Project management – Knowing when to dig in and when to step back

I just began my first ever project manager position a couple of weeks ago. So how is it going? Well, I really like it. It is somewhat what I thought it would be. It is either a great deal busier than what I initially thought, or I have to just learn a few things first in this new role in order to get better at time management.


In my last position I was not pushed to meet hard deadlines. Honestly, I just didn’t have them.  Awesome, right? Well this new job of mine is nothing like the old job. It is go, go, go; and I love it! However, I am learning to prioritize on the fly – almost every day since I have been given 2 projects to start off with. One is big and is very important to the whole organization, and the other is important but a lot smaller in comparison. I also have other ad-hoc tasks that I complete that take time from my projects. My problem with all of this so far is that I have been a very involved worker throughout my whole career. I want to know everything about everything. I also want to do everything since then I will know that I got it done and there is no risk with someone else doing it. Well that’s a problem when you are a project manager and you a ton of stuff to do all the time and you stay in the “dig in” mentality. Well this type of problem then led me to look around online and I found a great blog with some ideas:

Everything is not important important!

  • Sit down with the boss to have them set you straight or be prioritized directly from them
  • Listen to all stakeholders, including your family to find out what items you are responsible for are holding them up
  • Document all arrangements of work to be completed for people and from people. (CYA)
  • Look backwards from the process diagram to find out your backward times which will give you deadlines you have to meet.

Become Organized (If you are not already)

  • Don’t waste time trying to figure out what you should be doing, let a system deal with that while you actually do something.

Cost, Scope, Time

  • Work backwards from when your deadlines are and how long your tasks will take. Creating a list for this will automatically give you priorities on what should be done.
  • Spend money when necessary to help get you back up above water again in your project’s progress.
  • Communicate with your stakeholders if things just aren’t going to plan and be honest so that they will see that you are working with them to get them everything they need

Delegate as much as possible

  • There may be people who can help you finish a task

Do any of you struggle with some of these problems in your PM roles? Or do you know people who do?


11 thoughts on “Project management – Knowing when to dig in and when to step back

  1. Great tips! I especially like these two, “everything is not important important!” and “delegate as much as possible”.

    It is so important to have a clear focus of your projects and your project priorities so you can know what is important and key and what in not as high a priority. Without fail everyone will often think their piece is THE MOST IMPORTAINT, normally not the case. As the project manager you can assure that each item is getting the prioritization that is needed when you are solid on what the most important elements are.

    And Delegating! Without delegating you will run yourself ragged and not get the best outcomes. In my staff gourd I oversee four committees and one of the first things I always stress to new co-chairs is delegating the tasks!! People love to help and a have a hand in a project or outcome. Delegating both helps you and provides investment from those helping. Giveing people various tasks also allows them to learn and grow, again building investment. The more invested people are the more success you’ll see! Delegation, delegation, delegation, SO important!

    I also love walking backwards on deadlines and projects to map my time. It’s always super helpful to make sure you aren’t caught with too little time!

  2. Delegation is something that I see myself struggling with going forward in my career. I realize the importance of delegating, but I have a hard time letting go of things, mostly because I sometimes lack the trust in others to get the job done.

    Working backwards is a nice tip as well. I think it is important to understand what the end game looks like to ensure the build up is where it needs to be.

  3. Thanks, Emilie, for these helpful tips! I think the title really interested me to click on your post and I was not disappointed.

    Prioritization and organization seem to be strong points of mine, so I think if I consider a career in project management, I would not struggle with those aspects. I think everything is important to the well-being of the project. I am able to rank things and get them done in order of importance.

    However, When I find myself in positions that I have to delegate work to others, I find that I am not very good at it. I think it may have been helpful to include ways to delegate effectively. In all other ways this post was a good read!

  4. I think many of us forget that attending school is project managing on so many levels. Many of the task we are completing in school are very similar to the ones we do in the workforce where luckily we are finally getting paid for being good organizers and leaders. We are given multiple projects, test, and papers within the same week and have to complete the task in a timely manner. We are made to be project managers and after much experience, many of us I think are naturals. What we have learned throughout school furthers our knowledge and skills beyond academia.

  5. I thoughts these tips were great and definitely something I’ll take with me during any project I face. The one that especially stood out to me was “Everything is not important important.” Even when I have a project for school, I often get stuck in tiny little details and start to lose focus of the big picture. This then results in me losing a lot of time I could have spent actually working on the project. It’s great to keep in mind that I can just meet back with my group or professor to re-prioritize myself and if I am feeling lost, this is what I should do. Checking in with the people you’re working with can be a great way to re-focus oneself on the project. Thanks!

  6. This is a very important topic because sometimes we tend to take on more than we can handle and even the smallest projects can become overwhelming. Just today I was talking to a supervisor who usually has a lot of work to get through but he knows how much he can take on. I remember him saying that he has to prioritize the invoices that get processed first by which clients are bigger and if it ever gets to be too much that he delegates some of it to his coworkers. By listening to him and reading this it’s made me realize that there’s no need to panic over everything that hasn’t been done as long what needs to be done is done and to remember that there’s always tomorrow. Thanks for the helpful tips!

  7. I have found myself doing some of these when I am trying to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities all at once. I find that scheduling backwards is a great idea and can help you organize your time. I understand that delegating is an option, but I feel that often times it can be hard to pass on a certain task/ responsibility to others. At my current level, I find it very helpful to understand what management expects of me and try to work in my projects from there. Juggling multiple tasks can be challenging and these are all good tips!

  8. I agree with what a previous poster, Farzana, said. It’s really interesting and helpful to hear your tips and what you have gained from your experience. However, adding what it is like to work with others and how to assign work to others would be helpful. Maybe you did not have too much experience with this. Very helpful post!

  9. It’s always interesting to hear people talk about what they’re learning in the real world. Being a senior in college this stuff fascinates me. Working backwards and the process of network paths is something we learned just today. It seems like a great addition to a project leader’s tool belt. I thought it was a great idea to be able to schedule effectively as a project manager.

  10. I think that with every first major roll at any job you feel obligated to make sure everything runs smoothly. Being a manager is especially difficult, since you are responsible for the job that others complete. I think that blog was very helpful especially when it talks about delegating tasks. You must trust the work your team is doing and overlook it from a distance. When employees feel like there is no trust they will feel unmotivated to do well.

  11. Juggling two projects at the same time seems like a tough thing to do! I agree that there are some parts of a project that are more important than others. This relates to something my class recently started learning about; the idea of a critical path. Determining the time it takes for projects to be completed and which ones are more important relates directly to my class work, which made this post very interesting.

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