your teams

In order to ensure that the time given for a task is justified, you have to question your team and challenge your teammates. By continuously collecting insights on their progresses and the difficulties encountered, you will be able to judge the time necessary to the realization of a task.

3. Be aware of events that could go wrong, and potential unexpected events

This way, you will be sure to defined realistic work time.
Of course, no one can predict the future! But by relaying on your past experiences and taking an empirical approach, you will be able to adapt the times needed for each task.

4. Finally, once your project is over, take time to do feedback with your team on time management. 

Which elements would have required more time? Which ones could have been finished quicker? By identifying recurrent patterns, you can adapt the time management of your next project, in order to be the closest possible to your team’s real needs.

Tools to facilitate your job

Here, we present you two tools to improve your time management. Of course, those are not the only one existing to help you handle your time. It is up to you to implement them in or not!

Eisenhower’s box

Using Eisenhower’s box, you will classify your tasks regarding their deadline and their importance.

Time management - Eisenhower’s box

This classification will allow you to rank your tasks in order of priority rather than according to your preferences.

Pomodoro’s method

Also known as Pomodoro’s timer or even tomato’s timer, this method of time management is born at the end of the 80. Its goal : allowing you to gain in performance, by alternating work phases and break phases.

This method is divided in 5 steps:

  1. Define the tasks to work on during the work phase.
  2. Set the pomodoro (your timer) on 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task/tasks until the timer rings. Those tasks should not take more than the allotted time. If they do, you have to define if you didn’t work efficiently or if the tasks were too numerous for the time planned.
  4. Take a 5 minutes break.
  5. Repeat the 4 firsts steps three more time. Finally, at the end of the fourth time, you can take a 15 to 20 minutes break!

📢 As you may have guessed, to be really focused and efficient during the work phase, it is better to leave aside your phone and your email box. This is the real strength of this method: you can focus fully on what you are doing, and work at 100% of your abilities during each pomodoro!

You can find a lot of websites allowing you to enter the tasks to complete and launch the timer. We advise this one!

If you have followed the previous explanation, you should have noticed that using Pomodoro’s method, you benefit from 3 laws mentioned above:

  • Enjoy an increased productivity at the beginning of a task (Illich’s law), 
  • Work continuously with no interruption (Carlson’s law),
  • Keep a high-performance thanks to short deadlines (Parkinson’s law).
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III – To conclude

Handling your time in project management still seems complex? Don’t panic! 

Even if we have introduced to you a few tools and tips, the easiest way to feel comfortable with time management is to practice! Of course, a good communication in your teams will help you identify the existing blocking points. A joint work is necessary to carry your project to success!

📢  Our team stays at your disposal to support you in the choice of tools that fit the best your company’s approach and values. Feel free to contact us (via our website or in comment below) to share your experiences, and to discuss the best strategy to implement in your team! 🎯

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