10 common project management pitfalls and how to avoid them

by Jun 3, 2022Blog, Project Management, Solutions

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Let’s face it: no matter how much you love what you’re doing, it’s hard to stomach the idea of spending your days grinding away on the same tasks, projects, and tasks over and over again. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their days working on fun and exciting things? The answer is that everyone who doesn’t enjoy repetitive tasks doesn’t make it any easier!
Pitfalls in project management happen because we’re all human. We have our good days and our bad days, and plenty of other people have the same struggles as you do. But that’s what makes this article so crucial: it lists some of the most common mistakes project managers make and how you can avoid them in your own life.

1. Unrealistic deadlines

It’s essential to be realistic and strategic with deadlines. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to have the team set their deadlines instead of having a project manager do it. This way, they’re more likely to meet them and have a better awareness of how long tasks take.

The deadlines should be based on past results and consider what’s called the 80% rule. The 80% rule states that once you’ve completed 80% of your tasks for a project, you’ve usually only got about 20% left to go—but that last 20% can easily take up more time than all the work put together. This kind of “time creep” can throw off any carefully laid plan, so it’s better to overestimate when setting deadlines so that if there are delays or additional tasks added in at the end, the deadline won’t be affected too much (if at all).

2. Poorly defined goals

Projects are often set up with the vision of a specific outcome in mind, but that’s not what constitutes a good goal. A goal should be persistent and straightforward, but it shouldn’t be too lofty. It should be easy to measure progress toward it, and it should be achievable within a reasonable time frame. When setting goals, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Define your goal clearly and identify its key elements. Without this foundation of specificity, there’s no way to know if you’re moving in the right direction or even where you’re going at all!
  • Measure progress toward your goal by tracking metrics. This is best done by using a spreadsheet or similar tool to keep track of your data over time. Having enough information for this can make all the difference when making decisions about whether or not certain strategies are worthwhile and avoiding pitfalls that lead to project stagnation.
  • Make sure your goals are realistic—and natural means specific! If you don’t define them clearly, you risk falling into one of several traps along the way: going off-track because they were too broad; jumping from one goal to another without realizing that doing so means losing sight of what needs to happen; potentially forgetting why you started in the first place (i.e., why your project was created); or just getting bored with a topic because it doesn’t seem like anything can be achieved with it anymore.
  • 3. Lack of communication

    Communication is a pillar of successful project management. Clear, ongoing communication with stakeholders throughout the project ensures they remain invested and feel they have a say in the outcome. Regular communication from you to your team keeps everyone clear on the expectations and goals for each project phase, which ultimately helps get things done on time. Good communication between teammates helps to reduce conflict, build trust and buy-in, and solve problems. Most importantly, good communication improves morale and cultivates a work environment that invites everyone’s best work.

    4. Poor management of resources

    You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I’m not managing a team here—I’m just finishing my [insert project type here].” The answer is everything. You’re still responsible for allocating your resources, including time and energy.

    When it comes to project management, the three most important resources are people, money, and time. Resources are always limited—there’s only so much you can spend on an app or product before you run out of funds—so you must manage them carefully. This means having a handle on who is responsible for what tasks, when they’re supposed to complete them, and how much they’ll cost (if anything). Without proper resource management, projects can hit delays due to over-allocation or restricted access to the right equipment or human capital needed to move forward.

    If you feel overwhelmed by the scope of a large project or task list and find yourself stressing about where best to put your time and energy (while avoiding costly mistakes), try making a chart listing each task at hand along with its estimated completion date and cost (in terms of time spent). Having all this information laid out neatly can help you see where there might be redundancies or missing steps that need more attention before moving forward with any plan.

    5. Failure to establish priorities
    One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your team is establishing a system of prioritization. The first step is to prioritize your projects, then set priorities within those projects. You can do this by evaluating all their requirements and ranking them in order of necessity (or importance). For example, if we’re working on a website redesign, the priorities might be:

    1. The homepage
    2. Contact us page
    3. About us page

    6. Ineffective change management

    When your team is stretched thin, it’s easy to ignore the work involved in managing change. But while change management may seem like a soft skill, it’s incredibly important to ensure your project is successful.

    Essentially, change management is preparing, supporting, and enabling people to accept and adopt changes. It helps organizations cope with the change effectively and allows for opportunities for employees to provide feedback on how they can be better supported during transition periods. The result? A focused and productive workforce continues to thrive even as their work evolves around them.

    When you’re under pressure from stakeholders or facing a tight deadline—or both—it can feel like there isn’t enough time left over for handling employee concerns or making sure everyone understands new policies. But by building time for effective change management into your schedule, you’ll find that you’re more likely to deliver a solution that meets all of your needs: not just those of project managers but those of employees too.

    7. No contingency plan or buffer for unexpected events

    One of the most common project management pitfalls is not having a contingency plan or buffer for unexpected events. A contingency plan is a backup plan you prepare for in case things go wrong during your project. Contingency planning involves risk management, which is thinking about all of the possible problems during your project, and how to deal with them if they arise.

    Having no contingency plan puts your project at a higher risk of failure, so it’s crucial to think about what could go wrong at the start of your project. The best way to do this is by looking over each task and asking yourself: What could prevent me from completing this task? What happens if I don’t finish on time? And what will happen if I don’t finish at all?

    8. Lack of team commitment to the project

    A lack of commitment to the project from team members can be detrimental, including a reduced level of overall motivation, a lack of enjoyment from working together, and lower productivity.

  • To avoid this pitfall, your team should develop mutual trust between each other and you. You can facilitate this by sharing knowledge about the project and its goals and encouraging open communication between all parties involved.
  • Another way to foster commitment and help your team work well together is to set clear expectations for roles, tasks, and deadlines. Make sure your team members understand their responsibilities so that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing at all times.
  • 9. When team members do not have the necessary skills or tools for their tasks

    Another common project management pitfall is when team members don’t have the skills, tools, or resources needed to complete their studies.

    It’s essential to ensure that you have all the staff members in place and that they’re qualified for their positions before the project launches. This means having a backup plan if someone drops out or quits unexpectedly.

    While you can’t control last-minute departures, you can take steps to reduce the chances of something like this happening. You should also make sure everyone has time on their calendar to work on your project and have access to software licenses or other tools and resources needed for completing their work.

    10. Assuming that everything goes according to plan

    It’s easy to assume that since you’ve worked out a plan for your team and determined potential obstacles, the project will go off without a hitch. After all, you’re the project manager; you know what you’re doing!
    However, most projects don’t proceed smoothly. There’s usually some sort of hiccup along the way.

    Teams miss deadlines, people aren’t familiar with their tasks at first, or delays are due to communication issues between departments. As such, it’s essential that you be prepared for problems before they come up. This means factoring in extra time on certain tasks, so you won’t fall behind schedule if things don’t go according to plan.

    This can be difficult because it’s easy to become overconfident and think things will always go right once your team gets up and running. However, Murphy’s Law should never be forgotten: whatever can go wrong probably will go wrong at some point. It may not happen in every project (and hopefully doesn’t). Still, as a project manager, it’s your job to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible when it does happen—and being prepared reduces the chances of something going wrong significantly.


    Project management is hard. But with these common mistakes in mind, you’ll be better equipped to tackle the challenges you encounter. Whether you’re leading a team or managing your own project, these tips will be helpful. You may notice that some of these mistakes are more common for project managers in particular fields. If you’re in one of these fields, you may have more specific tips for avoiding these mistakes. Project managers are always learning new things, and these mistakes are things you can learn from. Keep them in mind, and you’ll be better equipped to tackle the challenges you face as a project manager.

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