When the expression "the devil is in the details" was coined, it was probably meant for project management. Of course, things like efficiency and productivity are at the top of any project manager's mind. But in order to achieve those things, you need to consider the details, and then consider them some more. How does your team share files? How do they communicate with each other about their work?
It's the details that carry through your project. Here are a few hacks that will improve productivity at the micro-level of a project.
Improve information sharing
The way your team shares information can empower them to do better work, or can really waste their time and prevent them from doing the best work they can do.
So what can you do to improve how your team shares what they know?
First, encourage each team member to be a proactive communicator. Coach them to be forthright with other team members about the work they can or can’t get done, and their estimate timelines. Nobody wants to be a human bottleneck, and, even more so, nobody likes to deal with a bottleneck.
The human element of information sharing is vital, but you also need the appropriate tools. Yes, Dropbox is a great way to share files and folders. But think about looking for a file you need in the folder someone else uploaded. It’s not that much different than looking for the paper file in the filing cabinet.
Ideally, you’re using a task management tool that allows you to attach files (uploading directly from Dropbox is a plus) directly to the task that you’re collaborating on. This way, no one does any detective work, there are no work interruptions caused by questions like “Hey, could you email that file over to me?” Having all the files in the context of the task makes it a lot easier to work for all parties involved.
Reduce email communication
And talking about email… Email has gotten a really bad rep, despite being a powerful communication tool for business.
Let’s face it, email is not going anywhere soon. Yet we all want to reach the inbox zero holy grail.
Communicating by email too often will cause frustration among your team members. Try to keep project communication in your IM and face to face meetings. But the most effective way of communicating, again, is by having the exchange within the context of the task itself. So a chat-like functionality within the task context is something you definitely want in your team task management tool.
Streamline project updates
Project updates can be huge time consumers. Yes, you want to have full-blown meetings at strategic points of the project, but other than that, you can keep your project updates organic. For example, a daily standup or team huddle (or weekly, depending on the nature of your project) will take the pressure off the more traditional meetings.
Project updates should be fluid. Team members shouldn't feel in the dark at any point about which way the project is going, and they shouldn’t have to wait until the status update meeting to find out.
Break all tasks into subtasks
Were you ever faced with a behemoth task that you just didn’t know from which direction to attack?
When you break down tasks into subtasks, everything becomes a lot more manageable. You are also a lot more clear how every step of your work is helping advance the bigger picture.
Don’t underestimate the power of subtasks. If you want, you can even make this a team activity until everyone on your team gets into this habit. Different team members will see different opportunities for dividing up the work. This way, team members can help each other break down their work into manageable chunks, without forgetting the goal they’re working toward.
Time yourself in intervals of focused work
The traditional 8-hour work day is kind of broken. One way to improve how your team works is to schedule your work day around four 90-minute work blocks, followed by 20-minute break periods. This kind of schedule syncs closely with our natural rise and fall in energy levels. That’s because of ultradian rhythms - recurring periods that are longer than an hour but shorter than a day, and include body functions from heart rate and thermoregulation to appetite.
How have you improved the productivity of your project at the micro-level? Share your own tips with us in the comments below.