What is Project Management?
Project management is the core of time management; your schedule and task list are just tools to making sure that it runs effectively. It's about setting goals and reaching them, whether they're your own internal goals or projects given to you by your boss.
But I don't have a project
Actually, you do. Your career is a project. Your small business is a project. Raising kids is a huge project. Anytime you feel overwhelmed, project management can help. See a sample
What does a project management system do?
There are different ways of accomplishing all that, of course. But a good project management system should help you answer the following questions:
1) What do we want to accomplish?
I know it sounds stupid, but you would be astonished at how many people are working on projects without answering that question. So write it down. It's an important thing to know.
2) What will it take to get us there?
This is where most people start their project planning, but since they haven't completed step 1, the question doesn't make much sense -- they don't know where "there" is. Once you've established that, the strategic planning becomes much easier.
Subcomponents: these questions may be trivial for smaller projects, but we include them in case your project is big enough to be concerned with them. (In that case, you'll probably want to get some project management software for step 3.)
3) What have we done?
a) What will it take to get there? On big projects you may need to subdivide still further, and come up with a strategy for each step.
b) In what order do these steps need to be done? Depending on what resources you have available and what results each step requires and produces, you may need to complete your tasks in a particular order to make everything work out.
c) By what time do they need to be done? On a large project with a deadline, or particularly on a large project with multiple people, it may be helpful to set mini-deadlines in order to ensure that you meet your final deadline.
d) Who will do these things?
This step is not necessary if you're the only one working on a project. In some cases, however, especially if you just left your job and began working for yourself, it may also be helpful to really point out to the lazy part of yourself that you are the only one who can do these things…. It's all your job.
In completing any project that can't be done in a day, you'll want to have notes on what you've already accomplished and what you still need to do.
4) Is what we're doing getting us to the objective?
The other place projects go astray is when something unexpected arises (and it always will). It's easy to deal with the unexpected and fail to actually head towards your goal. So a good project management system should help you measure your progress and adjust if necessary.
5) Project change procedure
This can range from jotting yourself a note in the margin of your objective on through a full-blown corporate process with paperwork and an audit, but when the unexpected arises (see above), you need to have some way to modify your project accordingly.
Ready to get organized, but not sure where to start? Download a worksheet to help you start Project Management, or download the module to design an entire time-management solution.