On a daily basis, many people are faced with projects and tasks they have to accomplish, both large and small. The small tasks are easy – most people can just knock those out quickly. The larger tasks and projects can sometimes be a daunting challenge.
How many of us have faced a large project wondering “Where do I begin?” or “How will I accomplish this task in the time allotted?” Below are some thoughts on project management and some things that have helped me tackle projects in the past. The key to successful project management is in both the planning and the execution, and how you approach these two important phases. The planning phase is usually pretty straightforward.
First, you must understand the scope (high level and low level requirements), what the costs will be (ROI), and what resources you need. It’s also important to set a realistic schedule for accomplishing the project, establish a clear plan, expect and plan for setbacks, set standards for quality control and conduct a post-completion assessment.
Then, along comes one of the biggest challenges – actually getting started. Many people find the planning stage fairly easy. When it comes to actually tackling the project or task, often people will stall at this stage and either procrastinate or avoid.
Why is it so hard to get started on a big project? Most of the time, I think it just comes down to feeling overwhelmed. Many people look at the big picture and think “How will I ever do this?” or “Where do I begin?” Here are a few tips for clearing away the roadblocks to getting started on a project. These have worked well for me in both my professional and personal life:
- Break each major step down into smaller steps. This would be a more detailed project plan, with each of the smaller steps that are required to complete the major step. Then you can simply work the plan. Tackling projects this way takes the “big picture” pressure off, that feeling of being overwhelmed, as it is usually easier to accomplish the smaller steps to get you moving forward.
- Try to work on a major project in the morning, when your mind is fresh and your focus is sharp, rather than putting it off until later in the day. Save the easier tasks (reading through e-mails, addressing the quick short-term tasks) for the latter part of the day when your energy is more likely to slump.
- Even the best plans can go awry due to unexpected circumstances. The best way to deal with setbacks is to anticipate what sorts of hurdles or roadblocks you might encounter and consider how you will deal with them. Have a backup plan, whenever that is possible.
- Sometimes issues may arise that were not anticipated, and must be dealt with as they occur. Focus on solutions, to avoid getting stuck when setbacks arise. Knowing what resources you have available to help you out — a subject matter expert, for example, can be invaluable.
Finally, look back when you’ve completed the project, and assess what went wrong and consider how you might avoid those setbacks in the future on similar projects. Also consider what went right – what things did you do that worked really well? Those are the experiences you’ll want to build on to help you succeed on future projects.