Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution  – Brian Tracy

5 minutes planning (even just for your day ahead) saves 50 minutes – for larger projects the time-saving increases! It’s a worthwhile exercise.

Basic Project Management principles are often left for large projects, but are also relevant for smaller tasks, business goals, client work or even personal projects, such as a holiday.

Just being conscious of these principles in your mind is good practice and will help make sure projects/plans run smoothly for you.

The elements I will be covering are :

  • Project scope
  • Time Management
  • Team Management
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Communication Management
  • Risk Management

Project scope

As we start to think about outlining our plan/project, we need to consider the WHY?, WHAT? and the HOW? of our project.

WHY? – what is the point of the project? What is our mission? What is our desired outcome?

WHAT? – getting your thoughts in order. What exactly needs to be done.

There are two ways to tackle the WHAT? which will help get our thoughts in order, which will depend on whether we’re starting at High or Low level.   

High level is goal orientated.

Low level is task orientated.

High level – If we have an overarching goal/final outcome, then we need to break this goal down into headings (major parts)  and then each of those major parts into tasks or individual steps.

Low level – If we already have a list of tasks that need to be completed, then grouping those tasks into headings/major parts will help us get them into some kind of order.

Grouping tasks in this way – goal -> headings/major parts -> tasks/steps – will help us see how to move the project forward in a logical manner  – and ultimately get a plan together in our Project Management tool.

HOW? – How is this going to happen? Within each task there will be more information about the specifics that we need to keep in mind – for example, minimum acceptance criteria, a QA process to ensure expectations are met, who could complete the task, costs. Noting these details down at the start of a project will ensure that we don’t forget any details further down the line.

Once you are clear on your goal, have a list of major parts and tasks and are clear on teh specifics, the fun part begins – the Project Management tool.

I really recommend using some way to keep your project on track – This doesn’t have to be electronic, it’s best to use something that’s easy for you to use and understand and will  depend on how complex your project is and whether others are involved. It’s Ok to use more than one tool depending on the project – I use different tools for different clients (dictated sometimes by them) and use different tools for my own projects – some are monitored electronically and some might be simple tasks in my planner. The key is to make it work FOR YOU for THAT PROJECT.

Simple projects lend themselves to simple tools – a notebook, a whiteboard, a to-do list. There’s no need to make things more complicated than they need to be.

Complex projects can be tracked better using software (rather than manual methods) as can set reminders for due dates, allocating to others etc help us keep track of tasks.

Many projects will fall somewhere between the two, so personal preference on how you want/need to track the project come into play, and whether you find it easier to deal with a list or visual reminders.

Some ideas :

Simple Lists – – Notebook/whiteboard, Google tasks, Todoist , Wunderlist

Simple visual – calendar/diary/planner tracking , Whiteboard/post-it notes, Trello.

Complex – Asana Basecamp, Jira, Microsoft Project

While we are pulling all this together we need to take the following into consideration :

  • Time Management
  • Team Management
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Communication Management
  • Risk Management

Team Management

Your team is made up of the people that will enable you to achieve the final goal – these may not necessarily be people who work for your own organisation, your team can be made up of anyone who will have a responsibility for carrying out any of the tasks that will move you towards your project goal. This could easily be other freelancers, business people, as well as larger suppliers. It is essential that you build relationships with your team, making sure that they are clear on their responsibilities and deadlines. Some Project Management tools have the facility to allocate tasks to team members and to set deadlines (eg Todoist, Trello, Asana) – this is especially useful for complex projects

Keeping in touch with team members is crucial to ensuring that tasks are completed on time, and performance is monitored and feedback given.  Share your success with team members!

Time Management

This is one of the most complex aspects of managing a project but one of the most crucial to getting a project completed within your expectations. As you work through your tasks and setting up any project, be aware of the following :

  1. Are we working backwards from a final deadline OR starting on Day 1 and setting a deadline based on the duration of tasks we need to complete
  2. Are there any hard deadlines that cannot be moved? (ie a wedding date, lease ending, launch date of client)
  3. Are there any restrictions on team availability (ie holidays or public/bank holidays or other projects they are involved in that mean they aren’t available)
  4. What type of tasks we have? – Sequential or parallel – do the tasks run in a logical process and are dependent on each other to be completed before the next one starts OR can they be carried out at the same time?
  5. Timescales – consider both Man Hours and Duration  (ie a task that takes 8 hours won’t necessarily be completed in one day)

For each task, you need to define who is responsible and allocate an estimation of the time to complete the task taking all of the above into consideration. Adding deadlines to a project plan will make sure the team keep on track, and also ensure that any dependent tasks can be planned accordingly. Deadlines will also help with our risk management. Some Project Management tools can have reminders set for deadlines, and can also allow tasks to be allocated to team members so that they receive the reminder.

Stakeholder Management

A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in the project – team members, clients, financial interest, or the person with responsibility to sign off the work as complete. At the very least, stakeholders should be identified and prioritised.  It’s important to realise the level of importance for any stakeholders .

A simple chart like the one I’ve provided can help you prioritise stakeholders dependant on their influence and interest, to identify the key players.

Communication Management

Communication is key to getting projects to run smoothly – for smaller projects which involve a few people there won’t be much communication to manage. For larger projects there could be both client and team members to manage – that is a lot of communication!

The key communication strategies to have in place are:

Contact details – for all people involved in projects

Scheduled meetings – clear who is organising, how often they will take place with stakeholders

Updates – who is updating whom, how often and by what means (phone, email etc)

Day to day communication methods – with the team and key players/main point of contact

Sharing info – how much and how often and how (Dropbox, Google drive, email)

Risk Management

Risk management is planning for unexpected events. This can be both :

Positive  – Opportunity (to be maximised)

Negative – Risk (to be minimised)

For smaller projects, there may be few risks – for larger projects with more risk, it is worthwhile logging any identified risks on a risk register. EIther way, there should be some consideration given as to WHAT risks and opportunities might arise and what actions would need to take place.

  1. Identify the risks (impact on project, probability of happening, manageability)
  2. Set actions for if the risk manifests itself
  3. Update project plans accordingly

Whether our project is complex or simple, for us or for our clients, business or personal, applying these principles should help us keep track of tasks and see our projects through to successful completion.