For many Project Managers the holidays are light (potentially very light) in terms of work load. If you’re lucky you can take the time off while things are so slow. However, depending on your company’s holiday policy, minimum resourcing requirements and your own holiday time left for the year, you may be stuck holding down the fort. Holding down the near empty fort that is on holiday-change-lock-down, with little to no resources to do any work anyway or any stakeholder to communicate with, either.
If you’re in this situation, make sure to plan for it. Use this time wisely! Slow or down time comes so seldomly in project management.
Here are 7 areas to concentrate on during slow periods on projects:
- Either get yourself and/or your team members on training courses (in-person or online).
- Assign topics to each team member to learn something new (reading, training, researching) and create a training session for the rest of the team when everyone returns.
- Get organised
- Organise everything. Things have been slipping and you know it. Be honest and do it. Tackle physical filing, email filing, e-copy filing, folder structures, record keeping, archiving and configuration management.
- Get ready for the first day everyone is back so you and your team can hit the ground running. The stationery cupboard is stocked, the latest software and virus protections are loaded, calendars for the new year are up, holiday decorations are taken down (at least by the last day of the year), etc.
- Take stock of achievements
- Reflect back on the past year and take stock of your achievements. Celebrate the good, acknowledge the not so good and vow to improve on the bad by creating solid plans (see number 4).
- Recognise the team, the key players and varied stakeholders who helped you out and prepare for a way to recognise and thank them for their efforts. What a way to get a boost of energy and buy-in from your team and stakeholders when you start the new year!
- Plan ahead and review your goals
- You most certainly have a project plan (or plans depending on the number of projects you’re working on), but take this opportunity to review your own workload – where you are spending time and where do you want to be spending time?
- Perform goal setting for yourself and your team. Understand and discuss how your plans are helping you move towards your goals?
- Conduct or prepare for your team reviews and/or your own review
- If the team members are there with you, use this down time to conduct their annual reviews, reflecting on their past performance and working with them to set new goals for the year ahead. If they’re on holiday until the new year, get all your preparation done so that when they return, you are ready.
- Remember you own review. If your boss is around, use this time to go through your accomplishments and your newly reflected goals (see number 4 above) for the year ahead.
- Analyse and Evaluate
- If you’ve been going full steam ahead all year, this is perfect time to evaluate how productive you really were. Examine and analyse how fast you really were, how many things you really accomplished, how much money you burned through. You get what you measure, so if you want to improve on anything in the coming year, know your numbers (really know your numbers) from this year.
- If it’s a process, procedure or technique that’s been slowing you down or taking up to much effort or money, do some analysis on how to improve or replace it. If it’s an organisational improvement that’s required, then use this time to put together a well-thought through presentation. Explain why it should be improved and how the organisation can implement it in the coming year.
- Help out other projects
- Just because most of your team is on holiday and you’re waiting out the holiday-change-lock-down, don’t assume all the Project Managers in your company have nothing to do. Seek out others who may have emergency works on their projects and offer to help out. This goes for your team members, too.
- Partner up with other Project Managers who are under the same slow down conditions you’re facing and help each other out – brainstorm new ideas on how to do project management better in the company, share best practises, share lessons learned, share what you’re each working on (sometimes you can be in the same company and even the same office and not know what the other projects are doing). Or simply help each other out with any of the above areas. This goes for your team members, too.
Whatever you do, enjoy this time, you may not see it again for another year.