Galen Low is joined by Elizabeth Harrin—an award-winning blogger and author of several books about project and change management—to break down the five tips for managing multiple projects effectively so you can stop sacrificing your evenings and weekends.
- Elizabeth always loved writing, and back in the day there weren’t any websites or blogs talking about women’s experience of the role. There were magazines, conferences and websites but most of the bylines and contributors were men. But that wasn’t Elizabeth’s experience: the team she worked in was at least 50% women, probably more than that. [2:33]
- Elizabeth started her blog, Rebel’s Guide to Project Management (formerly known as Girl’s Guide to Project Management), as a way to provide a space for her to talk about her job, and the role of a project manager. [3:17]
- Elizabeth puts together a 6-month cohort on the topic of managing multiple projects because it was what she thought people wanted. [5:27]
- Elizabeth shared 5 tips for not just keeping your head above water, but actually thriving when managing multiple projects. [8:54]
- Tip #1: plan by milestone and overlay them.
- Tip #2: Pay attention to dependency management.
- Tip #3: Set up multi-project governance.
- Tip #4: Set up multi-stakeholder management and communication.
- Tip #5: Manage your own time effectively.
- Plan by milestone and overlay them: When you’ve got lots of projects it’s hard to keep all the details straight between 5-6 schedules, so milestone planning helps you see the bigger picture. You still need detailed schedules too, but looking at the milestones of all the projects helps you manage your time as you can see the critical steps and what’s coming up. [10:00]
- You’ve got to keep projects flexible. All projects are going to change, so you’ve got to be aware of when that is happening. [14:31]
If you can integrate work with how you want to live and what’s important to you and what your values are, then you’re just happier.Elizabeth Harrin
- The most common overlooked dependency when managing multiple projects are resources. [17:55]
Having an awareness of the resources that you are booking to your project or that you need to provide input to your work is really important.Elizabeth Harrin
- Nearly 70% of respondents said their projects had dependencies on other people’s projects, and that’s tricky. When you are reliant on other project managers, there’s a lot more communication, negotiation and juggling to do to make sure both your project and their project still hits all the expected deadlines. [19:07]
- Not working in silos as a PM and talking a lot to colleagues, PMO, line managers of subject matter experts are some of the methods Elizabeth uses for coordinating dependencies across projects. [19:59]
- Elizabeth’s favorite project interdependency are the IT projects, like network upgrades that need to happen or installing stuff that needs wifi only to realise the wifi signal is not strong enough in that area. Enabling works are often the things that get forgotten. [25:00]
Governance is that process layer about control for a project.Elizabeth Harrin
- Multi-project governance in practice is combining governance approaches where it makes sense to do so: doing one project report for a sponsor where you are leading 2 projects for that person. Combining governance meetings, having steering group days where project managers drop in and out if you are in a PMO. [28:36]
- Good example of a multi-project governance model: Being able to combine reports. Stakeholders like it as fewer documents, feels less bureaucratic to them. [33:40]
If we can give the impression that the project management process is light and nimble and yet fit for purpose and still facilitates the process, then that’s a good thing.Elizabeth Harrin
- Bad example of a multi-project governance model: If you combine everything and it feels small and inefficient, and going against all of the policies and what your PMO would be happy with, then that feels like you’re cutting too many corners. [34:10]
- Governance is really just making sure the project is doing the right thing with the right oversight. Set up a steering group or project board, make sure there are regular, transparent reports, go for a culture of honesty, avoid watermelon projects. [35:03]
Governance is just about telling the truth about the state of your project and asking for help when you need it, and having that framework in place so people are there to help you.Elizabeth Harrin
- Managing things, managing your communication stakeholder engagement in a cohesive way across all your multiple projects is really aligned to managing your governance in an aligned way as well. [37:26]
- Nearly 30% of project managers do not combine project meetings where it makes sense to do so. [37:37]
- Some examples of multi-stakeholder communication are: Combining project boards and combining meetings. [41:50]
- Elizabeth shares a story of a communication that’s gone awry. [43:35]
Effective time management means being smart about how we work and not being afraid to break the rules.Elizabeth Harrin
- Elizabeth shares how a PM can avoid working long hours and making sacrifices in their personal lives. Setting up an exit strategy helped her stop being so emotionally involved in her job and to acknowledge the life stage you are in. [48:25]
- Some of Elizabeth’s top time management life hack: scheduling emails, doing less, meal planning, and spending less time on social media. [53:26]
Meet Our Guest
Elizabeth is an award-winning blogger and author of several books about project and change management, several of which are now in subsequent editions. Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World was shortlisted for the Management Book of the Year Awards in 2014.
As well as mentoring, training and writing, Elizabeth speaks on the topics of stakeholder engagement, project management careers and productivity at events around the world – often via interactive online sessions but also in person. She has spoken for the APM and PMI, IPMA Young Crew and given guest lectures at universities in the UK, US and Belgium.
She also contributes to a variety of other initiatives including sitting on the advisory board for the RISE Being Lean and Seen programme at Liverpool John Moores University.
Multi-project governance, for me, is about combining project reports, combining steering groups, making sure that if you are talking to project sponsors that you’re talking about all your projects at the same time.Elizabeth Harrin
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Follow Elizabeth on LinkedIn and Instagram
- Check out Elizabeth’s website
- Learn more about Rebel’s Guide to Project Management
- Check out Elizabeth’s book: Managing Multiple Projects
Related Articles And Podcasts:
- About the podcast
- The Most Complete Project Closure Process You’ll Ever Need
- How To Create A Risk Management Plan + Template & Examples
- How To Choose A Digital Project Management Course For 2022
Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low I remember showing up to my first day of my new job as a project manager, excited to learn more about that one project I was gonna be working on. But it wasn't just one project. It was six. And that excitement, yeah, it quickly turned to fear.
How the heck was I gonna keep all the balls in the air? I wasn't trained for this!
And as time went on, I realized that this wasn't the exception for project managers it was the norm. And not just the managing multiple projects thing, but the stress and the overwhelmed that came with it.
So if you're one of the many project managers who, like me, are looking for a reliable way to juggle multiple concurrent projects, keep listening. We're gonna be breaking down five tips for managing multiple projects effectively so you can stop sacrificing your evenings and your weekends.
Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with The Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Okay. Today, we're talking about increasing your capacity as a project manager and how you can not only survive, but actually thrive in an environment where you're managing multiple concurrent projects.
So with me today is the one and only Elizabeth Harrin, founder of Rebel’s Guide To Project Management and author of several books, including “Managing Multiple Projects”, “Engaging Stakeholders on Projects”, “Customer-Centric Project Management” and several other revered project management texts.
Elizabeth, such a treat having you on the show today.
Elizabeth Harrin Thank you so much for inviting me. It's great to be here.
Galen Low It's such an honor. I've been following you. I'm a little bit of a fanboy of Rebel's Guide, formerly Girl's Guide to Project Management. And I just, I love what you do. I'm excited to get into it.
Elizabeth Harrin Yeah, I'm excited to hear what you've got to ask me. I think this is gonna be great.
Galen Low I wanna grill you about managing multiple projects, but I do, I do wanna take a running start at it. And I wondered if maybe, we could just get our bearings a little bit and give our listeners some context.
So many folks, and indeed, actually many of our listeners know you as the founder of Rebel's Guide to Project Management, which was previously known as Girl's Guide to Project Management. Could you tell us a bit about why you started this and also where Rebel's Guide is heading?
Elizabeth Harrin Yeah, sure. You mentioned there that we changed the name and we did that back in January of this year. So for listeners listening, at the moment that's 2022, the beginning of 2022, we changed the name. But for many years it was Girl's Guide to Project Management.
And I started that because I've always loved writing. And back in the day, when I started writing about project management, there weren't that many websites or blogs talking about women's experience of being a project manager. And there were magazines and conferences and websites and things, but honestly, if you look down the bylines, if you looked at who was on the panels, on stages, it was mainly men.
And that was not my experience of working in project management. I was in a team that was easily 50% women, probably more. And I thought that I had something to say about project management. And of course I don't, I never have spoken for all women, but I thought I could share my experience of being a woman working in project management.
So that's really how it started. The book was a space for me to talk about my job and the role and what it was like and what a great career is really. There was another reason though, as well, because about the time I started the blog, I was also writing my first book. And I read somewhere that authors should have a platform and that we should all have blogs.
So I thought, well, you know, it might be a good marketing technique to, to start a blog as a way of practicing writing and getting some writing out there as well.
Galen Low Honestly, like a really good gestation technique because I mean, you've written several books, I've written zero, but my understanding of it is that, gosh, what a like overwhelming undertaking, right? Just to be like, I'm gonna write a whole book. I'm gonna write several hundred pages on this thing. Was the blog a bit of like an input as well as marketing?
Elizabeth Harrin Not of this book, but for previous books, yes. I've started a topic or I've taken pieces of book articles that I've written and turned it in, but you'd be surprised.
I mean, for someone who love, loves writing, writing a book is, it is a massive undertaking. It's 60 odd thousand words, but I'm talking at the moment to a few people who are doing degree courses and they've got to write essays and things that are 12,000 words or 15,000 words. And they're all super overwhelmed by it.
And I think, well, actually it is harder to write something short when you've got lots of words to play with. If you've gotta write something that's really tight it's harder. And you know that from editing the blog posts on the Digital Project Manager if you want to keep within a word count, it's hard.
But, I do test out some of my ideas on the blog. Yes.
Galen Low I love that. I love that idea and that you touched on it about your new book Managing Multiple Projects. I have to ask you, why is it such a hot topic for you? I mean, it is a massive undertaking as you say. So, what compelled you to write a whole book on it?
Elizabeth Harrin Because there was nothing else, I suppose. And it started because I thought, I did a survey, I think, and I asked people, what are they doing? What are they working on? You know, all the normal sort of reader survey questions to try and find out a bit more about what would be valuable to blog readers. And managing multiple projects seemed to be something that everyone was doing.
And I got thinking, no one's taught me how to do this, but I do it. And I like to think I'm pretty good. I'm managing all the things, keeping it all in the air. So I put together a six month training course, six month cohort of people who came together and we did a different topic every month, looking at one aspect of managing multiple projects. Because I thought people might find that interesting and enough people signed up to make that worthwhile.
And then I taught the course twice more. And I just figured, if you think about how I taught, how I was taught project management when I started and how all the project management training courses that I'm aware of that run today, teach us, we learn how to manage one project from start to finish. And then you go to the workplace and life is not like that, because on your first day in a job, you get handed six things to do. Oh, when there's this one that's halfway through and there's this client who's expecting you to start something next month.
Real life is not just managing one project from end to end, maybe if you're managing something gigantic. But for most of us working, you know, in a digital team or an agency environment or a corporate environment we're juggling more than one thing at a time. So the way that project managers are taught how to manage their workload is not how they actually have to do it in real life.
And I just thought that was a big gap. So, I wanted to look at how can you be smarter about how you work.
Galen Low I really love that observation overall. And you're right, like when I was trained, it was like, here's that one project. In the context of that one project, here's what you ought to do. And I remember getting into the job, my first digital agency and they're like, oh, by the way, yeah, there's these 12 in flight projects are all at different places.
Also, three new ones coming in, can you help with this? Also, you know, handle support maintenance, like the realities of doing the job for a lot of people involves a lot of this kind of like volume of projects, not necessarily one that you can focus on.
And I think you're right, right? There are some individuals out there you've been, you know, brought in to run that massive project that's your, you know, full 40 hours a week or however many hours a week is your work week. And that requires you full time, but I agree. It's a massive gap in how we're trained in terms of dealing with multiple projects that are, you know, in flight and how they interact.
Elizabeth Harrin Exactly. And then from day one, you're failing because you're thinking I'm supposed to fill in all these documents. I'm supposed to have all these meetings and engage my stakeholders and do this risk management. And actually, all you're doing is going to meetings and firefighting and sorting out all the rubbish that comes across your desk every day.
And the amount of people I speak to who say, I don't know if I'm doing it right. You would be doing it right if you had enough hours in the day. So what I was trying to do was put some of those strategies together. It's not just my ideas, but it's the research I put together, the surveys I did, the case studies I pulled together.
The quotes and anecdotes people shared with me. So lots of people's ideas ended up in the book, which is hopefully a bit of a guide to how not to drown under all of your work.
Galen Low I love that grace in it, right? That like, you know, you come in thinking that you're gonna be doing every single technique and method that you've been trained, like perfectly and with high rigor. And if you're not doing that, then you're failing versus the realities of just, yeah, it might feel like treading water, but sometimes treading water is succeeding.
Elizabeth Harrin Exactly. Sometimes that's the best you can do.
Galen Low I really like that. In the book and in our conversations, you shared with me five tips, five tips for treading water, keeping your head above the water. But actually not only doing that, but turning that into this notion of thriving. Can you lay out what those five tips are?
Elizabeth Harrin First one I'd say is plan by milestone and then overlay your milestones, so you have a big multi-project milestone plan. Secondly, pay attention to the dependencies between your projects, because they probably overlap perhaps more than you're expecting. Thirdly, set up multi-project governance, so you can streamline all that reporting and all the meetings you have to have. A bit similar to that.
The fourth point would be set up multi-stakeholder management and look at communication channels, so you bring all of that together. And then finally, be really good at managing your own time effectively.
Galen Low These are all big, good ones, maybe easier said than done, but you've got a whole slew of techniques and tips that you've gathered as you mentioned from your community, from your experience.
Let's dive into each one, if you don't mind. I thought maybe we could dive into the first two, which is, you know, planning by milestone and overlaying them and also just paying attention to like dependencies between projects. So, in the context of working on multiple concurrent projects, what does it mean to plan by milestone and why should someone do it?
Elizabeth Harrin Okay. Well, let's say you've got lots of projects. Let's say you've got five or six project schedules. When you've got all the detail and then that's great, but it's hard to keep all the details straight when you've got lots of things happening at the same time. So milestone planning helps you see the bigger picture.
You may still need your detailed schedule, but if you have also a milestone list of the big things that are happening, the major activities, you can look at those milestones of all the different projects. And that helps you manage your time, because you can see when the big steps are happening and what's coming up across all of your projects.
So what you'd be looking for would be things like when have I got two projects kicking off at the same time? How I do it is I just create a spreadsheet with my projects across the top, dates down the side, or the other way around, tend to have dates across the top so I'm reading it more like a Gantt chart, but projects down the side.
And then I'll just write in the boxes, kick off, big meeting with stakeholder, UAT starts, project close, review, auditors coming. It's nothing you have to share with anybody else, but if once you've kind of grouped the big things together across all of your projects, you get a matrix of what your life is going to be like for the next however many months. And you can plan better.
And if you've got two projects kicking off at the same time, there might be a chance where you could say to somebody, actually, can we delay that kickoff by two weeks? Can I bring something else forward so that I'm not doing two kickoffs in the same week? Or if we've got two projects closing at the same time, can we combine them? Can we have two project closure meetings?
Can we hand over the meeting minutes? Or, you know, can we close down the projects and hand over the deliverables in one session instead of two? So there might be things you can learn from looking at all of your schedules together, but when they're very detailed schedules, you'd never be able to pick through it and see that big picture.
Galen Low A hundred percent. I love that. And I love that your tool for it is you know, it can be low fidelity. I was thinking, yeah, no, I was honestly, I was like, oh, okay, well let's crack open, you know, ClickUp or Asana and have that overlaid view of all, you know, all the project plans and it's gonna require all this technology and expense. But actually, yeah, that, that whole spreadsheet method with the dates and seeing where things line up, seeing where those resonant peaks and to your point, like sometimes you won't have a choice.
Sometimes it's just, this is what your life is going to be and that's just, it helps you prepare. And then sometimes it's triggering our conversation, which I really like, because I think that, you know, it benefits a lot of folks and, you know, just to pile on. Not just for project managers, but also sometimes you have teams working on concurrent projects, some of the same concurrent projects.
And if those are all going live at the same time, then everybody's life is going to be hell. So I like that it's a, just the foresight to not get surprised with it.
Elizabeth Harrin And that's the thing. You're trying to avoid the surprise and smoothing out the future where you can, just by being aware of it. Because I think often, in my experience, anyway, managers, they say, oh, let's start this project. This one's just been approved.
But they don't really understand what we do day to day. And they don't really understand what the implications of saying "yes" to something today is. But if we could surface that information and tell them that if they say "yes" to it, but in 10 days time, everyone will be happier.
Then they may well be open to that. It's not that they want to overburden us. It's just they don't have visibility.
Galen Low And I think that's like the other thing that I love about it is, like you said, there probably is a detailed plan. And in my experience, that really detailed plan is sort of the realm of the project manager in the sense that not everybody wants to look at your hyper detailed Gantt chart with all its interdependencies and all of that stuff.
But when you sit down with your team and you're like, or your stakeholders or your sponsor, and you're looking at it going, okay, here's a spreadsheet with a few columns and here's what's going on. Here are the important dates and explaining to the folks who need to know, Hey, I'm surfacing just this bit of information in a succinct way, in a digestible way to say there's a risk here, right?
There's a risk that if we're kicking off two projects at once that, you know, we'll be overwhelmed that we won't be working as efficiently. But if we do stagger, right, providing an option. If we do stagger, then here's what could happen. Here's what that, here's what happens to that risk. I really like that level of fidelity for it.
Honestly, I read it and I was like, this is gonna be really complex. But I think...
Elizabeth Harrin It could be, I mean, put it into ClickUp and Asana if you like. But you can do it in 10 minutes on a notebook.
Galen Low And tell me about your like regimen as well, because I mean, I'll finding good one projects are starting, but also what about when projects are in flight and things are changing?
Elizabeth Harrin So what about when projects are in flight and things are changing? I would say you've got to keep it flexible. All projects are going to change, aren't they? So you've got to be aware of when that is happening. And if you have created a monthly schedule, then that's all got to be updated. But if you've just got something that's quite light, it's relatively easy to make some changes and see what the implications of that would be.
I mean, broadly, we don't get the choice in these things. If things are changing or if a supplier is late, life stops or goes on or goes faster or goes slower. And there's very little we can do about it. So for me, the most important thing is having that visibility because when I've got that, I can make sure I've done my meal planning.
I can make sure I've got all of my childcare lined up. I can make sure I've got the food deliveries coming. Just, have it written everyone's birthday cards for the month, all those little things that stress us out in daily life. But if we know we're going to have a difficult, busy time, you can get on top of that.
We're project managers, we do that kind of planning all the time. So it's not alien to us to think forward, but it's just, sometimes you don't know what's around the corner. So more things you can do and prep for in advance the karma and more resilient you, you and your team can be going forward.
Galen Low And that's such an important point that I know is really germane to your brand in general, is that some folks, even myself, I'm guilty of coming into this, going at work, here are the multiple projects I need to manage, and I need to achieve sanity and a level of organization in this little work bubble.
But the reality is when you're painting a picture of what your life is going to be like, and you're thinking about overtime hours or work that you're gonna have to come back to, you know, after you've done whatever the sort of the family care, your personal life.
You know, taking care of all the other things that are not work, those are all things that have bearing on why you probably don't want to stack a whole bunch of milestones at once so that, you know, one, one day during that month, you know, in the middle of July, yeah, won't see my kids at all.
Right? Hire a sitter, put 'em in a camp you know, and then we're just gonna do all seven launches that week. No, absolutely. I really like that perspective. Yeah, because it is. It's life. Right? And I think, you know, it's finding that balance.
Elizabeth Harrin And we work, we talk more these days about work life integration, as opposed to work life balance. Because the balance thing is so hard, but if you could integrate work and life, I mean, it kind of means the same thing.
It's semantics, isn't it? But if you can integrate work with how you want to live and what's important to you and what your values are, then you're just happier. And we spend so much time at work, it needs to be a place where we feel like we're doing our best work. Not that we're drowning all the time, cuz that gets old very quickly.
Galen Low And I think there is also that perspective of like, not just like the immediate investment of effort, but investment in your people. And I think, you know, I see it a lot at agencies, right? Where we're like, well, we just need to do this cuz you know, clients ask for this, kind of suck it up, pull your boots, straps up.
Everything goes live on the 15th, then we'll calm down and relax and recover. Which frank just will burn everybody out.
Alright. Well, let's dive into the next tip, which I think is related. So the next tip you had was paying attention to dependency management. And I think dependencies are one of those things that I think people understand in principle, but they tend to kind of underestimate them and also lose track of them.
So I just thought I'd ask, what's the most common dependency you see overlooked when managing multiple projects?
Elizabeth Harrin I think it's resources. People can't do all of the things all at the same time, and unless you've got resource management software or quite a mature way of allocating people to tasks. And also you work with people who can estimate their time like that.
Cuz I know some knowledge workers that I work with, yeah, they might need three weeks to do a job, but it's 10 minutes worth of effort. But the rest of the time is thinking and approvals and consulting with experts and other stuff. And it can be quite hard to estimate work like that, but you've got a finite amount of resources.
And if you've got the same person working on multiple projects, there's a little bit of a tendency to plan in isolation sometimes and think, oh, it'll be fine. No problem. You know, we'll just, that's our subject matter expert for that particular topic. And we need her on these five projects, so we'll allocate her to these five projects. And then suddenly that person's overwhelmed.
So I think having an awareness of the resources that you are booking to your project or that you need to provide input to your work is really important. And once you've got that, it might shift your timelines. But if you need that particular individual and you don't have anyone else with the same skills, then you don't really have a choice.
There's also something about being reliant on other people's projects. So I often see that project managers are quite good at managing dependencies within their own world, within their own projects. But when you're working in an environment where there's other projects happening being led by other people and something you are doing feeds into something someone else is doing, or you can't progress until someone else's project is finished, then those kind of dependencies between projects need quite careful managing as well.
Especially if, you know, you, it's not in your control as a project manager to tell another team to go faster. So you've got to navigate that relationship with the other project manager and make sure that everyone's really clear on what's needed.
Galen Low I love that. And I'm also wondering, like, what does that look like for you in practice? Like what kind of magic hackery do you have for coordinating dependencies across projects that you may or may not actually control?
Elizabeth Harrin It's talking to people, really. It's, we have a regular project team meeting with the project team, the project managers, and just say, I'm working on this. I've got these people on my, you know, in my resource pool. Who else might be using them?
And just having a bit of an understanding about what the rest of the company's doing about what the rest of the project managers are leading. And always trying to have that business context of, if I do this, who might it affect? What else is it happening in the portfolio? If I change this, is it going to need to be redone for some other person's project?
Are we both trying to make a change in the same team? Are we both trying to change the same process? How is that gonna work out? And just being, it's being aware, it's being considerate and it's going out and seeking the information, but it's not hard to find. The other people are more than happy to tell you about their projects.
So, can you spend 10 minutes with all the different project managers at the beginning of your project saying, I'm about to start this piece of work. This is what I think it's gonna look like. Does that have any implications for you? And, you know, if you've got a portfolio manager or a PMO manager, then they could probably tell you that straight away.
And once you're aware of it, you can just work around it.
Galen Low I like that. We used to have this sort of regular resourcing meeting with the PMs that, at first actually looked like it might lead to us bludgeoning one another, fighting for resource, trying to hit our milestones that we've planned out so carefully.
I think you're right. I think we are, as project managers, trained a lot to think, you know, not to think in isolation, but like all of our methods are sort of in, you know, described in isolation. Whereas, a lot of them are just ways to trigger conversations and to your earlier point, yeah, just talk to each other and figure out what's going on.
But, I mean, what about when it gets challenging when people are butting heads or like actually, you know, I need sound deep for those three weeks that you need sound deep. Like, how are we gonna fight this out?
Elizabeth Harrin Whose project is more priority, that's where you need to be able to, as an organization, prioritize your projects.
And ideally, you wouldn't have single points of failure where you've only got one person doing the work, but we all know that organizations don't exactly have pools of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs. So that's always gonna happen. So if you know, in an agency, you know, who's the most important client? What's the deadline that we can slip without having to affect anything?
Can we work this out early enough before we've had to promise the dates to the client? And then you can start to think through, well, that person can't work on both projects at the same time. So if we can't find someone else to do it, so the projects can run in parallel, which one do we do first? And it might be the one that's ready first.
Which is a bit of an incentive for you to get your work done, or it might be that one project is genuinely more important. And I think this is the biggest challenge with managing multiple projects is that organizations do not set us up for success by giving us that information. And if you have a portfolio and it is prioritized, that is, there is no discussion.
Someone is priority one and the rest of the people are not. And, you know, someone has to be managing project 360, you know, down the bottom of the pile. It still needs to get done. And, you know, not everyone's projects are as important as everyone else is. It's just how it is. So I don't have any smart way around that, really.
I'm afraid. Do your best negotiation.
Galen Low Exactly what you said I think is so apt, because I think sometimes in some organizations we have an aversion to telling people or to even having that conversation, that something is more important than another thing. You know, you kind of get into like, is it gonna be hurt feelings?
Is it gonna make it too much about like money if that's what makes it the high priority? But I think just the clarity helps, right? The clarity and just that original brief of like, okay, why are we doing this? Maybe it's not as big of a budget as this other project, but it's high visibility and it's strategic and therefore let's assign it a priority so that we can make decisions against that.
Even if the conversation might be uncomfortable, or yeah might bruise some egos along the way, but it doesn't mean that other projects aren't important. To your earlier point, they're just not as important when they come to ahead.
Elizabeth Harrin They're important to somebody, that's why we're doing them. We don't work on stuff that's not important. We don't work on stuff that people don't care about, because there's plenty of things that they do care about and we'd rather put our resource and effort in there. But when you compare projects against each other, there's normally a way, there's normally someone senior in the organization who can make that call.
And if the two project managers can't agree, then there'll be an account manager who can, or a PMO manager who can, or an executive who can tell you.
Galen Low I have a question as well about these dependencies, because obviously yes, dependency management, mapping them all, paying attention, having the right conversations. But it sounds like something that, I think every project manager has probably learned the hard way.
So I wondered if you had a favorite project interdependency, you know, the one that got away, the one that slipped by you and that really cemented this lesson in your head?
Elizabeth Harrin Oh, I've made lots of mistakes in my life. I'm just trying to think of a good one. Probably the IT projects because I've spent most of my career in IT project management, and there's often enabling works that need to happen. So it might need to be a network upgrade or we need wifi signal strong in a particular area of the building and the wifi project hasn't got round there fast enough yet or something like that.
So it's where you've got things that you just think of as the bread and butter upgrades and enabling work and infrastructure that are unfortunately not the sexy stuff. Those are the things that I think often, maybe just speaking by, you know, of my own experience, those are the things that perhaps get forgotten.
Galen Low No, absolutely. Yeah. And I'm glad we kind of circled to that as well. Like, yes, those human dependencies and I think you're right, like, those are often, you know, very key dependencies. And then sometimes you have that technical dependency that we just hadn't mapped out yet, or we hadn't thought of yet, or we haven't uncovered along the way.
And I'm thinking of all those, like, I don't know, I'm thinking of those home renovation shows. I always circle back to a little HGTV home, home and garden television, where, you know, you open up the walls and you realize, okay, actually, you know what, this wiring is not what we need. We need to replace this.
And, you know, thinking about mapping those risks as well, and then mapping those into your dependencies. And then I'm thinking, circling back to your overlay, right? Being like, okay, well that's gonna shift things out, but let's map it out so that, that next milestone where like, when that works fores, and also when it will sort of launch, then let's map the project interdependencies, even when plans change.
And we have those dependencies that we just kind of discover along the way. Yes. I like that notion of just how we plan across projects and have those conversations.
Elizabeth Harrin And it doesn't have to be hard. There's, you don't have to draw a complicated map of it. It's, it might be a list. It might just be something in your notes. Each dependency could be a risk. And when it's just visible, every so often you can just go in and check your assumptions. Is that still the case? Are we still on track? That's all you need to do.
Galen Low Actually, and I think it's like a massive theme that keeps coming up, which is that the documentation is not bloated.
So bloated that it's so complex to update. It should be one of those things that you could just update on the fly and it's visible and probably a living document that other people have access to, so people can see and they're like, oh, that changed, okay. And communicating that out and just having everyone on the same page. I think that's really cool.
I think it ties into the next tip, which I think is my favorite that I'm most keen to, to look at. So you had mentioned multi-project governance. So I thought I'd ask, what is multi-project governance and what does it look like in practice?
Elizabeth Harrin Well, governance is that process layer about control for a project, oversight, making sure you're doing the right thing. Stage gate reviews, all those kind of hoops that you have to jump through in the nicest possible way to move your project from one stage to the other and get it signed off.
And there can be quite a lot of paperwork and meetings and reports around evidence in what you've done and making sure that everyone's happy with it so that your sponsor and your executive team, your project board, whatever you call them, feel comfortable that the project's being managed in the right kind of way and is going to give them the right output at the end.
So, I've found in my experience when I've been managing multiple projects, often the projects are for the same sponsor or at least the same broad area. And so multi-project governance for me is about combining project reports, combining steering groups, making sure that if you are talking to project sponsors that you're talking about all your projects at the same time. And maybe even if it's appropriate, combining your risk governance, your risk reporting, or your risk management approaches as well.
So anything that you do that falls under the umbrella of governance, is there another project that you can link it in with? Are there any other stakeholder groups? So one of the things we do for example is for the large projects we have one day of steering group meetings. All the steering group members at the very executive level are pretty much the same.
So they come in and then every project manager is paraded in front of them, explains about their project, is forced to hold themselves accountable, is grilled, as you would expect. And then, know, their hours is up and they go. So those meetings, those governance points could be combined. It's not gonna work for every project but where it is, it cuts down the amount of reports you have to write, which I love.
Galen Low Well, I you touched on a really good point, which is that, you know, I think a lot of folks, you know, we go through our training as we enter our project management career. And a lot of the time, a lot of that training is thinking about that one project and how you run that one project and then you step into a role and you're almost immediately working on multiple concurrent projects.
And actually, you know, we think of, I remember at this stage in my career, I was like, oh yeah. And then like that whole portfolio program management thing is like this, like up in the clouds, you know, many steps away. But actually, you're actually building those skills from day one, where you can be recognizing, you know what, I'm talking to the same people about these same projects.
It needs to kind of get managed like a portfolio or a program. And to your point, that might mean fewer reports, less time standing on the floor, getting grilled, who knows? But more importantly, just understanding the relationships between those projects, cuz they're not all individual discrete projects.
We're talking about dependencies across projects in terms of execution, but also in terms of outcome. Because I imagine that program of projects that you're working on, a portfolio if you will, is not in a vacuum all by itself. Where it actually might be impacting some of the same initiatives, it might be part of the same strategic plan, or not. Right?
As you mentioned, some folks working in agencies, you know, I'd be working on like eight concurrent projects for eight very different clients and none of them overlapped. And that was just, those were all individual things, but where you can group them, it actually gives it a little bit more. I don't know, I would say business strategy as well, because it's a different conversation about here's how we're executing the thing versus here's how all the puzzle pieces are fitting together.
Elizabeth Harrin Exactly. And if, like you say, in an agency you've got different clients, you can't do it. Doesn't matter. Do something else. Do what works. But if you are in an agency and four of your projects are for the same client, then how do you present that to them in a cohesive way?
Because they have contracted with your agency to do the thing due to four different things, but for them it's one relationship. And for you, it might be four different projects, but there's business benefit and value to both parties if you group them. And also, admin overhead benefit of being able to produce less reports.
So, you know, it's a win-win, but obviously if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But it's worth that conversation with your project sponsor to say, look, at the moment, I've got two projects for you, legal director or whatever the job title is. And would you mind if I use this template for my reports to you? Because then you can see how everything's progressing on the same page.
I can't imagine any senior executive saying, no, please give me more reports to read.
Galen Low No, I like that. I mean, likewise, I know this is a bit off topic, but you know, in an agency situation, you might be running one project for a client and another project manager might be running a project for that same client.
And then to your earlier point about managing those dependencies between projects, by having conversations with other PMs and then potentially developing multi project governance. Even though one project is yours and the other project is somebody else's, but the same benefit supply where you can collaborate on a status report, be seen as, you know, looking at the bigger picture for your client and reducing that overhead for whoever the sponsor is on that side.
You know, that senior executive who is probably time starved anyways, right? Wants the brief version, wants the brief version. I really like that.
Elizabeth Harrin I think the bottom line is if the listeners take away one thing about this governance approach is that tailor governance, to be easy and to be smart, and don't get stuck on what it says in the textbooks. Because we all know how governance is taught and what you can do.
And you can get lots of books and training around how to set this all up. But if you can just be a teeny bit creative with it, you could save yourself a lot of time and make yourself look smarter and better and add more value to your sponsorship.
Galen Low I love that. That is so freeing, because I think even the word governance to me, when I say it, it like connotes complexity. It connotes like heaps of paperwork, but actually you're right. It's actually meant to be a communication mechanism. And simpler and clearer you can make that, the better it is.
I wonder if we could talk about some examples. What are some of the like good and bad examples of multi project governance that you've seen?
Elizabeth Harrin I know I keep going on about reports, but being able to combine reports. Stakeholders like fewer documents, it feels less bureaucratic to them.
And I think generally, while I hugely value the role that project managers play, I know that's not always perceived to be a value added proposition by some people because we are a cost overhead to the organization often. So, if we can give the impression that the project management process is light and nimble and yet fit for purpose and still facilitates the process, then that's a good thing.
If you've, you combine everything and it feels small and inefficient and going against all of the policies and what your PMO would be happy with, then that feels like you're cutting too many corners. So I would say, it's got to be something that fits within your corporate setup and the policies and the expectations, and the decision making frameworks that you have within your organization.
Galen Low I really like that sort of spectrum, right? It's like you can consolidate and simplify, but if you get it to the point where it's just like a traffic light and that's it, like three cells on an Excel sheet, you may have gone too far.
Elizabeth Harrin You've gone too far, my friend.
Galen Low Now everyone just thinks you're slacking. I really like that.
And you did touch on it earlier, right? We werere talking about, you know, governance. I said it connotes complexity, there's paperwork involved. And for some of the folks who just haven't even really thought about a governments model for their projects at all, like where might be the best place for them to start?
Elizabeth Harrin It's really just about making sure the project is doing the right thing with the right level of oversight. So if you don't have any formal approach to governance, I would start by setting up a steering group or a project board as a group of people that you can consult and who can guide you with decision making.
It's your escalation point. Create reports. Have a project report even if you are in an organization that doesn't really value reporting. If you keep it for yourself, it's helpful too. You'll get to the end of the year and someone will say, what have you done this year? And you'll go, oh God, I don't remember. I don't even remember what I was doing last month.
But if you've got 12 months worth of project reports, you can evidence the difference that you've made to the organization. So, having reports is really valuable for lots of different reasons. And it's just having a culture of honesty, really. A lot of governance is just transparency and being honest about how your projects are going, which means avoiding those watermelon projects that are green on the outside, but as soon as you start digging, they are red on the inside.
So governance is just about telling the truth about the state of your project and asking for help when you need it and having that framework in place so people are there to help you.
Galen Low I've never heard that one, watermelon projects?
Elizabeth Harrin You haven't heard about watermelon projects? Or you'll be using it all the time now. It's great.
Galen Low Absolutely. Absolutely. I also really like that tie in of reporting, it ties back into what you're saying. And I agree with it's that the perceived value of a project manager is not always as high as folks like you and I, and hopefully our listeners think it ought to be. And just using those reports to show the impact that you've had.
I had never really thought about that. And it's always like the paperwork, right? The hoop you have to jump through versus the thing that's gonna help advance you, or be your advocate, as long as it's being honest.
Elizabeth Harrin Well, I know someone who got into, or someone tried to get her into trouble as a result of an issue that came to pass. And they said, how did you never warn us about this?
And we should have seen this coming and it's all your fault. And she pulled out all of her project reports and said, I have been warning you about this for three months. And we have been trying. And so it's, it is also a little bit of backside covering in there as well, should you ever need it.
Galen Low All right. The next one's juicy, too. And I really wanted to get into it, which is setting up multi-stakeholder management and communication. So, first of all, how do you define multi-stakeholder management and communication and why is it so important in terms of a project manager's capacity to manage multiple projects?
Elizabeth Harrin Managing things, managing your communication stakeholder engagement in a cohesive way across all your multiple projects is really aligned to managing your governance in a aligned way as well. Because I did a survey for my book and one of the questions I asked was, do you combine project meetings and have one meeting where it makes sense to do so for perhaps one stakeholder? And only, and 30% of people don't do that.
So that's potentially a third of the listeners who could be saving time in their day by just combining meetings and having one meeting to look at multiple things. So, just as you can combine project schedules and combine both governance, what can you do with your stakeholder community? What can you do with your communications so that you're sending out one briefing instead of three?
Can you work with another project manager and, you know, use information that they're collecting to inform your project? Because, you know, we all know projects are done through people. People have to support us on the journey. People do the work.
And if you've got more than one thing on the go at any time there's normally some kind of trade off that you can't have to make. Because you can't do all of the amazing engagement and communications that you like to, cuz there just aren't enough hours in the day. So, the more you can address that by being proactive, engaging with people, trying to build those good relationships by not overwhelming people with too many requests for meetings, too much communication.
Then hopefully if things do start to get a bit tricky, they know that you want their time for a good reason and that you're not likely to waste it.
Galen Low I really like this, like recurring, streamlining, right? Where it's actually, honestly, I came into this kind of thinking selfishly, right? Selfishly, I came into this conversation thinking, you know, how can a individual project manager, like cope and, you know, survive and maybe excel at like juggling multiple projects?
But the thing that keeps coming back is like, actually a lot of people are juggling a lot of things like our teams, our stakeholders, and what can we, as project managers, do to be more efficient with our time for ourselves, yes, so you can go home and still have time for meal prep.
But also for our stakeholders, for our team members, for our organizations, so that we are not caring around bloat, because we're thinking of them as, you know, unique individual nodes. They're actually pretty, pretty consistent things that we can combine sometimes. And I've seen organizations, you know, bringing clients into internal meetings to be that client partner relationship.
A) because communication and collaboration is great. And that is the name of the game. And also one less meeting, probably.
Elizabeth Harrin Exactly. And it's also combining a request for information. For example, I was working on a, any, on a project where I needed to write out to 38 managers and get data from them. And it transpired that another person had asked for very similar information that was good enough for me, just a few weeks before, or maybe a month or so before.
And I thought, it's not perfect information, but for the purposes of estimating, it's good enough. Why would I bother these busy people again, when within our team, I can just get it from her? And so if you can think like that, who might have this information already? How do I minimize the impact on other people?
How can I combine our efforts, really, so that we're only hitting people once? And it's all the kinds of communication that you might do. So if you're training people, look at where your projects are going to land. If you're training someone, anyone else training them on the same thing at the same time or a different aspect of the system, how does that get combined?
Is there too much change happening for that team all in one go, because they're managing three projects? Because just like you said, they're not just doing one thing and you might be doing six projects. They might be doing six projects, but you've only got one project that's the same. And they've got five other projects that have got nothing to do with you.
So there's a lot of, it's just about treating people as human beings, really. And as all of us have rounded, busy working lives and your project is not top of the agenda, probably for most of those individuals. So the easier we can make it to work with us, the more likely is they'll engage in the project and that's ultimately what we want.
Galen Low I really like that.
I also, I wanted to come back to this combining notion. I do like the notion of combining meetings. What are some other communication that folks can combine? And are there any that they maybe shouldn't combine?
Elizabeth Harrin Again, it's all about tailoring and making smart choices, isn't it? What we've talked about, one of the things you could do is combining meetings. So if you're having meetings and it's a similar group of people, does it make sense to bring them together? Only if you're not going to have half the people sit there and be bored, but maybe you could bring them in for some of the meeting.
Then they go and you continue the meeting on different topics, so there might be some benefits to that kind of thing. Combining project reports is a very similar thing, but also it's other project newsletters. What's going out from the project? What's on your internet site? What's on your Slack channel?
How are you getting messages out to people? And is it too much? If you are doing three projects for a client, are you sending them one briefing about what's going on? Or are you sending them three? And whether that comes from you or from three different project managers, ultimately it doesn't matter to them, because they just care about the work, right?
They care about the benefit. They don't know about your tasks. And that three of you have got a task that says brief client. So it's a case of trying to look through what your, what's on your communication plan and how, if you can, bring things together. But you also asked about what I wouldn't combine.
And I often find that if you put too many topics in an email, they'll answer the one at the top and then the rest of the email, you just you're like, did you read it? So one topic per email. Send more emails.
Galen Low I like that. And also, I mean, I've been guilty of that person who was like, well, until I address all seven of the things that are in this email, I guess I can't reply. Meanwhile, not all of them are the same size.
Some of them are maybe more urgent. But I like that, not necessarily combining those in an email. In terms of just multi-stakeholder communication, do you have any stories of communication that's gone awry?
Elizabeth Harrin Yes. I did have a project sponsor and I was doing two things for him. We had separate meetings with the diary, so I had prepped to brief him on the latest, on project one. Turned up great meeting, and then he went, oh, and what's happening on that other thing?
I don't know? I don't, I'm not supposed to be talking about that. We don't talk about that until Thursday. What do you want? So, but of course, no, you, I bluffed my way through that. But it just made me realize, for him, I was his project manager doing things. For me, he was the sponsor of this project and the sponsor of that project.
And it was compartmentalized in my head. For him, it was just work. He wanted to get done and I was doing both bits. And it made me realize that I needed to be on it and prepared to answer all of his questions for all of my things I was doing for him, whenever I saw him. And after that things worked a lot more smoothly, but I was think I came out of that meeting thinking, why did I let that happen?
Why did I not expect someone to say, oh, and what's going on with that? When I walk around with an action log of all the things that my team have said over the last two weeks and every time I bump into them, I'll go, oh, can I ask you about this? Oh, what's happening with action 52? And I'm nagging people all the time.
So why would I expect people to treat me any differently? So I learned a quite a valuable lesson for that, that it is people do manage their work in bundles and holistically, and they think of things not in silos. And we need to do that, too.
Galen Low And it comes back to that multi-project governance you talked about, where, you know, if you're running your reports for similar projects or those projects that have the same sponsor, if you're running those reports together, then you do have that information ready. Versus, you know, that's a Thursday thing and it's Tuesday now, but you might get asked about it.
I like that it's also just this kind of awareness of how people work and awareness of what other people have on the plate and that there are other things happening, right? That your project or your projects don't exist in isolation, that everyone's juggling, I guess, is the other thing too.
Which actually is probably a good segue into the last one, which is the big one, which probably is its own podcast, if not podcast series. The big kahuna, which is managing your own time effectively. So I'd hazard to say that managing your own time is a challenge that most professionals are really trying to master these days.
And for all the solutions that I see people trying, that we would never really quite get there. Maybe it's a journey. But I just wondered, what does effective time management mean to you in the context of managing multiple projects?
Elizabeth Harrin I think it's means being smart about how we work and not being afraid to break the rules. Not just doing the same project management process for one project and then layering it on the top again for another project and looking for ways that we can save ourselves time.
So what can you reuse? What can you streamline? How can I take work out instead of duplicate it? What can I do once and then use again for another project? And whether that's a project management process or a checklist or a deliverable, or just a way of working somehow a conversation, we're just trying to maximize every second of the day.
So I don't think there's a magic wand we can wave to make the workload go away. It's often just an attitude about how we approach the work.
Galen Low And, you know what? I think that's really important, like the attitude thing, because I think, you know, coming back to what we were talking about earlier. You come out of like training. You're training, you're embarking on your career as a project manager, whether you've got formal training or you're just cutting your teeth on the job and you're like, everything's gonna be perfect.
But actually this, like what we might have conceived of as being lazy, like when we weren't doing the job actually is being efficient. And I don't know if we always convert that in our heads to be like I'm gonna reuse this status report template. Maybe for a lot of us that just makes tons of sense.
And maybe for some of us, we're like, oh, but this is like such a special project and there's special needs. And let me start from scratch so that it can be perfect. And meanwhile, that's when you start, you know, having those overtime weeks, right? When you are working 60, 80 hours, suddenly. And you actually do need to like look at where there are efficiencies. Not being lazy, it's being efficient.
I really like that. I also, I wanted to talk a bit about actually about that, about boundaries maybe? Like how can PMs avoid working long hours and making sacrifices in their personal lives? And I think, for me, the context here is like what you said at the beginning, which is sometimes there isn't really much of a choice.
You can drive those conversations about, you know, oh, wait, these three projects have like competing milestones, but it might not change anything. You might raise it and they might be like, sorry, we can't change it. You're gonna have to do three launches in one week. How can we avoid those that sort of overtime permanence?
Elizabeth Harrin I think it's about deciding what you are prepared to live with. In that example that you've just given, three launches in one week. If that's the first time that's happened in five years and you are generally committed to the project and you know that it's a one off, then I would probably just suck it up, just do it.
But if it became a habit and my, the culture of my organization was very much firefighting and everything at the last minute. And give up your weekend because you have to work this and we're not approving your holiday request, then that's toxic and I would be looking to leave. And I think it's around understanding what's important to you, what your values are, what you're prepared to give and understanding that people are at different life stages.
I put hours into my career when I was a young, younger woman than I am now, because I love my job and I had nothing else to do with my life, basically. And now I have a family and I am better at boundaries. I still don't have a lot of time for my hobbies, but I have other things I want to do with my day that is not work.
So I get to the end of my working day and I stop. And it took me quite a long time to realize that's okay. And I'll tell you a story about a guy I used to work with actually, who worked, who always was there when I left. He was always in the office when I left. And he was very safe pair of hands, an older gentleman who had so much experience and he was kind of the team project management expert, really experienced project manager.
And we all looked up to him and I went home every day, thinking I wish I could be more like him. You know, he's so dedicated, but I really don't wanna stay another hour. I'm just gonna go anyway. But I wish I could be more dedicated. And there was one day where I did have a reason to stay late. And I stayed late and it got to, let's say, you know, hopper's five and he got out a newspaper, made a cup of tea and he just sat there.
And it was then that I realized I'd been going home thinking that he was working extra hours and what was actually happening, because it was winter. He didn't wanna stand at the station platform for 20 minutes or half an hour, whatever it is, in the cold waiting for his train. So he would have his tea and read his newspaper until just before the train was due, leg it down the road and leap on the train.
And I just, I was blown. You can tell, even by telling this story now, my mind was blown by the fact that he wasn't who I thought he was. He was smarter than I thought he was. And so he was just managing his life in a different way. And so you often judge yourself by what other people are doing and you set boundaries based on what you think other people are doing and you're often wrong.
So if you wanna go home, just go home.
Galen Low I love that. Not making assumptions. And actually I love that the lens, right? And I relate to that a lot, the lens of, oh, that person's working late, like that's something I should aspire to. I mean, a) he wasn't, and b) should we be aspiring to be the people who are working over time? You know, maybe the answer is no.
Elizabeth Harrin We should not. This thing about quiet quitting is quite interesting in the news at the moment, isn't it around all the different extra hours that people put into their organization. And scaling that back and just doing the hours that you're paid for, but ultimately you are only paid to do the hours that you are paid for.
And project management is a job where you have peaks and troughs. There's always busy times, then there's a little bit quieter time where there's, you know, everything's going well and you're in the execution phase. And then it's busy again at go live. So we know that, we understand that there are peaks and troughs and times where you might be away from home or that you've got higher workloads.
But the payoff to that is having a job that pays well, having a job with flexible hours, having a job where if I need to take the kids to school, I can. And then I just, you know, work through my lunch or do a bit in the evening. It's a very flexible role. And we are lucky to have that flexibility, but we don't want to fall into the trap of always being on, always thinking, because I can work, I should be working.
And especially now we work a lot with international teams. There's always someone working. So this whole idea of, you know, don't send emails after six o'clock is a bit odd when I'm working with people from the States. And I come in and my inbox is full, because other people are working, cuz it's not just one time zone in the world.
So it's, it's just getting comfortable with being able to switch off and realizing that there is value to you and to your organization for turning up fresh the next day. It sounds easy. It's easy to say. It's harder to do.
Galen Low I think that's entirely fair. And I, you know, the threat of steel throughout this conversation that I like, and I think a lot of our listeners, it might resonate with a lot of our listeners. Which is that, you know, sometimes you get to a point in your life where, yeah, your priority is not only work and you're juggling more things.
Maybe that's who you've always been throughout your entire life, or maybe you kind of get there after, you know, putting your nose to the grindstone for several years. But just in the context of time management and balancing, you know, your job and your other responsibilities, like, do you have like a top time management life hack?
Elizabeth Harrin I think, it's a bit of a long one maybe, but I didn't realize till I came back from maternity leave about this thing about being in different life stages. And how the energy that you pour into your work, maybe in your twenties say, is the company kind of pays it back to you or the industry pays it back to you when you are working on four hours sleep. And you're trying to express milk in the office and all the post baby stuff.
And then there'll be another phase of life where the kids are older and you go back and you do all of the hours and it's fine. So those peaks and troughs over your career will, will balance out. So, one is just be kind to yourself and know that there's only a few minute, a few hours in the day and use them wisely. But more tactically, for listeners, schedule emails for when you know someone's going to be at their desk.
So don't send emails when they're on holiday. Time it, and Outlook does this for you. Time it for when they get back so that it's at the top of their inbox. It'll help you get a faster response. And I do quite a lot of stalking people on teams to find out when they are green, so I can be there and I'll look in their diary to go, well, when did this meeting finish?
Oh, like it finishes in half an hour. Note in my diary to ring them at that point. So just trying to be aware of other people's responsibilities will help you get faster responses. What else? I plan on my meals. I use my project management skills for meal planning, which is sad, but really effective.
Galen Low Oh, I think it's great.
Elizabeth Harrin One of the things that stresses me out the most is thinking, oh my God, I've just done a whole day at work. What are we gonna eat? And having the week planned is a lifesaver.
Galen Low A product backlog of meal ideas.
Elizabeth Harrin Yeah, exactly. I have a notebook.
Galen Low Yeah, my son's going into junior kindergarten. Right now he's in a daycare that has a lunch plan.
It's basically like a catered lunch, like he's like super lucky and starting in a couple of weeks. Yeah, it's gonna be making lunches is going to be one of the things that I do throughout the day. So I need to, that's my multiple project that I need to manage just going forward as well.
Awesome. Elizabeth, I can't thank you enough for being here and sharing your knowledge with us. I think I'm speaking for a lot of our listeners when I say that just it's been so insightful, just having that perspective, your perspective and your experience and the fact that you've just distilled this all into a digestible framework. And into your book, I just, I think it's so practical and relevant for how we work today.
If people do want to learn more about you and your book, Managing Multiple Projects where should they go?
Elizabeth Harrin They can go to my website, elizabeth-harrin.com/mmp, which is for, stands for Managing Multiple Projects. And all the information is there and they can have a browse around and find out what else I'm up to.
Galen Low Awesome. I love that. And how can folks learn more about Rebel's Guide to Project Management?
Elizabeth Harrin You can go to rebelsguidetopm.com and on there, there's all the links to, to Facebook and all the places where you can find me on social media.
Galen Low Awesome. Very cool. You're a busy body. You're writing books. You're doing podcasts. You are running cohorts. You have a full-time job. You are a parent. I think, if nothing else that gives you great credentials for this exact topic, juggling a bunch of stuff, also known as managing multiple projects.
Awesome. There you have it. Thank you again, Elizabeth. This was loads of fun.
Elizabeth Harrin Thank you very much for having me on the show. It's been great to talk to you today.
Galen Low So what do you think?
Is managing multiple projects a skill that you need to build through experience and time? Or can the right set of tools and techniques get you into the organized head space required to keep you from getting overwhelmed?
Tell us a story: what's the highest number of concurrent projects that you've managed, and how did you keep it all straight?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
And if you want to hone your skills as a strategic project leader, come and join our collective!
Head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership to get access to a supportive community that shares knowledge, solves complex challenges, and shapes the future of our craft — together.
From robust templates and monthly training sessions that save you time and energy, to the peer support offered through our Slack channel, community events, and mastermind groups, being a member of our community means having over a thousand people in your corner as you navigate your career in digital project delivery.
And if you like what you heard today, please subscribe and stay in touch on thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Until next time, thanks for listening.