Day in the Life of a Project Manager

Written by Sarah Burner

Project management is a complex endeavor that requires skills, an understanding of complex deliverables, and people management. If project management can be likened to a ship sailing in stormy waters, then a project manager is the ship’s captain.

Project managers need to navigate client expectations while managing resources and meeting deadlines. Project managers chart the course of the project, anticipate and manage crises, deal with complexities, and instruct and motivate the team to keep the project going.

In short, a day in the life of a project manager is nothing short of a thrilling adventure. So, keep reading if you’re curious to learn more about what project managers do, a typical day in their lives, and the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

We’ll also share a few practical tips and tricks for project managers and a list of handy tools to ensure your expedition stays on course and achieves its objectives!

What is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a professional responsible for planning, executing, managing, and closing projects. As such, a project manager plays a critical role throughout the project life cycle— specifically in ensuring that the project does not stray from its scope, budget, and timeline.

Roles and responsibilities of a project manager

The roles and responsibilities of a project manager may vary depending on the nature of the project, the industry, the organizational structure, and other such variables. That said, they are predominantly involved in:

Project planning

Develop a comprehensive project plan that outlines the proposals, tasks, subtasks, timelines, and resources. Consult with key stakeholders to finalize details, documenting them in a comprehensive project plan comprising scope, objectives, budget, and deliverables

Team leadership

Assemble a project team to take on the project. Assign team leaders and delegate work and responsibilities to them. Additionally, address broader project-level concerns and keep the team motivated to achieve the business goals

Communication

Ensure seamless and effective communication between team members, project sponsors, and other stakeholders. Share regular updates on the project status, progress, milestones, and setbacks

Risk management

Identify potential risks or issues and develop risk mitigation strategies to address or overcome them; anticipate changes and implement a smooth change management plan to ensure that it does not cause any disruptions

Budget management

Develop a detailed project budget with adequate buffers and margins; match resources to the allocated budget, and monitor expenses to prevent overspending or wasteful expenditure

Quality assurance

Identify performance metrics or formulate guidelines to standardize the quality of project deliverables; conduct routine and regular quality assessment checks to ensure that the project deliverables adhere to the established and agreed-upon parameters

Timeline management

Develop a project schedule at the project and task levels; identify dependencies and the critical path to eliminate avoidable delays. Maintain this schedule and orchestrate activities to ensure that all tasks are completed on time

Manage and organize projects, and schedule tasks across the flexible Calendar view to keep teams in sync

Stakeholder engagement

Identify and engage with internal and external key stakeholders; address any concerns or honor reasonable stakeholder requests to enhance satisfaction levels

Problem-solving

Resolve issues that may crop up during the project lifecycle; embrace an innovative and problem-solving mindset to identify strategies that can enhance the project value

Testing and evaluation

Test the project to verify whether it meets the prescribed standards or specifications; closing gaps, if any

Documentation

Document every stage of the project development process, from start to finish; share such files, documents, checklists, daily progress report meeting notes, etc., with the stakeholders concerned; prepare a detailed case study of the key highlights and learnings upon project closure

Closure and handover

Ensure a smooth project closure. This includes any handover or knowledge transfer while delivering the project to the owner

A Day in the Life of a Project Manager

As the roles and responsibilities of a project manager vary from organization to organization, the day-to-day activities differ significantly from project manager to project manager.

For instance, a day in the life of a project manager working remotely will vastly differ from that of a manager working in an office.

Similarly, an IT project manager in the software development sector will follow different project management principles than one working in the manufacturing industry. No two days of a project manager may be alike.

A day in the life of a project manager during the planning stage will differ significantly from their daily life during quality assurance. The former will involve team building, strategic decision-making, and coordination, while the latter might involve meticulous performance testing and assessment of project deliverables.

With this background, here’s an overview of a typical day in the life of a project manager:

Morning routine

Mornings are primarily geared toward catching up or updating others

The first portion of a day in the life of a project manager mainly revolves around setting an agenda for the day’s activities, organizing the tasks or activities, briefing the team, and catching up on project-related communications.

As such, your morning routine will comprise:

  1. Checking all the messages and emails you may have received outside of working hours. Reading through such communications and acting on them—sending replies, adding them to the day’s agenda, forwarding them to team leaders or senior management, etc., and prioritizing the derived action items depending on the impact and urgency
  2. Reviewing the previous day’s schedule, pendency, and escalations. Using such inputs to prepare or recalibrate the agenda for the day. The daily roadmap for team members contains a chronological list of activities, expected deliverables or milestones, and more
  3. Conducting team check-ins, sync-up meetings, and daily progress report meetings to get a feel of the progress made, hurdles, and practically realizable goals. It may also involve some team-building activities if there are gaps in the team’s cohesiveness
  4. Preparing a strategy for the day or the week and obtaining buy-in from the team leaders or members. Communicating all of this information to the parties involved so that everyone’s on the same page right as the day starts

This time of the day is dedicated to planning, organization, and communication. However, since morning is when one is most energized and focused, consider scheduling deep work during this session.

Midday chores

The afternoon routine revolves around autonomous functioning and firefighting

As the day transitions to noon, the flurry of activities slowly dies down. That’s not to say that everything falls into an afternoon lull. This plateau simply coincides with the transition of the project manager’s role into a managerial one where they monitor or orchestrate all activities.

Here’s what takes place:

  1. Manage task implementation, offer guidance and direction when required, and participate in team activities.
  2. Ensure that the tasks are progressing as per the proposed roadmap for the day; conduct status reviews and carry out any interventions and resource allocation to support teams.
  3. Attending meetings with team members, team leaders, project sponsors, project owners, vendors, or other stakeholders; communicating key decisions or feedback to the concerned teams or individuals
  4. Adjusting the task list, goals, or milestones depending on the task status, progress, shift in priority, or any other change; updating documentation such as the burndown chart, project portfolio, or Gantt chart, as per the changes or developments

While at it, don’t forget to grab your lunch and take a break to recharge. Use this time to fortify your mental and physical well-being.

Evening routine

The evening is reserved for reflection and review

The evening routine is more like a wind-up of the day’s activities. This is when you will be contemplating quietly and reflecting on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, holdbacks, and unrealized potential.

At this stage, you will primarily:

  1. Report the project status to the senior management and external stakeholders. As well as collecting feedback, conveying updates, and confirming decisions—essentially, all the outreach activities.
  2. Review the progress made in the day and compare the achievements against the set objectives, taking note of the challenges experienced and the solutions deployed.
  3. Note the shortfalls of the day and carry them forward to the next day; outline these tasks; strategize solutions to close the gaps; and assign them priorities
  4. If necessary, prepare any end-of-day documentation or reports and share them with the participants
  5. Draft a plan for the next day and share it with the teams

Gradually start wrapping up the work activities so you can log off and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sign out of your work email and other communication channels and focus on personal or professional development.

Although we’ve tried to cover all the critical activities around a day in the life of a project manager, do note that this timetable is purely indicative and not set in stone. As mentioned, the schedule is subject to the project status, industry requirements, and personal preferences. So, maintain flexibility to become a great project manager.

Common Challenges of Being a Project Manager

Although the position of a project manager is dynamic and thrilling, it comes with its fair share of challenges. Here’s a quick overview of some of the common challenges that come in the way of effective project management:

Scope creep

Scope creep is the unmitigated, unregulated, and unauthorized expansion of a project’s scope. It can result from a sudden change in project requirements, budgetary limitations, or an adjustment in timelines. Either way, handling scope creep is one of the toughest challenges of a project manager—and yet, it is one of the most unavoidable ones, seeing as how 33-37% of projects experience scope creep

Resource constraints

A lack of or limitations on resources such as time, budget, or team member (talent) can pose a severe handicap in meeting the project demands per the desired schedule

Managing client expectations

Alongside resource constraints, project managers must also balance these against client expectations. They have to stay flexible enough to accommodate reasonable change requests but not too flexible lest it evolve into scope creep

Time management

Project Managers have to play a two-fold role—they have to be influential people managers and proficient time managers. However, managing human resources against deadlines and project schedules can be difficult, especially when dependencies or unforeseen issues arise

Constant communication

As it may be evident now, project management is a high-touch job. It involves constant communication with internal and external stakeholders, and you almost always have to be in an always-on state. Any breakdown in communication can have catastrophic consequences

Burnout

Having to implement continuous process improvement methodologies, sustain communications, ensure regulatory and legal compliance, maintain collaboration, and lend direction can take a toll on anyone—even the best project managers—causing them to experience burnout

Lack of Authority

Although a project manager is at the helm of all affairs, team members may not truly view them as an authority due to a narrow view of things. Such resistance can make it tougher for them to exercise control, influence, and leadership over the team members

Tools and technologies

Adopting the right project management software and promoting it throughout the organization can be difficult. For one, several options are available in the market, and committing to one can be tough. At the same time, post-implementation involves extensive training and onboarding on the platform, not to mention the associated downtime during the learning curve

A Few Tips to Survive the Day as a Project Manager

Smart planning can make every day productive

Surviving and thriving as a project manager involves effective planning, intentional communication, and dynamic agility. Apart from the routine project management tips for managers, we have compiled a few daily tips for organized project management:

  • Begin your day with a clear plan in mind and established priorities. The sharper you get at doing this, the more productive your day will be since you’ll focus on what truly matters or requires immediate attention
  • Maintain an adequate buffer for the day to accommodate any changes based on changing priorities or new information
  • Practice techniques like time blocking, especially while performing deep work, so that you can adhere to prescribed time slots for maximum productivity
  • Complement your task management skills with clear, open, and two-way communication to actively involve your team members and stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle
  • Follow hacks like the two-minute rule to avoid procrastination and to address issues early—even before they translate into potential issues or escalations
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities according to the team members’ skills, talent, capacities, and workloads. Grant them the power and authority to take ownership of their task
  • Utilize templates for different stages of project management, from project kickoff templates to change management templates, to effectively manage such challenges
  • Take occasional breaks throughout the day. Utilize this time to recharge by stepping away from your desk and practicing mindfulness, meditation, or even light exercising
  • Prioritize self-care to manage stress. Get sufficient sleep, don’t skip your meals, and maintain healthy boundaries to balance your personal and professional life
  • Don’t hesitate to celebrate milestones, no matter how small. Acknowledging your team’s efforts and achievements keeps up the morale and helps team members visualize their contributions
  • Obtain end-of-day feedback from your team and stakeholders to enforce alignment between your goals and actions. It also develops a mindset of continuous learning and refinement
To learn more about how TimeLinx can help your business, contact us today.
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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.

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