The very nature of academic work means that we have to juggle. The three pillars of our work–research, teaching, and service–outline a daily working life where we are pulled in at least as many directions (though in reality, it is many more).
Because of this, professors need to be project managers. But we rarely think of writing an academic article or designing a new course as a “project.” It certainly is, though, and because of that we could learn something from the world of project management.
Here are five project management skills that would go a long way to help us manage our academic lives better. Which one of these have you mastered?
Skill #1: Reverse engineering a project timeline
This seems straightforward. Just put the end date of when the project is due, and then work backwards. But of course, developing this skill is a bit more complicated than that, and hooked rather closely to skill #2.
Skill #2: Breaking projects into tasks
I get so many questions about this! This is definitely a skill that you hone over time. There is no one exact right “size” to a task. You need to work on figuring this out. In my course, Organize Your Academic Life, I give you ways to work on getting better and better at mastering this for yourself.
Skill #3: Scheduling multiple simultaneous projects
The. Story. Of. My. Life. (amIright?) The nature of academic work requires simultaneous projects. Scheduling them and getting them finished can be helped along by using sprint techniques and time blocking. You definitely need a system that works with your project management software and your calendar in order to be a master of this skill.
Skill #4: Estimating time to task
The only one who can tell you how long it takes to get a task done is you. In Organize Your Academic Life, I suggest practicing different ways to estimate time-to-task, all the while being reflective on this process. Again, the more you do this, the better you’ll get at it.
Skill #5: Using templates and workflows
Templates and workflows will save you SO much time! Templates stop wheel-spinning by making sure you never start with a blank page. Workflows are just a pre-established pattern of steps to take in order to work on a project. You’ll need to create both, or use a system like the one I’ve developed specifically for academics in Organize Your Academic Life.
You will find that as you focus on these skills you will save time and feel less stressed. But they do take development, which means you’ll need to put time and energy into them up front. To learn how, check out my new course, Organize Your Academic Life, which will open for enrollment on February 22, 2019. Meanwhile, check out my Trello templates for academic project management to get a taste of the course content!