Project management tools are readily available. There are even free ones that have good reputations.
All, however, require some sort of learning curve. Since I don’t think about project management until I’m in the middle of something that would benefit from some clarity about everything,, I’ve not been willing to pay the price of learning how to use one.
Since, however, complex and / or large projects do require some management if you’re going to complete them with some elegance and ease. Along the way I’ve developed my own system over time.
I call it Anne’s Hit List system, or mostly just Hit Lists. It works like this:
Not all projects require managment
Not everything I write requires project management. My weekly posts for this site only need to be calendared. Keeping client files in separate folders on my computer and in my email is often sufficient.
On the other hand video class I’m creating about getting a book written has required some serious project management from me.
I suspect it’s the number of details. After all, I’ve been writing blog posts here roughly for forever. It’s like I’ve said before, it’s hard to get worse at something you practice. I find I don’t need a hit list or anything much other than the reminder on my calendar.
Video classes on the other hand, seem to have an almost infinite number of things that have to be completed so everything works. For me, at least, that number of things that need doing needs hit lists to keep track of it all. In other words, this is a perfect place for some project management.
When I recognize project management will help
I often don’t realize how something I’m taking on for either myself or a client will turn out to be complicated enough to require project management. I usually find out when I recognize I’m losing track of stuff. In fact that’s how hit lists came into being.
When I realize I’m getting confused I simply stop and make a list of everything I know needs to be done. I do it in Word™ (and sometimes sent text messages to myself when I’m out and about and suddenly remember something else that needs to go on the list). I don’t worry at this point if the list has everything on it, or even if everything I write down is actually needed.
The only reason I sometimes number this list is to impress myself. I don’t find numbering useful, so after I’ve either impressed myself or scared myself half to death, I turn the numbering off.
Hit lists as baby steps
One thing I’ve learned over time is that it’s true. I really can do only one thing at a time. Which I’m thinking is where the term taking baby steps comes from. Creating a hit list is actually writing down the baby steps a particular project needs to get to completion.
Another advantage of this approach is looking at one small step at a time is a whole lot less intimidating than thinking of the whole project all at once. Seeing it listed has a way of letting us know that, whatever it is, it can be broken into bite-sized pieces and we can actually get it done step-by-step
The next step is to turn the list into a single column table
I want to track due dates and completion dates. It’s easy to turn the list into a table by using Word’s Text to Table (under Insert – I guess because I am inserting a table). I make a single column table which maintains the list.
Adding additional columns is easy. I do that in Table Layout with the click of a mouse on the table icons.
I can just as easily add a column above so I can name the columns something like Item | Date Due |Completion Date
By the way, while Google Docs won’t let you do this as easily, you can paste in a Word copy of your hit list and it will maintain the columns. This means you and a client or collaborator can view and edit as long as you, the originator of the doc give them editing privileges.
Both a tickler and a record of the project
What I’ve got now is a tickler system which will help me make sure I don’t lose track of any details. If maintained, the hit list also acts as a record for the project. For example, I’ve got a hit list for developing a website since I do that for both writers and clients. When I get a new client who wants a site I make a copy of my base hit list and start filling it in as needed. It stops much of the reinventing wheels I can get into without this system.
That’s also why I’ll use strike out the item when it’s done as well as the date. Strike outs both give me a visual that’s helpful and are pretty easy to remove.
The list seems to grow endlessly
It never fails that when I do project management with a hit list, at first it seems as if the list does nothing but grow. That’s because when I start a hit list I never think of everything. As I work along I keep adding things until one magic day I’ve added everything. This usually happens sometime after I’ve accomplished roughly half or more of what needs to be done. I’ve yet to predict accurately when this will happen, but so far it always has. It’s lovely to see I’m finally gaining on the darn thing.
That’s my project management system.
Does this make sense to you? I’d love to get your thinking on this.
Not so by the way, time management is also part of project management. You may find Freelance Writers and Time Management helpful.
Write well and often,
By the way, I’ve started using PickWizard as one of my sources of no cost photos.