Project management is simple, right? Not so fast. Over the past few years, we’ve seen similar challenges pop up in our clients’ projects, so today we’re tackling five problems and giving you the necessary tools to tackle them head on. Check out these five best practices for project management to help you conquer your hiccups and avoid them in the future.
Problem: You’ve just been handed a very large project. Where do you begin?
Solution: Break it down.
No, we aren’t talking about the dancing kind. We’re talking about breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. Understand all of the parts and pieces at play and determine who will play a role in the execution and implementation of that project or event. And if you need help managing that project or putting that event together, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Even Batman needed Robin from time to time.
Problem: You’ve broken down the project or event into something that’s easier to digest. Now what?
Solution: The project timeline.
The project timeline is the equivalent of a road map in a cross-country adventure. Not only does it tell you where to go, but it helps you estimate when you’ll arrive at your destination. About to launch a marketing initiative or campaign? Putting together your store’s anniversary open-house? Organizing a gathering or event at your church? Create a monthly project timeline with deliverables and milestones listed for each month. These include dates you need to book vendors by, expected inventory arrival, your website launch, RSVP deadlines, or when you need to start distributing print collateral to promote your event, product or service.
This project timeline should be easily accessible (scribbled on a scrap sheet of paper won’t cut it!) so that you can refer back to it when needed.
Problem: Life happened and you missed an important deadline. How do you prevent this?
Solution: A physical calendar.
We know—it sounds simple and old school, but hear us out! Every day when we step into the office and settle into our chairs, our account managers look up to view a dry erase calendar of the next two months with website launch dates, direct mail drop and in-home dates, meeting reminders… and the list goes on! We don’t want to sound dramatic, but we live and die by these calendars. That’s not to say that we don’t use our Outlook or Gmail calendars to also manage our projects or daily lives, but by using this combination (and governing it with our project timeline!), we have a 360-degree view of a project or event and can plan ahead. And the best part? A fail-safe system that helps prevents us from missing deadlines and ultimately, disappointing our coworkers and clients.
Problem: You have a lot of tasks and to-dos that need to be completed and they’re starting to pile up. How do you restore order to the chaos and catch up?
Solution: Make a list.
Whether you put pen to paper or open Notes, make a list. List all of the tasks that you need to complete. But don’t stop there. A running list of 30 to-do items will only add fuel to the fire and make you wonder how you can get it all done. Instead, once you’ve made your list, review all of the tasks that you’ve listed and determine what the top three to five are that you need to complete THAT day. Ask yourself the question: What do I HAVE to get done today? What are the items that MUST get completed so the show can go on? Tackle those items first! While you may not cross off 20 items (kudos to you if that’s EVER happened!), you’ll rest easy knowing that you accomplished the most important items pertaining to your project or event.
Don’t have any “must complete” items for that day? Great! Work ahead! You’ll be thankful when you aren’t crunched for time and can be proactive instead of reactive!
Problem: You know you need accountability—for yourself, your team, your clients and constituents. How do you provide it?
Solution: Status reports.
We love status reports. Not only does it help our clients to see what we’ve completed, but it also helps our internal team understand their role in that project, provide a snapshot of what’s pending, what we need approval or feedback on and what’s coming down the pipeline.
Whether you’re communicating internally or externally, a regular report and status of a project or event is critical information to provide. If you’re a church or nonprofit, think about your annual report. You provide this because your donors want to see how you’re stewarding their financial resources. The same is true for your internal team. Wondering what Bob’s workload looks like? Is Jim drafting that email or is Tammy? Did Susie get the programs printed for the gala? Status reports will quickly tell you:
- Who's handling what
- If you’re on schedule
- Utilizing your time wisely
- If your team (or you!) are being productive (hours put in does not equal tasks completed!)
- Or if you’re working on a priority item
So the next time you’re handed a project, organizing an event or managing a campaign and are wondering where to start, refer back to some of these best practices and we promise that you’ll feel organized, empowered and ready to execute!