Project Management Made Easy

by Ramona Creel

Getting Started

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — and the same is true of your project. You have to start somewhere. Maybe your first step will be working out a schedule or drawing up a list of tasks. Or you might want to have a meeting to brainstorm with your team. Don't spend too much time worrying about exactly which step to take first — any move forward is a good one. You may feel stuck at the beginning of your project, but just getting started often provides the momentum you need to keep you moving in the right direction. Of course, the first thing you need for any journey is a road map. So start by examining the project and asking a few simple questions:

- What are my goals? What result am I trying to accomplish?
- What is my deadline?
- Who will I need to include in this project?
- What supplies/resources will I need to get this done?

This is a grounding exercise — designed to help you get a basic idea of what this project will require of you. You will then find it a lot easier to break these “big picture” ideas into actionable steps.

Your Itinerary

Most long journeys actually involve a series of smaller trips, stopping to see this site or visit this town along the way. The same is true for your project's journey. Every project, no matter how large, is just a series of smaller tasks – and your job is simply to figure out what those tasks are. For example, if you are putting together your company's annual budget, the steps might include items like creating a chart of accounts, gathering financial data from each department, listing big expenditures for the next year, calculating cost projections, and compiling the report. Each one of these steps constitutes a “milestone,” and each milestone helps get you a little closer to your end goal.

While you never want to lose sight of your final destination, your project will be a lot less overwhelming if you simply focus on your next milestone (bit sized is always easier to swallow!) Once you accomplish that task, move to the next — in no time, you will find that you have systematically worked your way to the end of the project. Andif a particular step still seems too big, break it down even further.Get to the cellular level, if that's what works for you.

On any journey, you also have some idea of how long you plan to spend in each location and when you will need to arrive at your next destination. The same is true of your project — but instead of scheduling from your departure date forward, you will schedule from your arrival (or deadline) date backward. Ask yourself when each previous step must be completed for the next step to happen on time — as well as how long each step will realistically take to complete, and plug each of those mini-deadlines into your calendar. If your deadline for the budget is 11/1, you might need the cost projections by 10/20 so you have time to write the report. You must have the list of expenditures and financial data by 10/13 to give you time to calculate cost projections, so plan to finalize your chart of accounts by 10/7. By setting smaller milestones along the way, you can see progress toward your goal, know that you are on track to complete the project in time, and remove some of the pressure of “the deadline.”

Coordinating Your Trip

Just as you would have a place to keep your travel paperwork when preparing for a trip, you need a systemfor storing all of your project files in one location so you never haveto waste time searching. And like travel paperwork, project files aretemporary — they will only be used until the project is completed. Soassign a separate drawer or hanging file box for your projectpaperwork. And of course, the best possible project organizing systemis portable — so you can take them with you wherever you go on yourjourney. You may also need storage for larger project tools — when remodeling the kitchen, you might have a tub with flooring samples, wallpaper swatches, paint brushes, and cabinet hardware. Give yourself as much room as you need.

If your project involves other people, it's also important to have a system for keeping everyone on track. Create a log of tasks for which each person is responsible — with milestones and deadlines for each. And be sure to schedule regular team meetings so you have time for brainstorming, group problem-solving, and following up with each member to make sure he or she hasn't hit a roadblock along the way.

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.