Personal Productivity – Module 5
“The surest way to be late is to have plenty of time.”
– Leo Kennedy
Tackling New Tasks and Projects
When you’re assigned a new task or project, it’s important to create a plan at the beginning so you get off to a good start. This module will look at some different techniques that you can use to tackle new to-do items.
The Sliding Scale
When planning and organizing, try to create the right size plan for the task. If your goal is to organize your inbox, for example, it’s probably not necessary to spend several hours planning each action. On the other hand, if you’re handed a complex project, you may want to spend several days or even weeks gathering information and creating a plan.
For small tasks, basic tools such as a to-do list or calendar will probably be the best choice.
For medium-sized tasks or projects, you might want to use:
• RACI charts
• Visual timelines
And for large projects, consider:
• Gantt charts
• Project plans
• Project-specific productivity journals
• Online time tracking dashboards
A Checklist for Getting Started
For most tasks, you will need some background information before you begin. Remember, you’ll need very little information for simple tasks, and more detailed information for complex tasks.
Basic information you will gather should include:
• What is the date I will start this task? What is the deadline?
• Who else can I rely on for help?
• What are the major things that need to be completed?
• What obstacles might I encounter? How can I get around them? (For example, one of your key resources might be going on vacation in two weeks. You will want to gather all required information from them before they leave.)
• What work has already been completed?
Evaluating and Adapting
For most medium to large sized tasks, you will want to build evaluation points into your plan. Typically, these occur at key gateways (called milestones in the project management world). At these gateways, you will look at your plan, determine what is working and what is not working, and adjust as necessary.
Some other signs that it may be time to review your plan:
• You keep falling further and further behind.
• You’re not motivated to work on the project.
• You’re finding that your plan isn’t the right size for your project.
• Major changes have happened in your project.
Harry used to be a walking to-do list. Sticky notes were plastered all over his shirt sleeve. Disorganization spelled his middle name. He couldn’t make heads or tails of his assigned duties. Harry felt controlled by the chaos and asked Alex for advice. Alex told Harry that he needed to draw up a plan to tackle his mess. Together, they created the right plan for the right jobs and Harry felt the weight of the world fall off of his shoulders and one by one watched the sticky notes as they flew off of his shirt and dove into their correct plan. It became a miracle and Harry could stand proud because his work didn’t drag him down anymore and his boss would be the happiest man on earth knowing that time and money had not been wasted due to Harry’s disorganized bunch of notes.