PLAN WELL

5 steps to managing a productive project

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As a leader in your organization, one of your many roles may include managing a project with tons of moving parts, long lists of to-dos, and a team of people.  There are a lot of variables that need to work together in order to have a successful and productive project.  A project is a bigger set of tasks that you can complete over a period of time for one ultimate goal or final product. Today I want to share a step-by-step project management process so you can streamline your work, save time and sanity, and accomplish what you set out to do.

photo by Nikki Kauzlaurich

1. Get clarity on the direction of your vision.

The initial stage of any project will focus on setting the vision of the project.  It’s the brainstorming stage where you and your team ask: What would you like to create?  Why is that important?  How will you know that you’re successful?  It’s the fun part of the process where you come up with your brilliant ideas, dream up the direction of where you’d like to go, and get connected with the purpose that will drive you to complete it.  It’s important to get clear on the “big picture” of your vision, and you can nail down the details later. Because once you figure out the what and the why of the project, the how becomes easier.

2. Write it out & break it down.

Once you’ve figured out the direction of the project, it’s time to create goals and action steps for you take to achieve them.  Depending on the scope of the project, you can break it down into sub-projects and smaller tasks to make each step easy to do in a 30-60 min. time frame. Some people may use a visual representation like a mind map, while others will create a master to-do list with smaller to-do lists.  Whatever method you choose, the point is to write out your goals, deadlines, and action steps, so you know how you’re going to tackle this project.  If you’re working with a team, you can also assign or have people sign up for the various responsibilities and tasks.

3. Schedule it.

Setting aside time in your schedule to actually work on the different steps of the project determines when you’re going to make progress on it.  When you actually go into your calendar and block off chunks of time to work on the project, you’re declaring that it’s important and give yourself the time and space to work on it.  You can also schedule in your deadlines to keep you on track.  One time to remember though, especially when you’re learning something new, if to give yourself more time to complete each task than you expect.  That way, you’re not stressed or defeated, and have plenty of time to do good work.

4. Find accountability.

Accountability is a way to build integrity to stay true to your word and get stuff done.  The good news is, you don’t have to do it all alone.  To create a sense of accountability that motivates and engages people, have regular check-ins with your team to check on progress.  If you’re a solopreneur, consider pairing up with an accountability buddy to share your progress, wins, and brainstorm ways to tackle upcoming obstacles.  The point is, we’re much more likely to do something when we tell other people about it.  So we can use that to our advantage and develop social accountability to keep the project moving.

5. Celebrate your success!

Finally, once everything is completed (or at least whenever you’ve hit a milestone), it’s time to celebrate!  You’ll have a great sense of accomplishment when you complete your project.  For some people, it’s easy to quickly move on.  But when you take the time to acknowledge your efforts, your team work, and your ability to make things happen, it’s worth celebrating! Go out to dinner, or bring in cupcakes for the next meeting.  Whether it’s big or small, celebrating your success helps you to create a growth that will continue to support you to complete your next project.

Managing a project to completion is a necessary skill for leaders.  Once you’ve learned this process (or created your own), it’s easier to streamline your projects into a system where you can turn your dreaming into doing, and goals into reality.

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