Firstly, write down everything that needs to be done. A spreadsheet will suffice for capturing the list of tasks. While there are a vast array of project management tools available on the market, such as MS Project or BaseCamp, don’t worry about those at this stage. What’s important right now is to have a clear record of the activities that need to be undertaken, and the simpler this record is the better.
Where possible, document the tasks in a logical order of completion and break the tasks down to the most granular level. A good rule of thumb is to have each task definition last no more than one day.
Assign each and every task to someone. Put their name in the spreadsheet next to each applicable task. A great tip for someone managing a project: if you don’t have someone else to assign the work to, assign it to yourself. This has the nice effect of motivating you to get the work done as quickly as possible, or ensuring you delegate or outsource the work! And as a solo entrepreneur, remember that it is certainly okay to outsource some things.
For each of the tasks, estimate the time it will take to complete the work. If you won’t be the one completing the work, get the person who will be to do it. Put the estimate in the cell next to the person’s name at each task. A useful tip for getting more accurate estimates is to tell each person whatever timeline they provide, you will be holding them to.
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Now you know what is going to be done, who is going to do it and how long each task is going to take, you are ready to sum up the task estimates by person. If there is more than one person working loosely in parallel, the project’s duration is roughly equal to the person with the most work to complete. Realistically, this will be the minimum amount of time the project should take to complete: a rule of thumb is that a project will take roughly two to three times as long. This accounts for unexpected delays and mishaps.
All the project management processes and planning in the world is nothing without effective communication and you should never underestimate its importance. Depending on the size of the project, you should be in contact with all parties at least once a week, if not daily.
Everyone needs to know three key pieces of information.
- What has been completed to date? This shows progress as well as highlighting tasks which are running over time.
- What still needs to be completed? This allows people to plan their time knowing which tasks are coming up.
- What hold-ups, problems or issues does the project face? Honesty is key here, as the sooner this information is out in the open, the easier it is to deal with.
The final step in the project managment process is to define how each task inter-relates. You may well need to start using project management software to accurately calculate the project’s duration.
Breaking down projects using the above approach will demystify the process for you. After all, every refinement of the project management discipline builds on these simple steps.
Are there any project management processes you swear by?