As we’ve pointed out before, independent web workers often have patchwork careers. While it would be nice to only have one project needing attention, the reality is that we need to juggle together multiple projects with overlapping deadlines for many clients. Depending on the workload and your personality, this can be either exhilarating or oppressive.
One thing that can make dealing with multiple projects easier is good time-management skills. But you need to apply some special twists to make time management work for multiple concurrent projects. Here are four ideas to make it easier for you.
1. Know Your Next Deadline. If you’ve got four projects running concurrently, it can be very tempting to just pick the one that is easiest, funnest, or for your oldest client and work on that. This is a recipe for disaster, as it allows deadlines to creep up on you for the other three projects. I’ve found it useful to exercise a modified GTD here: know the next major action and the next deadline for each project (something like “Deliver layout wireframes by June 3″). I keep a text document with these open on my desktop, or a list on a whiteboard, to keep me on track with everything. Detailed task lists live elsewhere - I just want the reminder of the big picture obviously at hand at all times.
2. Keep Task-Switching to a Minimum. As most software developers know, switching from one task to another is a productivity killer. Every time you need to ramp up on something it takes you a while to remember what you were doing, and to get back into “the zone” where you’re working efficiently. Don’t try to divide a four-project day into 8 individual 1-hour segments if you can possibly avoid it. You’re much better off blocking two hours for each project together - or, even better, spending half a day on each project on alternate days.
3. Apply Grease as Needed. No client wants to think that they’re at the back of the queue. One way to give the illusion that you’re always listening whenever they squeak is to do a quick triage process on requests for new features or extra work as they come in. I make it a practice to get to inbox zero every morning - and if client requests that take me ten minutes or less are on the new stack, I just take care of them. Deliver quick turnaround often enough and you’ll find people are more forgiving about the things that take a little longer.
4. Keep Clients Updated. Even if you can’t deliver everything as soon as the customer might like, don’t ever “go dark” on a project. Every client email should get a response, if only to tell them that you’ll be able to consider that more fully tomorrow. On major projects, I send out a quick status report every one or two days (usually just a text list of open issues) to let the clients know that their work is still proceeding. If you take this approach, make sure that the list actually changes from day to day!
Switching between multiple projects can be challenging, but if you can manage it, the benefits in terms of a smoother income stream and more satisfied clients is worth it.
Have any tips of your own to add to the list?
Posted By: IndoSourceCode