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Managing priorities is as much an art as a science for project managers. All projects must have clear priorities, regardless how big or small. Complex technical projects will change regardless of planning and scheduling. It is the nature of complex projects. There are always challenges and surprises to overcome.

No matter how good the software used to manage projects, it is you who inputs the data. You are the one responsible for managing your team’s work priorities. Here are some best practices to help your team meet deadlines.

Have a transparent project schedule

You need a schedule. Trying to run a team without one is sheer madness. It will only lead to trouble.

List all the tasks you need to or can complete in a day.

  1. Look at what needs completing by the end of each day. This is the work that if it fails to meet the deadline will have serious consequences for the organisation
  2. Check what work needs completing that has high dependencies. Consider what needs completing so other work can progress.
  3. Identify the work that will have the highest value for your company. For example, client work is more important than daily internal tasks. And, attending to customer services is more important than writing up processes and procedures.

Using this information, map out a project schedule. But do not keep it a secret. You do not want your team confused and still working on priorities that have already changed. Make sure the software you use gives unlimited visibility to your team. You want them to know as soon as priorities change.

Prioritise according to deadline

No matter the size of a project there will be deadlines. Complex projects will have milestones the team needs to meet so you need to manage long and short-term priorities. Consider whether something is important or urgent. Ensure you record the deadline next to each task when planning the work schedule. If tasks are neither urgent or important, their priority is low.

Difference between urgent and important

What is the difference between something that is urgent or something that is important? You need to balance changing priorities so you need to understand the difference:

  • Urgent tasks. Urgent tasks are those that relate to winning new business and servicing existing customers. Meeting time sensitive milestones is urgent. This can be the difference between receiving a milestone payment or a penalty for being late.
  • Important tasks. Important tasks are the ones that are only pushed aside to deal with urgent tasks. These are tasks that usually underpin the value of your business. Do not push them aside for long.

You need to make decisions between urgent and important tasks to help you draw the line when setting up work priorities.

Flexibility is key

A project manager’s responsibilities constantly change according to the demands of the project. What you need to accomplish today can completely change tomorrow. Be flexible. You need to be able to adapt to change while maintaining the team schedule to meet deadlines.

Whether you manage one or several projects, it is a challenge. By actively prioritising, you have control every step of the way. It helps boost the team’s morale and increase productivity. Your team’s success is your success.


Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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