How to Balance Multiple Projects (Without Burning Out)

written by Dan Silvestre
Time Management

multiple projects gantt planning

Here’s a skill that no one ever teaches you: how to balance multiple projects.

Today, I’m going to show you my framework to manage multiple projects like a pro.

By the end of this article, you’ll become a value-contributing hero project after project. You’ll go from chaos to control.

The ability to manage many different projects is a sought-after skill at companies.

You need to efficiently manage various initiatives, which requires organization. And you also need to be able to balance the bigger picture with the minor details.

Managers who can balance multiple projects often 10x the results of a company. As a result, they get promoted faster – with the financial rewards that come with it.

Here’s the truth:

Managing multiple projects successfully requires different skills and tools than what’s required for a single project.

And that’s where the right framework comes in. It can transform and streamline your workflows. This makes it easier to manage multiple projects at once.

My framework for balancing multiple projects will allow you to:

  • Manage your workload so you don’t burnout
  • Split your time between strategy and execution
  • Know what to prioritize and what to work on next
  • Define deadlines so you stay on top of everything that’s going on
  • Adapt and overcome the obstacles that will inevitably come your way

Let’s go.

The 5 Steps to Balance Multiple Projects

Managing multiple projects can be overwhelming. To make it manageable, you need to know how to strategize, plan, and act on them.

Let’s dive into the 5 steps you need to organize, track, and deliver multiple projects with ease.

Step 1: Define your projects

When managing multiple projects, it’s essential to stay organized. Plan and manage your team’s projects in the same place so you have a single source of truth.

Planning and managing your projects in one place lets you quickly see everything in progress and the status of your roadmap.

There are lots of multi-project management tools you can use. If you already have a favorite, go with that one.

I like to house all my projects in an Excel spreadsheet.

Once you’ve defined your central location, the next step is to develop an effective plan.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”—Abraham Lincoln

Start by separating your projects:

  • Define a goal for the project. When do you know you’ve completed the project?
  • Write a brief description. This is a short overview of the project.
  • Describe why this project is important. Why does this matter for you and your company?

how to balance multiple projects goals

Here’s why goal-setting is so important:

Goals motivate everyone to work harder towards a shared vision. it keeps everyone streamlined and focussed on work, ensuring fewer chances of distraction.

A goal is the end result of your project. Some projects may take weeks or months to complete.

When that’s the case, split long-term goals into smaller short-term goals. Something you can achieve in a month or week. This shorter feedback loop will keep motivation high.

Step 2: Fill projects with tasks

Once you’ve defined your projects, brain-dump everything you need to do on each project. List every single task you need to work on to complete the project.

Don’t worry about the order when you’re brain-dumping. That comes later. For now, focus on writing as many tasks as possible.

Break down tasks as much as you can. I prefer tasks that I can complete in less than 90 minutes (more on this later).

Dividing large tasks into smaller tasks helps you stay on track and gives you a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item. It also makes it easier to maintain focus and make steady progress toward project goals.

Much like you eat an elephant one bite at a time, you complete a project one task at a time.

So now you have a separate to-do list per project:

multiple projects task management

There’s a lot of power in listing down all your tasks in a to-do list. Think of tasks like balloons.

To-do lists are like tying all your balloons to a post. Now, you don’t have to worry about them floating away because you can’t remember all of them.

Separate lists allow you to make progress in priority order for each topic you work on while simplifying the prioritization of new work.

Finally, enrich each task with the following:

  1. Add details. Stuff you may need when working on the task. URLs, notes, or people are prime examples. This will help you when you need to work on them
  2. Estimate time. The amount of time it takes you to complete each task, in minutes. If it’s more than 90 min, that’s a sign that you need to break the task up some more
  3. Define a deadline. The delivery date of each task. Work from your final deadline backward. You’re much less likely to put things off if you have a deadline to meet

Step 3: Prioritize your tasks

When swamped with multiple projects, prioritization is essential.

You must work on the right things. When you don’t, you can spend all day working at top speed and still feel like you are falling behind.

Prioritize based on impact.

What projects and tasks have the biggest potential impact on your organization and team?  Start there.

Ask yourself:

  • What keeps me up at night?
  • What keeps my boss up at night?
  • And what keeps my team up at night?

This will give you a first impression of what’s urgent and important.

A simple framework I like to use for prioritization is Khe Hy’s $10,000/hr Work Matrix (which I also talked about in my weekly planning system):

10k framework prioritization

You can use the $10K Framework for prioritization included in the template for this post.

Grab your tasks and put them in the appropriate quadrant of the matrix. By the end of this simple exercise, you’ll know your high-leverage tasks.

As for the low-leverage tasks, think about delegating them if possible (here’s more about the levels of delegation).

Step 4: Organize your projects visually

Now that you have your task list organized by level of importance, it’s time to make it visual.

Organizing your projects visually will help you stay on top of everything.

I use 2 tools for this:

  1. A Gantt chart
  2. A Kanban

First, I list all the tasks and deadlines in a Gantt Chart:

multiple projects gantt planning

This gives me a visual representation of dates and deadlines. It also ensures I know the dependencies of each project.

Managing multiple projects is all about knowing what projects to focus on right now and what can go on the back burner. And that’s exactly where your Gantt chart will help you.

Then, I create a Kanban board for every project.

A Kanban is a tool that visually illustrates work at several stages of its process.

There are 2 elements:

  • Cards/Post-its represent work entities
  • Columns represent the different stages of the process

You just move the cards to the next column as you complete the various stages of work.

I previously covered how to build a personal Kanban.

Here’s a Kanban I’ve used previously to organize my YouTube videos:

balance multiple projects kanban notion

The basic Kanban has 3 columns:

  1. To-Do: your list of tasks
  2. Doing: what you’re currently working on
  3. Done

You can list a few more steps if necessary but don’t go overboard. Simple is better.

There’s a Kanban included in the template for this post.

A quick glance at your Kanban will tell you what you should be working on next.

Step 5: Schedule your tasks

It’s time for the final step of our framework: scheduling time on your calendar to work on your tasks. This is called time blocking.

I recommend you go through this process during your weekly review. By planning your week in advance, you prevent distractions from ruining your day.

You don’t need to look at your Kanban or any other productivity tool besides your calendar. Make it crystal clear what you should be working on at a given time.

A few helpful tips for time blocking multiple projects:

Block certain days or portions of the day and only work on one project for that block.

For example:

Work on project A every morning, project B in the afternoons, and project C only on Thursdays. This avoids context switching.

Use the Pomodoro Technique when working on your tasks. Remember my preference for tasks that take less than 90 minutes? Well, that’s 3 Pomodoro cycles.

Designating different productivity spaces for projects can sometimes help. This is especially true when they need different working modes – such as complete focus and planning/strategy. If you don’t have different spaces, try sitting and standing.

Manage others’ expectations. This is crucial when handling multiple projects. Be a good communicator and share status and progress updates with your boss and team.

Review your system

Track your progress. If you don’t track, you don’t care.

At the end of your day, take some time to review your progress and know where you are in each project.

Go through each project and make sure your tasks are up to date. Remove any tasks that you’ve already completed, and add any tasks that you’re missing.

This regular maintenance of your tasks is crucial.

At the end of your week, do a quick reflection on your progress.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I making progress on my goals?
  • What’s working? And what’s not working?
  • What were the challenges I encountered while performing my tasks?
  • Are there some tasks I can delegate?

When you manage multiple projects, there are a lot of unknown variables.

Be flexible. Adjust your plan when necessary.

Managing multiple projects is inevitable for a manager.

It’s overwhelming in the beginning.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

All you need is to follow my framework and become a pro in handling multiple projects.

Tags:: Multiple Projects, Project Management

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