Project managers are, first and foremost, facilitators. We plan, organize, and set things up so that our teams will be able to execute their tasks with a minimum of fuss and get things done (hopefully) without much oversight on our part.
What this boils down to is that, if we perform our roles well, we will find ourselves with virtually nothing to do during the development phase.
But twiddling our thumbs contributes nothing to the team and the organization. Instead, project managers should focus their spare time on bringing added value and maximizing every free minute.
Here are a few suggestions on how to spend your idle time:
Technology evolves at a rapid pace, especially in the software industry. But even project managers from other industries such as construction and marketing will need to stay abreast of the latest developments if they want to keep up with their peers, or even their team.
Project Management Courses
There is always something to learn in the project management field. Most companies encourage self-improvement among their employees, and taking a course from an accredited project management school is a great way to improve your skills. You’ll even get a PMP certification in the process.
Practice Your Soft Skills
Project managers are leaders, and leaders pay attention to their teams. Now that you’ve got some breathing room, take the time to observe your team and see what makes them tick. You should already know each member’s strengths and weaknesses, but do you know their habits? Their motivations? What spurs them to greater performance, and what saps their enthusiasm? This knowledge will eventually prove handy when your team hits crunch time, and you have to manage their stress levels.
With everyone on the team so busy, there are bound to be some minor, low-priority, or undesirable tasks that fall by the wayside. Spend some time clearing these off the table. It’ll show your team that you’re not above doing the trash jobs, and reinforces your image as a leader who is willing to get his hands dirty.
Work On Another Project
Most project teams have a stack of projects waiting in the wings. A project manager with some free time can do some early prep work on them by assembling all the briefing materials or coordinating with the client on project requirements. Then, when the current project is done, the team can roll smoothly into the next one and minimize delays.