Taking a Timeout

project time outTaking a timeout. Taking a break on a busy project on your plate of work that you are performing. Sounds like a vacation, right? Well, I’m not exactly talking about a vacation. What I’m really talking about is taking some time off – temporarily – from a project that is suddenly sucking all of your time and leaving you with no time to properly oversee the other three projects you are currently managing. And that means that it’s taking all your time away from the three separate teams on those other three projects and it’s taking all of your time away from those other three very important project customers. Or perhaps you need to take a break from one or more of your ‘slow projects’ for a couple of weeks to work through issues on your problematic project.

I realize that one project isn’t likely taking all of your time away from your other projects, but I do know how one project can become so laden with issues or so burdensome from tasks or the customer can demand so much attention suddenly that you have little time to spend your other projects. And those projects still have needs – budgets to manage, resources to oversee and direct, customers to manage and engage.

How do you make it all work? How do you spend enough time on the burdensome project to meet its needs and work through it while still at least maintaining the other projects you are managing in proper status so as not to lose ground on them and cause the customers on those projects any needs for concern about your ability to deliver a successful project? How do you do it?

The answer is, sometimes you really can’t…and that’s what I am addressing in this article. Sometimes you can’t handle it and you must hand off the problematic project (or the easy ones) – at least temporarily. But to whom?

To a member of your current project team. And here’s why….

You could reach out to management and ask for a replacement project manager. You’ll be handing the project off to a proven leader (hopefully) who can take the project the rest of the way if you’re unable to rejoin the engagement due to your other commitments. However, I recommend not going this route for three reasons:

  • The customer is familiar with your current team and would likely feel less disrupted if leadership remains with one of these individuals – like your business analyst, for example.
  • The cost of getting a new project manager onboarded and properly up to speed will be detrimental to the project budget – possibly unnecessarily. If you’re only going to be gone temporarily…perhaps a couple of weeks or even a month…this seems like a very unnecessary cost.
  • The project timeline could take a significant hit based on the same information outlined in the previous bullet. Onboarding and knowledge transfer takes time and the project schedule may have a difficult time recovering.


It’s ok to reach out for help, but I think sometimes we unnecessarily look immediately for the ‘job title’ to fill the role, when the answer may be right on our current team. If you need to focus your PM attention elsewhere for the short term, who better to mind a project for you then someone the customer is already familiar with and feels comfortable with handling of important project tasks? Which team member can do this will depend on a few things…who has time right now, who feels comfortable with the short term leadership role, and who has the ability to manage the project schedule, communications, budget, etc. while you are away. And certainly you’ll be somewhat available to assist and counsel, but you need someone well-versed on the project and with the customer to step in so that there is the least disruption possible for the project and the customer…and that’s likely someone on your current project team.

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Noteworthy accomplishments:
*20 year provider of successful technical project management leadership for clients across nearly every industry imaginable
*Author of more than 4,000 expert professional project management and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos over the past decade
*Articles/professional content receives over 40,000 page views monthly
*Named #1 in the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management
*Named a Top 10 Project Management Influencer to Follow in 2016
*The most read author of expert project management content on Project Times/BA Times for 2015
*Named most prolific provider of project management content over the past 5 years
*Noted for successful project management and financial oversight for $50 million Dept. of Education financial contract/program
*Chosen by the Dept of Defense as a subject matter expert (SME) to help select IWMS software provider for the largest IWMS implementation ever awarded

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