A Practical Guide to Peace of Mind Project Management
I have a tendency to let things linger. I feel the need to look at so many things before I’m ready to make a decision and get something going.
Being thorough and conscientious is a good thing, but within reason. The trick is find balance in your approach. You don’t want to be a perfectionist and definitely, you don’t want to do a half-assed job. Find the middle ground. It is the key to getting the best results.
An effective way to plan and work on a project is to create a process that works for you and keep using it. As you get better, you can refine and simplify your method.
Below is a process I use frequently. I hope you find it useful in creating your own. Most of these steps are common sense and have been recommended by others in one form or another. Feel free to use what works and ignore the rest. :)
1. Define your outcome and rewards.
What is it that you want to accomplish?
You should be as clear as possible about what your results will look like. If you don’t have a clear result in mind, reconsider the purpose of what you want to do. Why are you doing it? What is your reward for getting it done?
The reasons and rewards for completing a project are your biggest motivation to start and to keep going.
2. Determine what you need to do.
What are the steps you need to take to get your project done from start to finish?
If you are not clear about the entire process, start with the most obvious steps that will lead you to figure things out.
Every step should represent one action that will yield results. Planning, considering and thinking about something won’t give results.
Action that produces results includes calling/contacting, writing, meeting, choosing, building, composing, practicing, programming and buying or selling.
With every action step, you get closer to completing your project.
3. Calculate your costs.
The next step is to determine what your costs would be. The two components of cost are money and time.
Determine how long something is going to take you to do and how much money it will cost you. Consider the trade off between the two.
Do you want to spend more money or more of your time? The answer to this question depends on your priorities and financial position.
Add a cushion to your estimates. Most projects consume more time and money than planned. I usually estimate 15% to 20% to be on the safe side.
4. Set a deadline.
If you don’t have a time frame to work with, your project will fall by the wayside and keep nagging at you.
Your deadline is your guideline. If you have someone who will hold you accountable, share your deadline with him/her.
Keep your scheduling flexible. You don’t want to stress out because of unrealistic or rigid deadlines.
5. Take action.
Start working on the steps you determined. If you are not much of a doer like me batch your tasks. It is easier to do something while you are in doing mode.
Make every action count. If your steps are well thought out, your action will be effective. Complete one step at a time and avoid multitasking and shortcuts to get the best results.
6. Review and evaluate.
Your process may not go as smoothly as planned. Life sometimes throws in interesting obstacles.
Take time off to smooth out the wrinkles and refocus. At this stage, it is easy to get discouraged. Think of the rewards that you will reap when you are done. Keep the end result in mind and use what you have learned so far to improve your plan and continue.
7. Keep going until your project is done.
If you stop in the middle, you’d better have a good reason for it. Otherwise, your mind is going to continue thinking about the project but with no favorable outcome.
If you have to stop, reschedule your tasks and make sure that the project stays on your list until it’s completed.
Bonus: Celebrate your success.
Once you are done, give yourself a treat. Take time off; do something you like or just allow yourself to enjoy the peace of having one project done. Being at peace is the best gift you can give yourself.