It happens to so many of us: It’s the start of a new project, and you’re trying to make order and meaning out of everything that needs to get done. How much time do you spend scratching your head, wondering what to do next—or how to even how and where to start? Having a good plan is the most important strategy to getting a project done.
Here are 5 steps to organizing your work so you can sail through a project cycle with as little spinning of the wheels as possible. (A tip of the hat to Dave Allen’s GTD, too.)
1. Collect all related work items.
Identify all the work items that are part of your project. This includes emails, open tasks in your project management tool, scribbled notes, you name it. Next, organize all these pieces and prioritize them as tasks that are part of your project. If you’re stuck on the prioritizing part, ask yourself the following questions:
- Which one has the most immediate hard deadline?
- Which task will make the most positive impact if it’s finished ASAP?
- Are any of these dependent on another one being completed first?
- Are you dependent on another person completing something else before you can start?
- Is there a task that you just have to get off your plate to clear your mind and move forward?
2. Develop a process.
Outline or list the necessary steps to complete each task. Ask yourself:
- What are all the tasks and micro-tasks that need to be done to complete this?
- Who needs to weigh in, contribute, QA or sign off on the work?
- Is this the most efficient way to get from A-to-Z on this particular project?
3. Get organized.
Commit to being as organized as possible—and finding a structure that fits you, your team and the project. This could take some trial and error, but being organized is a process. A good place to start is by using a collaborative project management tool where collected work can live, and stay organized and accessible to other team members. At LiquidPlanner, we prioritize all the work in the order we think we can actually get to each item and complete it. The bottom line is: You need a place where you and your team members can reference a project and all the work involved, and know what’s going on at any time.
4. Set a time to review
Our memories need a good refreshing to stay organized. Plus, a review might give us fresh insight on what needs to get done, reprioritized or reorganized. Set a time (Friday afternoon, Sunday evening, Monday morning) to review work items. This not only keeps your mind fresh but also helps you see all the things that are part a bigger project and vision. Change happens, so you’re probably making tweaks and updates to a lot of tasks in the course of a week. The review process helps you stay on top of the moving life force of your work.
5. Do it!
Now that you’ve got the first four stages done, it’s time to take action – pull the trigger, press publish, deliver the final product. So, what do you do right now? Here are four things to consider for the doing part, based on David Allen’s GTD methodology:
- Context: What can you do right now?
- Time available: What do you have time to do right now?
- Energy available: What are you able to accomplish right now?
- Priority: After you answer steps 1 – 3, start working on the highest priority item.
There are endless ways to organize yourself and a team. So tell us—what is one organization hack that rocks your world?