As a project manager, you’ve likely found yourself managing multiple projects simultaneously. You think you’ve got it handled and then one of them starts to run into problems, drawing more and more of your time and energy. Suddenly, you realize you’re overloaded, and dropping the ball all over the place. This is an all too common example of project overload.

Learning how to manage multiple projects simultaneously and avoid work overload are crucial skills for project managers and teams who juggle many initiatives at once. Ideally, when issues inevitably arise, they can be handled without losing sight of everything else. 

Read on for tips on managing multiple projects at once, handling heavy project workloads, and effectively coping with project overload. 

What are the consequences of project overload?

We live and work in a fast-moving environment with limited resources. To stay competitive, most companies have realized it’s impractical for project teams to be tasked with only one project at a time. But, when project managers are overloaded, projects can suffer. 

Here are some of the major consequences of project overload:

  • Delays and missed deadlines. The more projects and tasks a PM is overseeing, the greater the risk that something will be overlooked. 
  • Unforeseen problems. The less time a PM has to ensure everything is properly planned and executed, the more likely things will go wrong. Plus, when a project manager suffers from work overload,  it can become difficult to proactively mitigate risks and avoid issues. 
  • Poorer performance. As the number of tasks increases, the amount of time a person can spend on each one decreases. This often results in poorer quality work. 
  • Increased absences and turnover. Overwhelming PMs and teams can lead to them burning out, missing more time, and even quitting.  

How to manage multiple projects simultaneously

No matter how many projects you’re overseeing, here are some general tips on how to manage them more efficiently: 

  • Delegate. Do you have experienced team members who are capable of handling some of your more routine tasks? By delegating assignments, you can free up more of your time and attention for where it’s needed most. 
  • Manage stakeholder expectations. PMs can feel a lot of pressure to manage their projects without complaint. But, if your boss and other stakeholders don’t realize how much you have on your plate, they may keep adding more. They’re also less likely to be understanding if something does get dropped. 
  • Prioritize. Inevitably, you will have tasks and projects that conflict. It’s essential that everyone involved (including senior management) agrees on where your priorities lie so that you can resolve conflicts faster.  
  • Avoid shortcuts. It can be tempting to take shortcuts to save time, but these often come with unintended consequences. For instance, if you cancel a project meeting because you’re busy, you could miss a critical update or waste more time following up with everyone individually. 
  • Use the 80/20 rule. The rule claims that 80% of results come from 20% of the actions undertaken. By focusing on the major aspects of each project, rather than every little detail, you can avoid micromanaging and still ensure your projects are successful. 

How to cope with project overload without increasing staff

As a project manager, you may find yourself struggling with work overload without the ability to delegate to others. If you can’t hire an assistant, and your team members are also at capacity, what do you do? It may help to know what is the difference between capacity planning and resource planning.

Here are six tips for work overload management when you cannot increase your team size:

  • Decline extra work. It’s not always possible to tell your stakeholders no. But, if someone approaches you to take on something new and you already have a full plate, learn how to decline a client project or delay it until you have more time. 
  • Avoid becoming overwhelmed. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks on your to-do list, try breaking them down into manageable chunks and focusing on one group at a time. Also, be sure to take breaks and find ways to unwind, so you don’t burn out
  • Ensure deadlines are achievable. Creating a realistic project delivery plan is vital for managing a heavy schedule. If your project schedules are too aggressive, it’s easier to get overwhelmed when something unexpected happens. 
  • Improve your time management. You can do more in less time by focusing on your time management skills and reducing distractions. 
  • Implement the right tools. Using Gantt charts, dashboards, and other tools that help increase project visibility can reduce the time it takes for project updates and status meetings. 
  • Automate. By automating routine, repetitive tasks, you can free up everyone’s time, enabling you to focus on more valuable areas of the project. 

Project management techniques for handling heavy workloads

There are several project management techniques for handling heavy workloads that can help you avoid work overload. These include:

  • Track and manage dependencies. By linking interdependent tasks, you can see the impact of different timelines and see if there are ways to smooth out workloads without delaying the overall project. 
  • Use resource allocation tools. Resource allocation software allows you to see when you and your team are overallocated. You can use it to move work around between people and identify who has the capacity for you to delegate tasks to. 
  • Increase visibility. Using tools such as shared calendars, Gantt charts, project dashboards, and real-time reports can help you keep everyone up-to-date in less time. They also help you stay on top of all your projects more efficiently.
  • Consider adopting Agile. Agile project management won’t work for every project. But, under the right circumstances, it can help manage heavy workloads as it’s focused on improving efficiencies. 
  • Avoid scope creep. Clearly define the project scope and ensure any changes go through the proper change management process. This will help ensure projects don’t grow beyond what your team can handle. 

Avoid project overload with Wrike workload charts

Wrike Resource is a resource planning and scheduling solution that gives project managers the visibility and flexibility needed to balance workloads and optimize performance. Using our workload charts, you can manage your team members’ capacity, prioritize tasks based on availability, and plan overall work allocation. You can also quickly reschedule or reassign tasks to resolve resource allocation conflicts and smooth out workloads. Sign up for a free trial and discover how Wrike can help you avoid project overload.