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28 Sep

Six ways to keep all current projects in motion

Datum: 2011-09-28 12:00

Of all the things you have to do, some can be done in one go (clas­sic to-do-tasks), while oth­er things need to be regard­ed as larg­er projects. 

These projects can be long, large and exten­sive with numer­ous dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties, but they might as well con­sist of a rather sim­ple to-do-task, but which needs to be com­plet­ed in sev­er­al steps, that you are work­ing on dur­ing a longer time-peri­od than a sin­gle day. 

It can involve clas­sic devel­op­ment-projects in the concept’s most gen­er­al­ly accept­ed con­no­ta­tion, and it can con­cern mat­ters we nor­mal­ly don’t clas­si­fy as projects, for instance work­ing though the process of iden­ti­fy­ing a com­pa­ny as a prospect, mak­ing them you client and at that, mak­ing them a return­ing customer.

Alter­nate between focus­ing on details and on the whole picture

If you have many of these kind of balls float­ing in the air”, or projects in motion, it is easy to only focus on the task with the most urgent sta­tus. You spend your time and ener­gy putting out fires and eas­i­ly for­get to also keep track of the oth­er balls” or projects in which the sit­u­a­tion isn’t crit­i­cal, but which still require your attention. 

To make sure you are pro­gress­ing in all the projects you wish to com­plete, you need a com­pre­hen­sive overview of what you are jug­gling at the moment. At least at some point dur­ing the week, you go though the overview and make sure you have at least one next step (a to-do-task or some­thing you are wait­ing for from some­one else) for each active project. 

But where should you keep the overview and in what format?

Here are six options to choose from depend­ing on your per­son­al preferences. 

1) Project-list, quite simply

The eas­i­est form is def­i­nite­ly a plain old project-list, that is, an inven­to­ry of all your ongo­ing projects. If you keep your to-do-tasks in a list-for­mat, this is a good for­mat for keep­ing track of your projects as well. 
Cre­ate a Word-doc­u­ment and write down all the projects or record them in a spread­sheet. If you wish to work phys­i­cal­ly, write the project-list on a paper and hang it on your office-wall or write the list on your white­board, mak­ing it eas­i­ly accessible. 

2) Tasks in Out­look or Lotus Notes, cat­e­go­rized as a project

  1. Enter each project as a to-do-task in Outlook’s Tasks”-feature or Lotus Notes’ To Do”-feature.
  2. Cre­ate the cat­e­go­ry Project” and tag all the project-tasks” with this category.
  3. Now when you group the task-list by cat­e­go­ry, you will be able to eas­i­ly dis­tin­guish the tasks which are projects from those which are to-do-tasks.

If you do this, you won’t need an extra list for projects since you store them in the same list as the to-do-tasks, only separately. 

3) To-do-list grouped by project

An alter­na­tive to the pre­vi­ous sug­ges­tion is that you in Lotus Notes or in Out­look tag each to-do-task with the project it belongs to.

  1. In Notes you enter the name as a cat­e­go­ry and in Out­look you can for instance use the Company”-box.
  2. When you then group the tasks by Cat­e­go­ry” (in Notes) or Com­pa­ny” (in Out­look), the soft­ware auto­mat­i­cal­ly gen­er­ates an inven­to­ry of the projects you are work­ing on at the moment, giv­en that you have at least one to-do-task active for each project.
  3. If you want to be inde­pen­dent of this require­ment, cre­ate an emp­ty task for each project, so that you don’t check off the project as done until it actu­al­ly is.

4) Mindmap

Cre­ate your project-overview in the form of a mindmap; on paper, in a soft­ware such as Mind­Man­ag­er or with a web-ser­vice like Min​do​mo​.com. The mind-map gives you a ter­rif­ic overview and you can eas­i­ly split the project into small­er pieces before you begin defin­ing to-do-tasks.

5) Things

If you are man­ag­ing your to-do-tasks in the great soft­ware Things (avail­able for Mac), you sim­ply add your projects in a list which is always vis­i­ble in the main win­dow. You will imme­di­ate­ly clear­ly see which to-do-tasks you have defined for each project.

6) Plas­tic pock­ets in a pile

But, you might as well work com­plete­ly with­out a computer.

  1. Take a trans­par­ent A4-plas­tic pock­et for each project and write the project name on the front of it.
  2. Put all papers, notes, and so on, which belong to the project in the plas­tic pocket.
  3. At the very front, so that it shows through the front of the plas­tic pock­et, put a cov­er page where you grad­u­al­ly write down the next step (the next to-do-task) in the project.
  4. Put all project-plas­tic pock­ets in a project-pile (a pile of plas­tic pock­ets con­tain­ing only these project folders).
  5. When you want to deter­mine what the right thing to do right now is, flip though the pile and choose the to-do-task from the cov­er­sheets which has the high­est priority.

Make your choice

What for­mat you chose is up to you; the sug­ges­tions described above or some­thing else. Just bear in mind that the project-overview needs to be acces­si­ble enough for you not to think twice about tak­ing it out. Unless you are sta­tion­ary at your office the entire day, it also needs to be portable, so that you can bring it with you easily. 

If it also hap­pens to be avail­able and vis­i­ble for your col­leagues who need to be aware of where you are at in your work, it is even better. 

If you get your­self a clear project-overview which you review at reg­u­lar inter­vals, you can work more effi­cient­ly with the detailed tasks with­out wor­ry­ing about a project being neglect­ed since you eas­i­ly can con­firm that all projects are pro­gress­ing in the desired direction.

What’s your way of get­ting an overview?

How do you make sure you are mov­ing all your active projects for­ward at the pace you wish them to move? Leave a com­ment to let me and oth­ers know your thoughts.