How to Manage a Big Project and Stay Sane
For most people, the last time you had a lesson in time management was probably long before you learned to divide fractions. If the thought of organizing a big project in advance brings frightening flashbacks from college, it may be time for a refresher in the art of planning. Even if you’ve got project management under control, there are always ways to tweak and tighten your approach.
Here’s how to stay sane while managing a big project:
Make time for planning
Though it seems counterintuitive, setting aside a time simply to plan your project is incredibly worthwhile. Don’t try to check emails or catch up with a friend while laying out your strategy or planning your editorial calendar. This deserves your full focus and attention. If I’m trying to schedule my day while also attempting to multi-task, I only end up stressed and disorganized. Instead, dedicate at least an hour at the beginning of the week to sit down with your calendar and decide what days you can realistically work on your tasks. If you schedule your days in hour blocks, make sure that not every minute is booked. For example, if Wednesdays tend to be your big meeting days and you only have 12-1pm free, protect that time for lunch and a trip to the restroom rather than continuing to work full steam ahead. Plan for breaks so they don’t derail your day.
Always be looking ahead
Once you’ve got your project plan in place and broken down into sections, you shouldn’t only be looking at the part of the project you’re working on this week. When you sit down on Sunday or Monday for detailed scheduling, also look ahead to the next week—and the week after—to avoid any unpleasant surprises. This is especially helpful if there are any additional people (internal or external) you need to contact for information or project support. Giving sufficient notice prevents last-minute freak-outs when you don’t have what you need in time.
Personally, I don’t know anyone whose completed project played out exactly as they planned. Mistakes happen, people miss deadlines and parts need to be redone. These are inevitable parts of any kind of project. Instead of dwelling on these missteps, it’s important to expect and accept them, then figure out a new game plan. Remember: a good project plan isn’t “airtight” – it allows a little breathing room for incidentals so that getting off schedule by a day or two won’t be crippling. Allowing for human error is a sure way to stay stress-free.
How do you manage big projects? Let me know on Twitter: @myturnstone or @officestylist.