Almost everyone today, regardless of their industry, needs some level of project management skills. And nearly every kind of business would benefit from deploying built-for-purpose project management software. But having this skill set and software are even more important for entrepreneurial-minded people.
Entrepreneurs face a unique set of circumstances when it comes to operating their startup, small business, or multiple businesses. Entrepreneurs end up juggling a variety of different tasks across many functions. Wearing lots of hats likely comes naturally to entrepreneurs, but how well are they actually prioritizing and accomplishing this work? That’s where project management for skills and the power of software come into play.
Project management skills are essential for starting or running a business to ensure work stays on track and within budget. If entrepreneurs do not have a sufficient level of project management and organizational discipline in place, achieving essential outcomes will be difficult, especially as the business expands. That’s why a small investment in project management software is so beneficial.
There are 5 key reasons entrepreneurs should use project management software. It helps you:
- Maintain a balanced workload
- Prioritize tasks
- Scenario plan to enable taking on more work
- Meet deadlines
- Ensure tasks don’t fall through the cracks
1. Maintain a balanced workload
Entrepreneurs are almost always taking on more work than they can realistically handle. This can happen for a few different reasons:
- Not enough resources to outsource tasks
- Desire to be in control of all aspects of their business
- Excitement for their business venture
Taking on too many tasks emanates from a complex mixture of many things including a feeling that ‘I can do things better than someone else’, a commitment to keeping the enterprise lean and real zeal for their new business venture. But that excitement and novelty can wear off if entrepreneurs aren’t maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In fact, the Centre for Economic and Business Research found that 92% of small business owners have experienced mental health problems over the past two years.1 Another study found that 63% of business owners reported that they’ve dealt with or are currently dealing with burnout.2
Entrepreneurs and small business owners struggle to balance their personal and professional lives, especially during the COVID-19 era. Basic project management skills can help these business owners to some degree, but project management software makes balancing your workload even easier.
Software like LiquidPlanner has been designed to make it easier to manage multiple projects and create and maintain a balanced workload. LiquidPlanner’s scheduling engine considers availability and timeline estimates for tasks and projects to reveal realistic completion estimates and deadlines. Plus, you can build time off into the schedule to ensure you’re getting that much-needed personal time to keep you from burning out.
2. Prioritize tasks
Successful entrepreneurs make sure they are spending their valuable time wisely. They achieve this by focusing on the things they do well and perfecting those skills. Staying focused is a core principle that Steve Jobs helped to instill in Apple employees. Current CEO Tim Cook still leads the company with that idea in mind:
“It’s easy to add. It’s hard to edit. It’s hard to stay focused. And yet we know we’ll only do our best work if we stay focused,” he said. “And so the hardest decisions we make are all the things NOT to work on. There are lots of things we’d like to work on that we have interest in but we know that we can’t do everything great.”3
We all know from the last section that entrepreneurs tend to take on more work than they can realistically handle. And we all know that multitasking doesn’t make us as productive as we hope. Project management skills are likely a great start to keep entrepreneurs focused on the most important tasks. But what happens when a so-called “fire drill” comes along? Do you consider if this should take precedence over your other priorities? How often is your attention shifted to lower value-add tasks?
If this happens to you often as an entrepreneur, then project management software can help you prioritize your tasks more efficiently. You can quickly see if you have the flexibility to solve that fire drill, and if the PM software is built to dynamically update in real-time, it will also reveal whether the action you took will impact your ability to complete other tasks on time. The best project management solutions will reveal how to mitigate issues revealed to keep priority work on track.
3. Scenario plan taking on more work
And on that note, certain project management software companies make it easy for you to scenario plan. These scenarios may include changes in priority, adding or removing resources, taking on extra projects, or pursuing another side hustle. We know who we are… today’s entrepreneurs feel a calling to create multiple businesses and keep various side projects percolating. But this innate pull to start a new project can often be an unwelcome distraction to your highest priorities.
Without dynamic project management software designed to manage this complexity, entrepreneurs are just guessing if they can take on a new project or business venture. Software like LiquidPlanner is designed to enable scenario planning and will reveal the impact of taking on new projects or changing priorities in real-time. LiquidPlanner’s automated scheduling engine uses Monte Carlo simulations to factor in priorities, capacity, and ranged estimates for each task to forecast project completion dates accurately. Business owners can quickly see the projected start and finish dates to know if their project will finish by the deadline with an impressive 90% confidence. It is the only project management software in the market that can do this.
Scenario planning is a very strategic component that many small business owners and start-ups need to be able to incorporate into their business planning. And most project management tools don’t have this capability. So, it’s important to find and invest in software that delivers on the promise to help you set strategic priorities and maintain focus on the right work for the business.
4. Meet deadlines
The ability to meet your deadlines is another key component to successfully launching new businesses. Often as entrepreneurs, you need to communicate with your desired customers your launch date to build excitement around your business. But launching a new business is inherently complex, especially if you’re new to entrepreneurship. There is so much uncertainty in creating a valuable business from scratch. Some problems entrepreneurs may encounter when launching their business are:
- Underestimating the time it takes to complete tasks
- More tasks than initially anticipated
- Shipping delays
- Outside contractors or vendors miss their deadlines
- And so many more things depending on your business’s industry
As humans, we tend to underestimate how long it takes to complete tasks which is called the planning fallacy. As entrepreneurs, you may not have historical data to properly estimate timelines to complete certain tasks. Even if you do, people tend to minimize those insights when estimating timelines. Business owners can make the mistake of assuming there will be minimal complications that could cause delays, often simply out of optimism. But, overconfidence tends to lead to the creation of unrealistic estimates and timelines.
Incorporating uncertainty is difficult to accomplish without the use of complex software. That’s why it’s critical to use project management software like LiquidPlanner. LiquidPlanner uses ranged estimation to estimate project timelines, which is very unique compared to other project management software that use static estimates. This approach is often why projects are delivered late, even when the project timeline looks accurate.
5. Ensure tasks don’t fall through the cracks
And lastly, project management software can help entrepreneurs keep track of all of their various tasks and projects in one place. If you’re using a written to-do list, or even simple spreadsheets to track your tasks, it’s more likely that your lower-priority tasks will fall through the cracks. But when you use project management software, tasks will stay in the system forever and will be there for reference when you need to look back. Plus, they offer increased accountability because you can always set target deadlines for a task and get alerts when it’s almost due.
Some tasks may not seem important enough to complete in the next few weeks, but you put the task on your list of to-dos in the first place for a reason! It still needs to get done eventually. Project management software can help you organize these less urgent (but still important) tasks into project sub-folders so you can get to them when you have a little bit of spare time. Think of it as a long-term checklist of tasks that you need to eventually complete that will always be around when you need it.
Project management software can help you manage and track your projects and tasks more easily once you get the hang of it. Starting a new process can be challenging at first, but you’ll thank yourself later when the software helps you prioritize more efficiently, easily meet your deadlines, and open up more personal time. A small investment in picking the right project management software for you and learning how to use it most efficiently will surely pay off in the long run.
About the Author
Missy Day has over ten years of experience developing and executing marketing strategies for various industries. She runs and operates her marketing consulting firm and various other small business ventures. She also specializes in burnout management and prevention for other corporate professionals.