Today we’re talking projects. Big ones that have lots of steps and that seem incredibly daunting because they often come up against a tight deadline or need to be done on a short time frame.
I used to hate projects like these, but then I realized that it’s really just a long list of little to-dos and that made it seem more manageable. I’ve utilized this planning method as professional project manager for a graphic design firm, as a public relations specialist for a large hospital, and also as a mom (this last gig seems to be the hardest yet), and 9 times out of 10 I hit my deadline. That’s a pretty good track record.
So lets get to it.
Step One: Categorize
Think bigger pieces rather than tiny details. Depending on the size of the project, I sometimes list all the details I can think of on the back of my planning worksheet, then go through and pick out the big categories and put them in on the worksheet.
I’ll give you an example. I’m working on a new product to put in my shop. So I’ve got design, proofing, printing, promotion, etc. These are the larger categories.
The nitty gritty details come next. In the design stage, I need to pick a color palette, choose fonts, gather up or create any icons or graphics I may need, and so on. These little things help me check off the big thing, so they’ll go inside the box allocated for design.
step two: Set time frames
When you’re working in a short time frame, time frames can make or break a project. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to do a good job. Don’t allow yourself enough time to second guess or try to figure out a more feasible option. More often than not a completed project is far better than a project that’s still in the working phases and may not be completed for several weeks. If anything, a completed project, especially one that you conquered does a ton for morale and that is going to get you that much further.
Step three: Put your sharpie (and pencil) to work!
I find that working with tight deadlines means I need to be as quick to use my pencil as I do my Sharpie. When I want things flexible, I use a pencil because it’s easier to change. When I’m definite I use my black Sharpie – nothing feels better than to cross something out with that permanent marker. Big projects and short timeframes call for a lot of both. After you’ve got your worksheet filled out, it’s time to start getting things done and crossing them off (Sharpie!) but to hit the deadline you may need to maneuver around some of your to do’s (pencil!). It’s definitely a skill, but I’ve found that using both within this framework keeps me focused, moving forward, and crossing things off.
What big projects are you looking to tackle? Download your Project Planning Worksheet below and lets get to work!