Simple Project Planning with Post-its

Post-it Planning
Post-it Planning

Do you have a project to do, but don’t know where to start?  Most of us don’t have access to complex project management software, nor do we want to make the time investment to learn to use it.  I’ve developed a simple project planning process that yields many of the same results without the learning curve.

1.  Get a stack of Post-its

2.  Write down each task associated with the project. Don’t worry about writing them in any order, just write as fast as the ideas come to you.  Be sure to use a new post it for each individual task.

3.  Put the post-its in order. Consider – what has to come before another step, what would be the most logical way to do the work, if there is any significant wait time, and what would be best for you?  During this process you may think of extra steps.  Create a post-it for those steps and insert them into the process.

4.  Assign a length of time it will take to complete that step to each post-it – it could be 15 minutes, an hour or a week.

5.  If you have a deadline, start with the last post-it and write the deadline on that post-it, then using the time projection, working from the last post-it forward, date each post-it with the day it is due. If you can’t make the deadline as projected, better to see that now and make adjustments from the beginning.  If there is no forced deadline, start on the first post-it and assign due dates accordingly.

6.  If there is more than one person working on the project identify whose responsibility each specific task is (note on post-it)

7.  Transfer the post-it information (in order) to a project planning grid:

Project: Blog Schedule
Task Time needed to complete Who is responsible Date Due
1. Identify frequency of blog posts, # of blog posts needed 1 hour EF 12/5/14
2. Brainstorm possible blog topics 1 week EF 12/12/14
3. Select the best 26 topics 2 hours EF 12/14/14
4. Group topics in logical flow 2 hours EF 12/16/14

Planning the project is critical to completion.  Try this for your next project and let us know how it goes.

 

Traveling for the Holidays? How Can You Get Away Without The Stress?

It’s surprising to see how many of my clients are traveling at this time of year. So much is going on that sometimes people tell me they wonder if it is even worth the effort to get out of town.  Add to that the stress of re-entry and it’s no wonder our vacations don’t do such a good job of sustaining us.  Of course I have a solution – and it is in that old fashioned form of a list.

I’m all about lists supporting you in getting the right things done, and we do that by creating zones in the list.  For travel the list I suggest looks like this:

Get Out of Town with Peace
Get Out of Town with Peace

 

To make it work for you do as follows:

  • Find a note pad
  • Divide it into 4 sections and label them as follows:
    • Must Do Before – put tasks here that MUST be done or you can’t get on the plane
    • Like To Do Before – put tasks here that would help you enjoy your trip more if you were to get them done before you leave
    • Do ASAP When Home – put tasks here that really need to be done when you get home
    • Do When Home – put the other stuff you think of here
  • Focus on the “Must Do Befores.” If you get those done move to the “Like To Do Befores”

Like everything else, when you are clear about what’s most important then doing it is easier.  And when you get on the plane you will feel peace.  Hope you have a great trip.

How to Increase Productivity and Keep Your Email from Taking Over Your Life

email
email

We seem to live in a world of 2 email camps:

  • NEVER look at your email first thing in the morning
  • ALWAYS look at your email first thing in the morning

The “NEVERS” believe that if you get caught up in email minutia you will not get your most important work.

The “ALWAYS” believe that if you don’t know what’s lurking and clear up the “must-dos” than you may miss something important.

I suspect that some of this has to do with the type of work you do and the kind of responsibilities you have.  For those that work globally, email may in fact be your primary means of communication.  For those of us in the service business we communicate with our clients via email and I personally, could NEVER not be an “ALWAYS.”

HOWEVER, it isn’t this cut and dry.  It isn’t about ALWAYS or NEVER.  Like everything, the answer lies in the grey zone.  The question is: What systems can be put in place to ensure that email doesn’t take over your life?  I’ve tried a lot of different things, and I’ve worked with my clients to try different things.  As with ALL organizing, there is no such thing as one size fits all, and no one system ALWAYS works for the same person ALL the time.  Different circumstances require different systems.  Here are a few you may want to consider:

  • Set the Timer: Commit one hour to email at the start of each day.  After the hour, shut down your email until later. (Perhaps 30 minutes before lunch, 30 minutes after lunch and another chunk of time at the end of the day).
  • 3 and Done: Review your emails deleting irrelevant emails as you read.  Select the 3 most important emails to respond to and process them.  Then turn off your email and go to work.
  • Plan first – review 2nd: The very first thing you do when you get to your desk is review your priorities and select the 3 most important things you must accomplish that day.  Perhaps processing your email is one of those 3 most important things.  It may be strategically appropriate to spend an entire morning processing email.
  • Plan your email around your calendar: If you take the train to work, train time can be great email processing time (hope you have a connection on your train), if you have a lot of phone calls with gaps in between those are great email processing time. Email doesn’t take ramp up time – project work does, fit email in the nooks and crannies.
  • Organize by Priorities: Just like your work has critical tasks so does your email.  By organizing them you will know what is most important. (http://www.ellenfaye.com/blog/2013/01/22/reducing-email-stress/#more-48).

Other tips:

  • turn off the notifications that pops up telling you you have an email each and every second.  No matter how un-ADD you are, this is bound to take you off task.
  • Google has an amazing timer built into their web search bar.  Type Timer 1 hour or Timer 30 minutes (or however much or little you want) and you’ll get a great notification pop up after that amount of time (try it now with a minute – you’ll love it).

Understand that you have way too much email and that if you try to make it black and white, you will NEVER get it right and ALWAYS feel stressed.

#1 Thing You Can Do To Reduce Holiday Stress?

Relaxed or Stressed?
Relaxed or Stressed?

Get a handle on your JOMTI.  On your what?

JOMTI – Just One More Thing-Itis!

You know that urge to squeeze one more thing in…and then it makes you late.  It makes you late for the holiday party, the concert, or puts you at the mall with only an hour left to shop.  It makes the traffic heavier, it makes the prices higher and it makes the blood pressure rise.

Now, what if instead of making that phone call, answering that email, or checking Facebook one last time you left 5 minutes earlier.  I know, it’s hard to do.  But consider the benefit.  Ask yourself – it is worth it?  Even if it was an important task, ask yourself:

  • Can it wait?
  • What if I did it later?
  • What if I didn’t get to it at all?

The trade off for doing one less thing? MORE JOY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON.

Wishing you a wonderfully joyful pre-holiday week.

 

Pull the Weeds So the Flowers Can Thrive

We weed our garden so the nutrients and water are available to the flowers. If we leave the weeds they end up sucking the vitality from the soil and our flowers might die; certainly our flowers will be healthier without them.

Are there weeds sucking the vitality out of your life? Are they on your schedule, in your self-care, on your desk?

  • Are there things on your schedule that take more than they give? Is it time to pull that weed?
  • Is there something that you can stop doing (or start doing) to take better care of yourself? Is it time to weed your choices?
  • Is there clutter in your space that’s making you less effective, stifling you, or slowing you down? Is it time to weed your space?

I’m sitting here at my desk with the window open listening to the birds singing. Certainly spring has sprung here in New Jersey. As we move into spring think about which “weeds” you can pull so the most important things in your life can thrive.

Top 3 Tips to Maximize Working from Home

A lot has been written in the news about working from home. I understand why Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo has put an end to it for her company – a lot of people who say they are working from home, do everything but work. Working from home is a privilege I wouldn’t want to lose. Here are my top 3 tips for maximizing the opportunity:

  1. Outline a Daily Plan – Be clear in what you want to accomplish. Write out specifics identifying what you want to get done. It could be a part of one big project, or many little tasks – but write it down.
  2. Make a Daily Schedule – project how much time each item on your plan is going to take and plug it into a schedule. Don’t forget the time you need to let the repairman in or to pick up your child from school. When you see your day in black-and-white it will help you from frittering time away.
  3. Create Space – I’m a huge advocate for creating effective work space. You’ll need a clear space that isn’t cluttered with distractions that take you off your game. It could be a desk, a table or a big comfy chair – but be sure that you have room to spread out. I also suggest that you have a printer close by and basic office supplies (stapler, pens, highlighters, post-its, binder clips, etc.). It’s a huge time-suck to have to keep getting up for essentials.

Time Control

Endless Tasks….Overwhelming Pressure…Desire for Results…Knowing there has to be a better way….

Escaping to Walden Pond or traveling the country via RV are definitely options – but for most of us not viable ones. Minor adjustments that cumulate for noticeable change are much more desirable. Here are some of my favorite time control techniques:

MINIMIZE THRASHING

Thrashing is the computer science term for when a system spends more time switching from task to task then actually working on the task. When we spend our time thinking about what we have to do, remembering where we were in the project, and then building up momentum to get results we are thrashing. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the meat of a project and then having to stop. I have found the best way to minimize thrashing is to plan substantial chunks of time for a project. I’ll arrange my schedule to be able to commit 2 or 3 CONTINUOUS hours to the task. While it may be hard to find those uninteruptable hours it sure is worth it when the project is done!    Continue reading »