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Time management when juggling several projects & planning

Time management when juggling several projects & planning

Time management when juggling several projects & planning

I have two problems: I find it hard to make realisitc estimates how long something wil take me and I find it difficult to be productive when juggling several projects.

I'm consultant engineer. Typically I have one or two construction sites and one project in a planning/design phase. Construction site means something between a visit every week and some paperwork to beeing on site half the time and lots of paperwork.

When I structure my time, I usually write down all the identfiable "chunks" of work, identify the most urgent one and work on that. If I would strictly follow that process, I would end up jumping between my projects which is not really a good, productive use of my time. Also, this way it's easy to neglect the planning projects because whatever is happening on site right now is always more urgent. Last not least, for plannng I need to block out whole days where I mostly ignore or postpone interuptions from the sites, if possible (reading emails and taking calls yes, acting on it only if urgent), to be able to concentrate on a project.

I don't think my time management etc. is totally terrible, but definitly below median (as far as time management skill is quantifiable on one axis).

I also have a hard time to realistically answer my project managers' question "how available are you the next week for project B, how will your work load be in project A & C"?

So, I can't be the first engineer to have this problem, how did others go about it?

RE: Time management when juggling several projects & planning

I took the nuclear option. This may not be acceptable in your workplace.

1) I wrote a note to my management pointing out that an interruption to 'just look at this' typically loses me 2 hours of train of thought and digging through old files.

2) So I work on one project per day, after I've dealt with the random stuff from yesterday first thing in the morning.

3) If I have multiple 'urgent' projects, I just do them in rotation, 1 day at a time.

I don't know if that helps. My time estimates for jobs are typically pretty good, but occasionally I have 100-200% blowouts. Just had one in fact, a 20 hour job turned into 60, and once I had a 2 week job turn into 3 months.


Greg Locock

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RE: Time management when juggling several projects & planning

This sounds worth trying, biggest issue I see is when I give a drafter input for project A on monday, but when I work on Project B on Tuesday the drafter comes along every so often, requesting clarifications. My time is more expensive but not vastly so. Maybe I should schedule the half hour past lunch for everything that popped up before noon or something like this.

RE: Time management when juggling several projects & planning

I'd recommend spending some time studying lean and agile design methods if you haven't in the past. Ultimately this comes down to a few simple concepts like breaking work down to their smallest tasks, identifying the time necessary to complete each task, prioritizing your workload at set intervals (beginning and mid-day work best for me), and seeing each task through to completion before moving to the next Avoiding distractions is simple once you see your efficiency increasing and realize the importance of not trying to multitask.

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