Getting one project over the finish line can be tough enough. But managing multiple projects? That may feel like frying an egg while typing an email and brushing your teeth. With your eyes closed. And one hand tied behind your back.
Keeping track of all of those different (and often competing) tasks, timelines, stakeholders, and deliverables is enough to turn your brain to mush—much like that egg that's sizzling on the stove. (Tip: Go check your stove before reading the rest of this post.)
How to manage multiple projects: 5 tips to keep your cool
Set down the spatula and take a deep breath. We’ve got a few strategies to help you juggle multiple projects without cracking (yes, like an egg) under the pressure.
1. Be proactive about capacity planning
Planning and scheduling one project is relatively straightforward from a capacity perspective. It's when you have several projects running at the same time that you can accidentally pile your plate too full, especially if you have a siloed view of each project.
After all, that one deliverable might not seem like a big ask—until you realize you have three other tasks due at the exact same time.
🙏🏼All of the tips, hacks, and tricks in the world won't help if you're spread way too thin to start with. That's why proactively managing your capacity and availability is so crucial. It helps you ensure that you have the adequate time, energy, and resources to commit to a project.
Trello has several different views to help you understand how much you or your team are tackling at any given time:
- Calendar view gives you a clear vision of what work lies ahead so you can easily see if certain days or weeks are already stretched to the limit.
- Dashboard view visualizes metrics like due dates and assigned cards so you can manage workloads and prevent bottlenecks.
- Table view shows all of your work (across all of your Trello boards!) in a spreadsheet-styled list that you can easily sort.
- Timeline view displays the duration of tasks and projects on a Gantt chart-style diagram so you can avoid bottlenecks.
Put simply, if you want to manage multiple concurrent projects without tearing your hair out, you can't optimistically add tasks to your list and due dates to your calendar. You need to have a solid grasp on what you're actually capable of taking on—before you even consider enthusiastically agreeing.
2. Stay (super) organized
Working on many projects at one time puts a lot of demands on your time and mental energy. The last thing you need to do is dig through random email threads or attempt to make sense of a bird's nest of sticky notes on your computer monitor.
If your brain is all over the place, your projects will be, too. That's why you need one easy, streamlined, centralized spot to manage everything from checklists and files to schedules and deadlines.
Trello is an intuitive way to organize tasks and manage your projects—regardless of how many you're working on at one time. Using Trello, you can:
- Add relevant resources (like attachments, conversations, and more) to cards.
- Centralize comments, status updates, and all project conversations on cards.
- Create advanced checklists to get into the nitty gritty details of project tasks.
- Integrate with the various apps and tools you're already using.
- Use Dashcards to track any set of tasks across your boards, like overdue tasks or projects starting that month.
You can use Trello for your own work or bring in your whole team to boost visibility and keep even your biggest and most complex cross-functional projects on track.
3. Prioritize tasks and projects
You have numerous projects running at the same time. So, where do you start? This isn't as simple as reaching into a hat and pulling out a random task or deliverable.
Successfully managing multiple projects is all about effective prioritization. That word alone probably inspires visions or tight deadlines, but prioritization isn't always about urgency. You could prioritize based on:
- Deadline: The most obvious criteria, you arrange your work based on what's due first.
- Dependencies: Projects are like lines of dominoes. When considering task dependencies, you prioritize tasks that have a direct impact on others—and, as a result, the overall progress. For example, you might prioritize something because you know the design team is at a standstill without it.
- Effort: There's a big difference between having three hours for deep work and 10 minutes between meetings. For that reason, you can prioritize tasks based on the energy and effort they require.
- Importance: Finally, you can prioritize work based on impact. Put simply, how much weight does the task carry in achieving a goal?
See? Prioritization is about strategically arranging your tasks and to-do's to ensure you're focusing on the right stuff first—which is crucial when you have several projects competing for your time and attention.
If you're still struggling, an Eisenhower Matrix can help you sort through all of your project to-dos and identify the ones that should be at the top of your list.
4. Use templates
With a slew of projects demanding your work time, why reinvent the wheel when you don't have to? Using templates means you can save time, improve consistency, minimize errors, and reduce stress.
Think of a template as something—it could be a document, script, platform, or even a process—that you can repurpose and use time and time again. It has all of the core elements already in place so you don't need to start from scratch.
When you're juggling multiple projects, there's no shortage of ways you can incorporate templates. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Choose a Trello board template to manage your entire project.
- Create a template card on a Trello board that you can copy and reuse.
- Establish a standard process or workflow that you can repeat for common tasks.
- Set up templated documents (like agendas, outlines, recaps, and request forms).
- Draft templated messages (like email scripts or status updates) that you can easily copy and paste.
- Automate repeated tasks so they get done reliably.
Those might seem like small or inconsequential steps to take. But, when you have a pile of projects vying for your work hours, anything that saves time and stress is helpful.
5. Batch tasks
With several projects on the docket at once, it's tempting to hop between to-do's like you're playing whack-a-mole. You might feel like that frantic switching of gears helps you get a lot done, but in reality you're context switching—a term for rapidly jumping between various, unrelated tasks.
If you feel like you're barely treading water throughout your workday, that disconnected approach is probably to blame.
Instead, try grouping similar tasks together (yes, even if they're for different projects). For example, maybe you'll take an hour to answer emails and then spend the rest of your morning doing research or creating outlines.
When you're working on numerous projects at once, you might think you need to dedicate focused time to each project individually before moving on to another one. But, you (and your stress levels) might be better served by looking at the type of task—and not just the project it relates to.
Mastering the multiple-project juggling act
Your work life would feel more than manageable if you only had one project on your plate at a time. But, that's not reality—most of us have at least a few projects running at any given time.
It might feel like an egg-frying-tooth-brushing-email-drafting-blindfolded circus act every now and then, but being strategic about how you plan, organize, and tackle your work can help you power through your projects with your composure (and maybe even that fried egg?) intact.
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!