Survival Guide for New or Overwhelmed Project Managers

Prateek Sharma
3 min readApr 13, 2024

Individuals transitioning from engineering roles to project management, or those new to project management altogether, often find themselves inundated with project-related tasks from various directions. This influx can overwhelm new project managers who are unaccustomed to the multifaceted nature of their responsibilities. Unlike in engineering or other subordinate roles where tasks follow a set process, project management requires a different skill set. Consequently, newcomers may struggle to navigate the diverse array of activities, unsure of how to proceed effectively.

To move forward effectively, it’s essential for new project managers to start with the basics by referring to the Eisenhower Matrix. This tool aids in prioritizing tasks by distinguishing between urgent and non-urgent, as well as important and less important items. By using this matrix, they can pinpoint where to focus their efforts within these four categories. It serves as a valuable starting point for identifying the most critical tasks to tackle. Since they’re new to this, it’s advisable for them to collaborate with their reporting manager when filling out the matrix. The reporting manager can provide guidance on which tasks are most crucial and urgent. Initially, new project managers may lack experience in determining which activities to prioritize, making it beneficial to work closely with their reporting manager in this process. This collaborative approach is the most effective way forward.

After completing the matrix based on priority, it’s crucial to facilitate communication within the team. Establishing timelines for urgent tasks and those that can wait is essential. This ensures that everyone understands how to plan and organize their work effectively. Goals and tasks must be determined and conveyed to team members. Rather than a top-down approach, it’s advisable to adopt a bottom-up approach, where team members contribute to setting timelines based on the effort required to complete tasks. Team members should be informed about which items are urgent and prioritized. Whether the Eisenhower Matrix is shared with team members is left to the discretion of the project manager. It’s recommended to communicate only critical and urgent tasks to team members. Once timelines are communicated and the bottom-up approach is employed, progress should be reported back to senior management. This comprehensive approach serves as a solid foundation for moving forward.

Now, it’s essential to determine how project managers will report their progress. It’s beneficial to have reporting occur from the team as well. Each team member should contribute by sharing their activities and current status. This collective input will guide future actions. Based on the team’s reports, the project manager must establish a comprehensive reporting system to inform upper management about the project’s current status.

Regular and effective communication plays a crucial role in determining the status of a project. Understanding the communication needs of management and various teams is vital. When communication occurs smoothly within the team, with reporting managers, and with upper management, it ensures that everyone is informed about the project’s current status. This prevents misunderstandings and ensures everyone is on the same page. No one intends to hinder progress or make a project manager’s job difficult. People generally empathize with genuine issues faced by others. By communicating effectively and timely, others will be more likely to understand your perspective and support your efforts.

It’s crucial not to hesitate in seeking help, especially when embarking on the journey of project management or taking on this role for the first time. You must identify all individuals directly or indirectly involved in the project, including stakeholders. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from these parties. If possible, learn from their past mistakes or those of previous projects. Understanding what to avoid can alleviate some of the burden and guide your actions moving forward.

Finally, as you embark on your first venture into project management and may feel unprepared for the challenges ahead, it’s advisable to prioritize self-care. Regular breaks and deep dive sessions are recommended to focus on your own well-being and that of your team. Ensuring the happiness and welfare of team members is paramount, as their satisfaction directly impacts the project’s success. Preventing burnout by encouraging breaks and maintaining a positive atmosphere is essential for project vitality.

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Prateek Sharma

A lifelong learner with keen interest in tech automation, finance & economics.