Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Schedule Management

Time Management for Project Managers

It is common to see project managers overwhelmed by the amount of work that lands on their desk and not being able to find enough time in a day to accomplish all that work. The moment they finalize a project report, a new request comes asking for more information that will take a lot of work to get it organized. But the use of simple and effective time management techniques can help in getting more done each day. It will not only help manage the time more wisely, but can also help minimize stress and improve the quality of life.

Here are some tips project managers should consider in their day to day work:

Plan each day

Use a Project Log or Diary, and on the first day of the week write a to-do list of all the tasks assigned to you, write next to each item the date when the task is needed. This schedule of the daily activities will help minimize conflicts and last-minute rushes.

  • Prioritize your tasks. Prioritizing the list of task will ensure that time and energy is spent on those tasks that are truly important to the project. Mark the list with a simple code such as “A” for most important, “B” important and “C” less important.
  • Work on essential tasks first. Tasks or activities that are most important to the project (marked as A) should be done first, evaluate the time and ensure you block enough time during the week to do them. See if there is enough time to do some of the tasks labeled as “B”. Until all top priorities have been completed, don't take on less important ones.
  • Delegate. Consider if those activities labeled “B” or “C” in the to-do list can either be postponed or delegated to someone else in the project.
  • Delete non essential tasks. Activities marked a “C” are less important, evaluate if they can either be moved to the next week, or deleted from the list.
  • Know when you work best. Some managers are morning people, while others work better in the afternoon. Know your most productive hours of the day and schedule the priority tasks to work during those hours.
  • Evaluate your progress. Every day revise the to-do-list and see how you're spending your time. Mark tasks as completed and evaluate if the to-do list of tasks need to be re-prioritized, also check for any changes on the due dates.

The 80:20 Rule

The Pareto Principle or the '80:20 Rule' says that typically 80% of effort focused on noncritical tasks generates only 20% of results. This means that the remaining 80% of results are achieved with only 20% of the effort on the critical tasks.  This simple rule explains that by prioritizing and selecting approximately 20% of the task on the to-do list you can achieve 80% of your work.


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What is the Critical Path in Project Management?

A network diagram is a graphical representation of the sequence of project activities and the dependencies among them. There are two types of network diagrams, activity on arrow (AOA) and activity on node (AON). The most common network diagram uses the AON diagram technique, in which boxes represent activities. The complex and dynamic nature of development projects make this tool especially valuable because it helps the project team identify the potential interactions of project activities that can be easily missed otherwise. The value of the network diagram is that it provides the project team with visibility and control over the project schedule. It also helps determine the total duration of the project and its critical path, or path with the longest duration.
The figure below shows an example of a project network diagram that includes the duration estimates and dependencies; the diagram also shows the dependencies among the activities and how these can form parallel paths.
The Critical Path is the Path A in the network diagram with the longest total duration (100 days). Activities on the critical path cannot be delayed, or the whole project will be delayed, unless the loss of time can be offset somewhere else on the critical path. To find the critical path, add up the duration of the activities for each possible path through the network, to determine which has the longest total duration. The difference between the longest total duration and the shortest path(s) is the total amount of float or slack for the noncritical path activities.
Float or Slack is the amount of time that an activity or a task in a project network can be delayed without causing a delay to subsequent activities or tasks and the project completion date.
The critical path is in essence the shortest time a project can be completed, even though the critical path is the longest path on the project. It is not the path with the most critical activities or the shortest path on a project network diagram. There are cases in which a network diagram may have two critical paths that have the same total duration.  A benefit of Critical Path Analysis is that it helps identify the minimum length of time needed to complete a project. Where there is a need to accelerate a project, the CPA will help identify which project steps to accelerate and complete the project within the available time.
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