Beat the Burnout: 5 Proven Strategies for Managing Multiple Projects

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As a project manager, how many projects have you handled simultaneously?

As a project manager, mind you, not as a Program Manager. The difference is, as a Program Manager you have dedicated Project Managers working under you for each of the projects. But as a Project Manager, you are 100% involved in each of the projects.

Chances are, you are currently managing multiple projects.

One time I had 4 projects, of different team sizes, from 2 member team to 16 member team.

If you are in a similar boat, I know exactly how you are feeling.

For a starter, there is no ‘absolute calm period’ at any point in time. One or the other project has one or the other issue, and you are constantly pulled in all directions.


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Then you have the resource issue. Every project manager in the company needs their hands on the best people. And so you have no other way than to ask your best people on one project to help on the other. And there is the constant fear of, “what if my best people leave?”

Don’t even get started with schedule issues. 🙂

Most importantly, you need to manage the expectations of your higher-ups and your team members.

As a project manager, you are in, what I call, a sandwich position.

A place where burnout can set in quickly. And what you need to understand is this: burnout doesn’t come from too much work, it rather comes from this feeling of being NOT in control of what’s going on.

If you step back a bit and visualize the entire organizational hierarchy, you will not take long to understand the fun of being a project manager. Once you are used to being in the thick of things, you can pretty much manage any position. Even as a solopreneur or entrepreneur.

Being a project manager mentally prepares you, in the true sense, to climb the ladder and take positions of other responsibilities. Of course, those positions will take specific skills, but the mindset – that’s something you can carry forward from being a project manager.

But right now, we ARE talking about being in the thick of things. So in this article, let us see what you can do to get things under control.

While at it, don’t miss 2 of the most important PM concepts I’ve explained in the videos below.

What does it take to handle multiple projects?

Understand this fact: being a project manager capable of handling multiple projects is such a vital skill, it takes a high level of organization, planning, and people + time management. And that makes you one of the most valuable assets in the organization.

Don’t waste time and energy worrying. There are a few strategies that can help you cut the overwhelm and manage multiple projects successfully without getting burned out.

1. Carve out ‘ME time’

It is easy to lose track of time and jump from one burning issue to the other without a pause. And in most cases, this is exactly what happens.

As a project manager, you need to carve out ‘me time’ for yourself.

Every day.

Every week.

Every month.

It could be 15 minutes at the beginning of the day, or the end of the day. You need to take time to reflect on the state of things as it is today.

Similarly, take at least 30 minutes a week to reflect on the past week and plan for the next week.

Finally, take time to reflect on the higher picture at the beginning of each month. While it helps to do this with the team, or with key members of each of the teams, it’s important that you do this on your own as well.


Don’t miss these latest articles for project managers:


2. Be proactive in managing risks

Which projects are running well but exhibiting symptoms of problems?

If a team member is missing deadlines repeatedly, there may be an issue of overloading.

If there is a trend of an increasing number of defects found across releases, there could be an underlying code refactoring issue.

If the customer is not attending meetings repeatedly, there could be an issue that can cascade into your project.

Being proactive in identifying potential risks is important to avoid bad things from happening before they materialize. And knowing that you are being ready this way avoids any overwhelm.

3. Set priorities

It is highly unlikely that all of your projects are equally important. And it is also unlikely that they all have project deliveries scheduled for the same time.

These being true, you can always prioritize projects, and then tasks within each project. Once the priorities are set you can play with the resources within the project (and in emergencies, across your projects) to manage the workload and schedule.

As a manager, you can also do resource management techniques (resource leveling and resource smoothing) and schedule compression techniques (crashing and fast tracking) to manage priorities as well.

Here are a couple of videos that would help with these techniques for you.

4. Break them down

How do you eat an elephant? (Big Pumpkin, for vegetarians 🙂 )

One bite at a time.

How do you cut overwhelm?

By breaking down the task causing overwhelm into smaller, manageable pieces.

Just this process gives you clarity, and thus a sense of control.

Working on smaller pieces also makes it easier to track your progress and stay motivated.


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5. Delegate & automate where possible

The other benefit of breaking down bigger tasks into smaller ones is that you can delegate some or all of them.

You can also see how many of them can be automated.

As you work on these, you will get more and more free time. You will begin to identify people with specific skills that can work on these tasks or on automating them.

This helps you identify people that can be groomed into those with T-skillset – an important requirement in an Agile team. That is, people with deep expertise in one skill and some working knowledge of other skills. A great way to allow the team to self-organize and get things done.

In Summary,

As a valuable asset of an organization, a project manager handling multiple projects, you need to accept that there may not be days of calm. Even if there are, they could be the ‘calm before the storm’.

These are 5 strategies to cut down overwhelm, empower your team members, bring automation where possible, manage risks proactively, and get control over your projects.

When you have a sense of control, you feel better mentally. And mental health is the most precious thing one can aim for at work.

1. Carve out ‘ME time’
2. Be proactive in managing risks
3. Set priorities
4. Break them down
5. Delegate & automate where possible

Finally,

Let me share a bonus strategy with you. This will not help you directly manage multiple projects, but help in building visibility into your company, industry, and market so you can get pulled into the next level of your career.

Build visibility for your work, and earn authority for yourself.

Yes, being known for what you do brings tremendous growth opportunities for you.

The easiest way to get started, if this interests you, is to share what you do.

Share –

  • your wins, your failures
  • your lessons learned at work
  • interesting projects you are working on
  • insights you glean from your experiences
  • your advice for people starting out in your field
  • predictions based on trends in your field or vertical

As you share things, you naturally grow as a leader, more as a thought leader.

You earn authority in your field. And that’s when the magic unfolds. The growth opportunities begin to knock hard.

Shiv Shenoy, PMP

Connect with me here on LinkedIn.


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help you enjoy your PMP prep and pass the exam with ease:


Photo by Thirdman.

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