Establishing an Efficient Project Management System Is Easier Than It May Seem
One of the parts of my job that I love is being a project manager. Truth be told, I am an organizational junky. I often threaten to organize my colleague’s inboxes and get them down to the bare essentials but they never seem to take me seriously.
In Project Management, there are core principles that tend to work for project managers regardless of what type of work your team does. For my team, when we adhere to the following principles, we are in good shape:
1. Document, Document, Document
I’ve written before about the need for agendas and follow ups to make conference calls as efficient as possible. Meetings and calls are a daily occurrence for project managers so making sure that everything is documented is critical to staying organized. Agendas before the meetings, follow ups afterward, project change plans and deadline adjustments all need to be in writing. Quick phone calls with clients should always be documented so you can reference notes later on. Plus the short follow up after the call lets the client know you’re on top of the project.
2. Project Plans are Your Friend
Along the same lines, documenting a project plan is going to be critical to any long-term project success. The reason being is that it provides a clear road map of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. The most important elements for my team are:
- Timing / Deadlines
Anyone who has done any project management knows that a project plan is meant to be changed so ensure that whatever you put together is flexible enough to accommodate changes that are sure to come. And our format tends to be pretty informal, but it needs to be documented and in front of all team members to be sure that everyone is on the same page.
3. Tasks vs. Projects
Your to-do list can be your friend or your enemy. It’s up to you. But if you want to feel like you’re actually making progress, be sure to know the difference between a task and a project. I define a project as anything that requires more than one step. Assembling a report with several elements is a project, especially when you break it down into phases. There’s (1) pulling the data, (2) analyzing the data, (3) writing an executive summary or narrative and (4) proofreading the report. That’s four tasks within one project. It’s a small thing, but teams appreciate when you recognize how much work can go into a single deliverable. When you organize the tasks, be sure to call them out and delegate as much as you can whenever appropriate.
4. Aim for Inbox Zero
My co-workers know that I generally end every week with my inbox completely cleared. Why? Because I’m less likely to drop a ball if I only have essential items in front of me. Multi-tasking is overrated and I’ve all but stopped doing it (old habits die hard). It’s inefficient and a productivity killer. For the same reason that I rarely have more than five tabs open on my browser at any time, I work everyday to get as close to zero emails in my inbox as I can. As soon as an email arrives, I do one of three things with it: delete it, archive it, or add a task to my to-do list (then archive it). Try it for a week. I promise it will change your life.
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