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Article  |  Project Management

Start The New Year Right: Tips for Digital Project Managers

Reading time: ~ 4 minutes

Start The New Year Right: Tips for Digital Project Managers

As a project manager, there are a number of administrative tasks that need to happen as the new year turns over. Small tasks, like creating new folders, can help pave the way for a frictionless experience in the next month, quarter, or year. This practice applies to any system your organization uses, but in our case, we organize folders in Drive.

It’s important to always be on the lookout for ways to update processes and make improvements, and there’s no better time to do that than the start of the next big period of work.

If you’re like me, you like to get the more practical and rote tasks out of the way first, leaving enough time to consider more philosophical and mindset-oriented tasks.

Establishing Client Folders for Efficiency

A pretty solid folder system was in place when I started at Planet Argon, so this area didn’t need much attention. But if this is your first time creating a system, or wrangling a wild file system, here are some tips:

  • Keep the top level simple (5 or 6 folders) and standardize them across all clients. This way, for every client, new or old, anyone can find where they need to go once they’ve done it before. For us, this top-level is Account Management, Budget Tracking, Client Assets, Contracts, Deliverables, and Project Management.
  • Inside of those top-level folders, create a folder for the year. This will help you find things easier than scrolling through a giant list of files. Using the full name, along with the year (ie: ‘2024 Contracts’), makes searchability much easier.
  • Keep frequently visited folders at the top level. For example: Budget Reports are part of Project Management, technically, but this is a folder that is accessed and used weekly, so I’ve put it at the top level.

Budget Report Spreadsheets

One thing that needs improvement this year is how we update the weekly budget reports we send to clients. With the advances in AI tools, this area is prime for big improvements in automating the entire workflow, which is exciting!

But until that change happens, I'll need to:

  • Create new spreadsheets for 2024.
  • Add the data connection to the Google Looker report, so that spreadsheet data will auto-feed into the reports.
  • Change the URLs in my Alfred workflow.


Alfred is a tool that automates workflows for Mac based on a number of different triggers. I have Alfred open all of the client budget spreadsheets and their Harvest time tracking pages for the budget report. This saves me hours of work a week!

Reinforcing Communication Habits

This might not be administratively heavy, but equally important to set up for the new year. Over time, all of our habits slip a little bit. Time to reset!

Communication is so important as a project manager. It can happen through weekly reports, planning meetings, Slack, email, and so many other places. But over time, those places start to become scattered. To be the most reliable communicator, the Project Manager also needs to direct that communication through only a few channels. Keep it simple.

  • Emergency escalations should go through our emergency support line after hours. During business hours, clients and developers can both escalate issues in the dedicated Slack channels.
  • Urgent issues are entered into Jira and then escalated in the dedicated Slack channels.
  • Regular bugs, tasks, or conversations can all happen in their respective Jira tickets.

Keeping the communication paths standard among all of our clients (even if it requires some upfront training until it becomes a habit) prepares the entire team for clear expectations, even when the project manager is out of the office.

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Refining Task Estimation and Management

Task estimation is another aspect of day-to-day work that often waxes and wanes in standardization as work picks up. But if this system gets out of hand, things start going off the rails quickly! Take some time at the beginning of the year to scrutinize this process and persuade others to do the same.

  • Make sure your estimation guide is standard and re-share it with the team.
  • Create automations in Jira, Asana, or Monday that flag when tickets are transitioned to “in progress” without an estimate attached.
  • Engage your clients in the estimation process.
  • Document decisions to reduce the scope of a task so that it’s clear later when the work is going through acceptance testing.


One notable tool to track Atlassian Intelligence because it connects Jira (where tickets happen) to Confluence (where documentation happens) and other tools to get helpful information.

Review Client Roadmaps

When working on a retainer basis, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in favor of tackling the most important things first. Take a few minutes to reintroduce yourself to each client’s roadmap.

  • What did they hope to accomplish last year?
  • Are any projects carrying over to the new year?
  • How are the current priorities reflected in this year’s roadmap?

These are great conversation starters for your first planning meeting of the new year and can go a long way toward helping the client feel involved in the development process. This is especially true for larger projects or routine version upgrades.

Realignment with Company Mission

The company’s mission should be clear going forward into the new year. By re-aligning your own working values to the company goals, you’ll start to feel more in line with the flow of work and the why of projects.

  • Have a conversation with your CEO or COO.
  • Have a conversation with the developers on your team.
  • Ask: “What do we need?” and “How can we get there together?”


Get the easy stuff out of the way, take some time with the harder questions, and rely on the process when things get busy. By keeping these key points in mind, we can all look to the new year with excitement and reinvigoration in Project Management.

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