Project management skills and how to improve them

Project management skills and how to improve them
SEEK content teamupdated on 08 February, 2024

Budgeting, negotiating, problem solving, planning – project management skills are great to have, no matter your profession. These highly sought-after transferable skills are useful across the full spectrum of jobs and industries, meaning you can use them wherever your career takes you. 

Knowing how to effectively lead a project can help you get ahead at work – and if you’re especially good at it, can even lead to a career in project management. 

Whether you’re a project manager keen to improve or you just want to get better at managing your workload, you’ll find it helpful to learn more about the different project management skills and how you can develop your own.

What are project management skills?

Project management skills are things like organisation and time management – they’re skills you use to lead projects from start to finish. They’re essential for roles like project manager, team leader, project coordinator and project advisor

Of course, project manager skills aren’t only used in these roles – they’re good for anyone to have. By acquiring project management skills you can become more efficient in your current role, unlock new career opportunities, and even find it easier to coordinate things in your personal life.

The importance of project management skills

Key project management skills are important across every industry and in virtually all roles. They’re useful because they allow you to you:  

  • organise projects effectively,
  • manage resources efficiently, 
  • save time and money,
  • keep track of projects,
  • complete projects to scope,
  • communicate well with team members, and
  • stay in control of your work and therefore minimise stress.

If you’re thinking about a career as a PM, there will be certain project management skills selection criteria you’ll likely need to meet. The exact skills depends on the role, though the below skills are some of the most important for a PM to have. Regardless of your career goals, it never hurts to brush up on your project management skills.

Examples of project management skills 

Whether you’re leading a web development project, launching a new product or rolling out a marketing campaign, having key project management skills will help you keep everything on track. While you might not need to use every skill every day, it’s never a bad idea to diversify your skill set.


Budget is at the core of any project, and being able to allocate funds correctly to get the job done is one of the most important project management skills to have. Budgeting as a project manager is not that much different to budgeting in your personal life. You have a set amount of money and you need to decide how to spend it, including giving yourself a cushion for any unexpected costs.   

The best way to learn how to manage a project budget is through experience and on the job training, specific to your industry and role. You will have to have a system for account keeping and tracking expenses, whether it’s a spreadsheet or a dedicated app.  

Once the budget has been allocated, other project management skills come into play to make sure the different parts of the job are done on time, without going over budget. 

Risk management

A project manager needs to consider any threats to getting the project finished on time. Effective risk management involves being able to identify potential threats before they happen, and coming up with contingencies in case they do. It’s exploring all the things that could potentially go wrong and coming up with solutions or workarounds in the planning phase, before the project has even started. There are several ways to assess risks to a project, including making a risk matrix and using risk-analysis software. 


Being organised is a project management skill that’s important for any person to have. Being organised in general helps to reduce stress, improve productivity, effectively manage your – and everyone else’s – time and allow you to deliver projects within the allotted time frame. Project managers need to be across all aspects of their jobs, all the time. There are processes and tools that can help you do this: 

  • Set up easy-to-navigate storage systems for files, documents and assets.
  • Allocate time at the end of each day for taking care of project admin: answering non-urgent emails, saving files, reporting and tracking. 
  • Use project-management software to keep track of different deliverables and milestones within the project.

Time management

Project managers not only have to manage their own time, but everyone else’s time as well – so highly developed time-management skills are crucial. To learn good time-management skills:

  • Make a list of everything that needs to be done (and refer back to it to stay on track)
  • Be aware of how long it takes to complete tasks
  • Prioritise the most urgent tasks and do them first
  • Keep to self-imposed deadlines
  • Avoid distractions
  • Learn when you’re at your most productive and block out that time for tasks that require high concentration
  • Delegate tasks to people who have more time


Learning how to negotiate is a valuable project manager skill that can help a project manager save time, money and stress. Negotiation skills are important when managing stakeholder expectations, settling on budget allocations and motivating teammates to meet their deadlines. Project managers call on these skills to negotiate contractor prices, client rates, timelines and project scopes. 

To become a good negotiator you’ll need to hone your communication skills. Practising empathy and active listening is a good start, but you should also be a confident and persuasive communicator, verbally and over email.  

Problem solving

Despite best efforts, projects sometimes run into unexpected problems. People may get sick, leaving you low on resources, or weather might create delays, pushing a timeline back. A project manager has to make decisions for their team whenever there are problems. Being able to identify an issue and weigh up potential solutions calmly and effectively is the key to solving problems and handling challenges as they arise.

Project management skills matrix

A project management skills matrix is a handy tool to visualise whether you have the right resources and people for the job. It’s a framework that maps the skills needed to complete a project against the skills of your team. You can use a skills matrix to help guide you when outsourcing to contractors or delegating tasks for your project. To create one: 

  • Make a table and across the top row, list all the skill areas required by the project, for example: UX design, Copywriting, Programming, etc.
  • Down the first column, list the people in your team. Across the rows, fill in what level of skill they possess in each of the skill areas. 
  • Ensure you have all skill areas covered – if not, you need add more people to your team who can provide the missing skills.

How to improve your project management skills

There’s a range of different strategies you can use to improve your project management skills. Some of these include:

  • Taking classes or courses to gain soft project management skills or hard skills like risk-management methodologies and accounting.
  • Using project management tools like Monday, Asana or Trello, etc. 
  • Reflecting on previous projects and where you could have performed better.
  • Utilising project management learning resources like Asana Academy or YouTube channels to learn technical skills. 

Exactly which strategy you use depends on which project management skills you’d like to develop. If you already work in project management, you can also seek feedback from your teams or manager on your strengths and weaknesses. 

Project management skills can benefit anyone, in any role. They not only help you complete tasks on time, but can improve your efficiency and even reduce stress. There are many skill areas of project management to learn, but the more you master, the easier your job may become.

It’s also important for project managers – or anyone with career goals – to commit to continuous learning. The project management skills of tomorrow may be different from those of today, so it’s essential to upskill to stay relevant and enjoy a successful career in the long term. 


What are the top 3 skills a project manager needs to succeed?

There are many skills a project manager needs to succeed. Some of the most important are: communication, risk management, problem solving and adaptability.

What are the 4 basics of project management?

The four basics of project management include: 

  1. Scope
  2. Time
  3. Money
  4. Resources
These are the four determining factors that shape a project — they’re the things a project manager has to consider when planning out a project timeline.  

What makes a successful project manager?

A successful project manager should be highly organised, a great communicator, an effective time manager, and a confident decision-maker. They need to be adaptable and resilient, to overcome challenges and solve problems when they arise. 

What should be included in a skills matrix?

A skills matrix is a tool that maps out the skills required by a project against the skills a team possesses. It can help project leaders visualise any skill gaps, where they may need to outsource to a contractor. 

More from this category: Workplace skills

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