When you start of your IT career, you’re often given one project. At some stage later in your career, whether it’s days, weeks, or months, you’ll be asked to work on more than one project. This takes quite a bit of extra effort for each extra project. I’ve listed some tips on how you can stay effective at your job while working on multiple projects.
1. Keep A Central Project Status Log When Working On Multiple Projects
Something we should do when we have to work on more than one project is to keep a list of the projects we’re working on.
It seems like such a simple idea, but it really makes a difference.
A project status log is just a file that you create, which has a list of all the projects you’re working on. It can contain information such as:
- The name of the project
- A description of what the project is and what it’s trying to achieve
- What stage of the life cycle it’s at (which will depend on if it’s agile or waterfall)
- What actions were last taken on it
- What needs to be done next
This kind of information can help you to see, at a glance, what each of the projects are doing. You really start to see the benefits of this when you get more and more projects – when you start working on 3 or 4 or even 8 projects.
You can write this down in a spreadsheet, a text file, an Evernote note, or some other document, and save it in a location that you can access that isn’t project-specific. Personally, I like to create spreadsheets on my local drive, but it’s up to you where you store them.
Using this, I’ve found it easier to tell where projects are at, what they are, and what else needs to be done on them.
2. Make A List Of Contacts For Each Project
For each of the projects you’re working on, you’re probably going to be speaking to different people. There might be similar roles (project manager, business analyst, developers, testers, business representatives), but the people who fill each of these roles would be different.
A great way to keep up with your projects and to work out who to talk to is to keep a record of these people. Similar to the list of projects, it can be useful to keep a list of names, roles, and contact details for each project you’re on.
This way, when you need to talk to someone about a requirement or ask about a test case or anything else, you know who to talk to. You would have their email and contact numbers in the one place.
It also helps when people contact you about something. I’ve often received emails from someone on a project and have forgotten what their role was and what project it was about. I could go back to the records and see where they fit in.
It’s up to you what kind of information you keep, but I like to record:
- Role in project
- Team or business unit they are in
- Location (level in the building, address, state)
- Desk phone
- Mobile phone
- Manager’s name (which can be useful if you need to speak to them, or to work out who is in what team)
3. Categorize and Organize
You’ll no doubt be receiving a lot of information for the projects you’re working on. If you’re a developer, you’ll have a lot of design documents and requirements documents that were prepared for you.
If you’re in testing, you’ll have access to code and environments and testing documents. If you’re a business analyst, you’ll have requirements to process and project documents to look at.
To stay on top of your game when working on multiple projects, it helps to keep organised with all this information.
You don’t need to be pedantic and crazy organised when doing this, if you don’t want to. It just helps to have a bit of order when working on a few things at once. Some ways you could do this are:
- Set up folders in your email program. All email programs should have a folder or labelling system. You could set up a folder for each of your projects, and move emails into these folders. That way, whenever you need to find something, you can search for it in one folder and stay on track.
- Create folders in your document storage area. Whether you store document and other files on your own computer’s hard drive, or in some online service such as SharePoint, you should set up folders for those. This also makes it easier to find things.
Trying to implement these in your work environment will help you when working on multiple projects, as you’ll be able to find things easier when you need them.
4. Keep Up To Date With Project Priorities
When you’re working on more than one thing at once, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. You might feel like you have too much to do. You might feel like everyone wants their work done right now. I certainly feel like that, quite a lot actually. Sometimes I can’t tell what I should be working on and what’s most important.
When that happens, I need to get some guidance on what the priorities are. I can go and speak to my manager, who has a broader view of the team’s work, and ask for advice. This works quite well in most situations. I suggest doing the same thing, and do it every so often, to make sure the priorities are still the same.
Ask your manager what the priorities are for your projects. Ask them if they can rank them in order, or assign some kind of priority to them. This will make it easier for you to make decisions about what to work on next.
Also, it can help to ask for priorities on certain pieces of work. Your project managers can also advise about this. Should you work on developing test cases, or creating database access code? Which of the priority bugs should you work on testing first? Which document is to be read and discussed first? Each of these questions could be answered by the project manager or others in the team.
5. Take Mental Notes About The Differences
Sometimes if I’m working on a few projects, I can get confused about which one is which. At the moment, I’m in a business analyst role on about six projects in the team. This can get confusing at times, especially when you’re in a meeting and you start talking about something – and it’s for the wrong project! That’s happened quite a few times to me before.
What I’ve learnt to do is to try and take a mental note of what the project is. Something that I can use to tell it apart from other projects. It could be a visual representation of the solution, the names of a few of the key people, or the system that it affects. Something that you can use to tell it apart from other projects.
So, I hope these tips have helped you stay effective if you’re working on multiple projects. If you can show you’re good at working on more than one thing, this can help you get the kind of projects you want to do. What do you have trouble with when you’re in this situation? Share your comments and questions below!