Most people find that as part of their jobs they have to tackle ‘one-offs’; a certain task that has to be done within a given timeframe. This task will often be unique, in that there is no precedent for it, and this makes it very difficult to schedule into your day. The difference between this task (or project) and a daily task, is that you cannot draw upon your reserves of experience to determine who needs to be consulted, how much work is really involved, how flexible the deadline is or how to break the task down into manageable chunks! Clearly what is needed is a contingency plan to handle these situations in the most efficient manner.
Steps to Successful Project Planning
1. Identify Your Objectives
The first thing to do is to identify your objectives and the desired end result. If you do not know where you want to go – then any road will suffice.
2. Determine The Scale Of The Job
Ask concrete questions about what the job involves, as this tends to get the objectives more down to earth.
3. Establish Deadline Flexibility
If you have been given a deadline you need to know how flexible the deadline really is, and whether there is room for negotiation.
4. Breakdown Into Constituent Parts
Given the nature of your job it is important that the job is broken down into smaller, more manageable parts, which are easier to fit into a normal day. Few of use have the luxury to devote all our time to just one task. A project rarely replaces your daily duties – it is usually additional.
5. Produce A Schedule
If you produce a schedule, you will be able to highlight whether it is possible to complete the task within the given timeframe, without neglecting or severely disrupting your normal duties.
6. Commit Publicly
Firstly this acts as a spur and secondly it lets everyone else know that you are working to a tight deadline, and co-opts them into not interrupting you.
Examine your role in the projects execution very carefully. Do you really need to handle everything yourself? Could you delegate some of it to others?
Quite often if you communicate your intentions to your colleagues, you will find that they are able to help contribute towards your goals.
9. List All The Information Needed
A further tip is to list all the information that is needed as soon as possible after you have established your objectives, and to identify the people from whom you might need assistance. In this way, others who need to be involved can be given advance notice and could also save yourself frustration as the deadline approaches.
1. State your objectives and the end result. Without this, planning is impossible.
2. Ask concrete questions about the job as this often makes the objectives seem clearer.
3. Deadlines are sometimes flexible. Test deadlines as this may reveal ways of getting more time on a tight project.
4. Breakdown the work into smaller parts. This makes tasks more manageable and can fit into a normal working day.
5. Scheduling highlights unrealistic deadlines. Once realistic ones are agreed, commit them publicly as a defence against interruptions and as a spur to yourself.
6. List all information needed at the start and from whom. Give others plenty of notice.
7. Communicate your intentions – peers may cover for you, and often help directly with the project.
8. Delegate where possible. Remember you may not have to do everything yourself.