How to Project Manage When it’s Not Your Job AND Everything is a Priority

By Melanie Haskell, Project Manager III

Over the years, we have heard customers repeatedly ask for tips on how they can manage their initiatives when project management is not their only job function and everything is a priority.  Before you can manage your time, you need to know what it is you must manage.

  • Create a list of what needs to be done. The first draft of your list should capture only high level items; don’t worry you will add more details later. At this point, you’re focused on what you need to get done, not how you are going to get there.
  • Prioritize the items on the high level list. In order to create realistic priorities, set aside the concept of “everything has to be done yesterday.” This is a first pass so prioritize the list based on what you know now. You can create any coding technique that works for you (for example, high, low and medium) – the only thing that matters that the coding works for you.
  • Now take the highest priority items and determine what needs to be done to complete the objective of that item (this is called a Task List). Eventually you will work through all items on your list.  This is an iterative process.  You might be able to create this task list on your own, or you might need to pull in other entities to flesh out the details. The more complex the item, the more help you may need. For example,  upgrading the firmware on your non-production SAN is a much easier item then moving your on premise email to a hosted cloud solution or embarking on hybrid cloud computing projects. When you start talking to people, you start discovering what needs to happen, and the picture becomes clearer.
  • Organize the task list conceptually – see if you need to pull in others just like in the step above. Since you did your due diligence during the discovery stage, now your objective is to chunk out the work.
  • Assign resources – ask for help if you do not have the ability to assign anyone.  You might end up owning all items, but if you can delegate tasks do so.  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to do it all. You can be much more effective if you can delegate tasks as necessary.  Make sure individuals understand the overall goal and how it benefits the organization, as well as how their role affects the overall initiative. Gather feedback as much as possible as this will help identify risks, missed steps in the plan etc.
  • Determine if there is a tool you want to use to help you manage the task plan (i.e. the to-do list).  Some popular tools are Microsoft Project, Excel or Word. It does not matter what tool you utilize as long as it helps you with task management (i.e. what needs to get done, who is doing it and when will it happen).  Use technology to help you!
  • Set a communication plan – How will you know a task status?  This information can be gathered in many ways. Find what works for you and your resources.  Set schedules and follow up with people to make sure they are meeting their deadlines. Make time to monitor the task list to verify the team is in alignment with the committed tasks and timelines.


This all might sound like a lot of work, and you’re probably already over-tapped, but this will create efficiency and save a lot of time in the end.  It’s better to plan out how you will build your house before you pick up a hammer, nails and some wood and start building. Good luck and remember, if needed, our Project Management team is here in the wings to offer you professional advice any time!