Planning a project can be a daunting idea, especially when there are multiple components to keep track of. An organized approach can keep you focused and prevent a project from becoming overwhelming. Let's talk about turning a project into a series of manageable tasks, from beginning to end.
Planning for Success
What is the difference between a task and a project?
A task can be completed by one person, at one time, in one place. A project is comprised of more than one task.
How to efficiently plan and execute a project
The steps outlined below can be applied to projects for a variety of situations, like a project at work, a home improvement project, or a social gathering. When planning a mini-project–one that isn't as intense–a more basic approach may be taken, but the planning process can follow the same structure.
In this episode, I use the example of planning a wedding reception for my sister, and you can listen to how I’ve applied these steps to that occasion.
- Define the project. What is the goal at the end of this process? What outcome would be ideal? Putting this end result in your mind can help break down the project into tasks that need to be completed that add up to the finished product, event, or situation.
- Break it down. What steps need to be taken to get from the beginning to the end? Brainstorming can be a useful tool in distinguishing what could be considered mini-projects vs. tasks. Some tips for brainstorming:
- List every part of the project
- Start with the big picture, then break it down into smaller details or tasks. These can be put into a task manager or on a to-do list.
- Identify any mini-projects that cannot be accomplished with just one step. Break those down into tasks.
- If you have trouble getting started on a certain task, reevaluate it to see if perhaps it can be broken down into even smaller tasks.
- Identify the resources needed. While thinking through the process from start to finish or while brainstorming, keep a list of tools and information needed. Also keep track of resources you already have and what you need to purchase or borrow.
- Seek help from others. There may be others within your social or business circles who can save you time, money or energy. Use your task-manager to remember to schedule meetings or appointments with those who can help you or those whose input is crucial for completing the project. Add these appointments to your calendar.
- Put mini-projects and tasks in order. Determine if your tasks must be done in a sequential or parallel order.
- Sequential steps must be done in a certain order. For example, you cannot do A, B, and C before first completing 1, 2, and 3.
- Parallel steps can be done at the same time, in any order you choose.
- Set your project up in your task-manager. Whether you prefer to organize your project electronically on your phone, tablet or computer, or if you're more comfortable with a pen and paper, pick a method that works best for you and your lifestyle. Add your organized list of tasks and mini-projects to your method of choice. If you choose to use an electronic task-manager, I have found the following successful for me:
- Add context to each piece of the project. Sort your tasks into categories. A digital task-manager can aide you in sorting your tasks by contexts for efficiency. Using a notebook or binder, separated using different tabs can help you with this step, if you're not using an electronic task manager. Some examples of different contexts include:
- Phone calls
- Set a deadline. When is the ultimate time and date your project needs to be completed? When organizing your to-do list, calculate back from that deadline to give you optimal lead time. Add cushion, if possible, to prevent last-minute stress and rushing. Set reminders in your calendar so you don't forget these tasks, but so they're also not constantly weighing on your mind when you're trying to focus on other things.
- Review your to-do list. You can make this a weekly habit to see what you have to accomplish in the days ahead or a daily habit to refresh yourself to see what needs to be done. This is a critical step to make sure nothing slips through the cracks and this is the key to successfully managing your project.
- Execute your plan. You've made the plan and mapped it out; now it's time to do the work. Your plan will help you complete your project step-by-step. If you find a new task that wasn't in your original plan, add it to your to-do list or task-manager as it comes along.
- (Or 10B) Celebrate! Enjoy the end product of your planning and hard work. Review your process and ask yourself, “How can I do better next time?” if that's helpful for you. Ask yourself what worked well and what didn’t work so well for your project.
What do you think?
Do you have questions about project planning? Do you have a system for planning and managing projects you'd like to share? Please share your thoughts–questions, suggestions, ideas–in the comments below, leave a voice message by clicking the button in the sidebar, or email me.
Resources and Reminders:
- Don't forget to check out our sponsor, PrepDish: “your secret weapon to easy, healthy family meals.” Take advantage of the special price of $4 for the first month's worth of healthy, delicious meal plans, complete with shopping lists and preparation instructions, by visiting PrepDish.com/productive.
- Grab a free copy of my project planning template.
- This week I was a guest on Lisa DeLay's Spark My Muse podcast. We talked about how to overcome perfectionism and accomplish the things that matter to us. Check it out!
- Very special thank you to Emily Prokup, co-host of the Classy Little Podcast, for her help with preparing the show notes this week!
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