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My busy periods are when taking on a new project for the first time. I have to scope the work, delegate and structure the project accordingly.

Once the team has been assembled, and processes are in place, I am then busy at the start of the day where I do my daily stand ups (and deal with any impediments) that arise, and again if dragged into meetings with stakeholders discussing the project status. But other then that, if done well, everything goes smoothly, and the project starts to run itself. The team knows what to do, I then just have to periodically look at my burndown charts to see if we are on track.

During down periods, what is the best way for a project manager to use his time?

  • 7
    Celebrating a job well done. – Erik Jan 11 '17 at 15:03
  • If you don't have them, get the PM Certs. I know there are several of them and most have several levels of proficiency. – Mister Positive Jan 11 '17 at 18:39
  • @MisterPositive I have thought about doing this. I have 2 already - certified scrum master and prince 2. Not sure which one to do next. I work in digital. – bobo2000 Jan 12 '17 at 15:19
  • Look at anything related to the SCALE aspect of SCRUM if you haven't already. – Mister Positive Jan 12 '17 at 15:22
  • Any particular course in mind? They are quite expensive, 1k a pop, so would like to do a course that will help my CV. – bobo2000 Jan 12 '17 at 15:37
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During down times, it's best to upskill your own core skills.

Take classes, read up on the latest technology, find articles that would be useful for your team. Get ahead of the game is it in a nutshell.

  • This is the answer for ANY professional. "Get ahead of the game". I love this short, but perfect answer. – Mister Positive Jan 11 '17 at 18:42
  • What type of classes and articles are useful for a PM? – bobo2000 Jan 12 '17 at 15:18
  • @bobo2000 anything and everything ITIL, six sigma, any articles on the technologies that your team is using (so that you can help them improve) any leadership classes, articles on new PM techniques and software. – Retired Codger Jan 12 '17 at 16:43
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During down periods, what is the best way for a project manager to use his time?

Every place where I have ever worked, the Project Manager would be busy preparing for the next project. You would be looking over the alternatives, preparing preliminary scoping and approvals, preliminary planning for the processes and structures, etc, etc.

I'm rather surprised that isn't happening in your shop.

  • Dependent on sales to be honest. Up and down at the moment. – bobo2000 Jan 11 '17 at 16:34
  • The projects that need to be delivered. I am doing a lot of product management anyway, so I have to deliver improvements to the platform we are developing weekly if there are no agency projects, but beyond that there are not many new client projects and it doesn't take all of my time planning deliveries for the product. – bobo2000 Jan 12 '17 at 15:17
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This is when you get to lean back and THINK. The most important thing any manager does is think. Lots of things to think about but the most important: What it will take to get ahead of the curve and stay there.

The other thing you can do is some actual work. Most Managers don't have time to take on front-line tasks. This gives you a chance to step back into the apprentice role and learn stuff. The front line is where the most significant changes are happening - and that leads right back to where this answer started.

  • I sometimes do the front line tasks going beyond my job role, but it is not really project management and I don't really like doing it since I then become liable for the work that belongs to somebody else. – bobo2000 Jan 12 '17 at 15:16
  • Always look to learn more. You learn best by actually trying what you are learning about. Yes, you risk botching work that belongs to others when you take on tasks yourself. Don't let fear box you in. Reasoned Risk is one of the keys to success at business. You can't learn (or accomplish) new things without taking on things you don't know. And if your problem is a high level of perfectionism in your Management, you have stepped out of this question to one about dealing with problem Management, – JimG Jan 20 '17 at 2:49
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I wish more PMs were like you

You're smart enough to keep the project(s) moving along and to stay off critical path.

Think of your free time as yet another resource at your disposal - you can use it for training, reading, low-priority (important but not urgent) work, etc.

You might want to think of this free time as a safety valve - if one of your projects has a significant problem you have the time and energy to fix it without burning yourself out.

  • Not interested in doing the work on the critical path, it's not managing. Only time I do help out is if the team are seriously stuck, and need support when investigating the problem. Even then, it's helping them search the net for possible solutions or discussing the problem with them and brainstorming ideas, as opposed to writing code. – bobo2000 Jan 11 '17 at 15:17
  • Sometimes management tasks can get on the critical path. Navigating the politics of the workplace to get the cooperation of other departments in a timely manner is a sometimes difficult management task that can occasionally become critical. – Dan Pichelman Jan 11 '17 at 15:37
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  1. Check if priorities on tasks have changed.

  2. New priorities and issues should emerge as your burn down charts show that existing issues are being taken care of.

  3. Review low urgency but high priority tasks and decide which ones are worth doing now.

  4. Review your skills set and decide which skills are worth acquiring or strengthening now.

  5. Introduce yourself to managers, team leads and project managers who don't know you. You get bonus points if you persuade them to take you out to lunch, and they are paying.

  6. Update your resume and work out what experience and skills you should have to make your resume even more attractive.

  7. Contribute a professional article on Linkedin.

  8. My personal favorite by far: check out those places that offer all-you-can-eat buffets :)

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