It may sound a little odd. If you've planned your projects to a T, why would you need to plan ahead to plan your projects? As project managers, we’re often typecast as planners, but we spend a significant chunk of our day executing a fair share of the project as well.
Here’s a sampling of my execution-related daily tasks:
My team members may view all of these as planning activities, but to me, they’re small execution steps that lead to the large accomplishment of project launch.
Every time I update my project plans or budget trackers, I’m doing my duty to guide the project to the finish line. With every huddle I lead, I’m doing more than just gathering status updates from everyone in the room. The outcome of my huddles is a behind-the-scenes to-do list to ensure team members have what they need to do their jobs.
Some days, I barely get to sit at my desk for longer than 5 minutes. How does that leave any time for project planning?
We get by with approximates or estimates when asked. We wrap up meetings with a promise to send around an updated project plan. We’re constantly zooming around, and our minds are trying to resolve 20 problems at one time.
Once all issues are resolved and we’ve collected updates for every project, we need to know how the day’s events have affected plans. While there’s no doubt our project plans will get updated eventually, the bottom line is, some portion of your day needs to be spent putting together and updating your timelines.
So how do you approach the concept of project scheduling when you have no time? Well, I plan time to plan. And if you haven’t tried this, I highly suggest you incorporate it into your day.
Setting time aside specifically for project planning may seem excessive, but can be very helpful once a routine is established. This time should be spent reviewing your project plan, timelines, and any dependencies. It allows you to look at whether your project plans are still on track, what works, and what doesn’t. And when you’re able to target the failing or high-risk items, you can begin to evaluate the current approach and develop new ones to keep your project on track.
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Make time once a week to go over the project plan and determine the big accomplishments from the past week and define the goals for next week. Use this time to ensure all resources are aligned to execute against those goals. While every project plan accounts for milestones and tasks, evaluating the realistic goals and accomplishments will help you refine the plan by adding definition to your timelines where needed.
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Schedule an additional 30 minutes every day to spend time alone and reflect on the day and/or review your next day’s schedule. While I recommend that this chunk of time occur either at the beginning or end of your day, you can experiment with what works best for you.
Right now, I’m finding that the end of the day works best for me. Here’s what my daily project planning routine looks like:
With this routine, I remain on top of my game. I know it may seem tedious to schedule time every day to review and update project plans on a daily and weekly basis.
But getting into the habit ensures you stay on top of your project plans. You’re able to foresee and mitigate risks before they turn into major roadblocks. You’ll know whether your team is on track and be able to better manage your project.
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