One of the easiest things you can do when starting a new project is create a bunch of ideas. These ideas come naturally because you are so enthusiastic with the thought of something new and potentially beneficial to you or your business ventures. But, you soon see that all those ideas become incredibly hard to sift through and organize into a project.

Project organization can seem like it takes forever, especially if you get caught “in the weeds” of the details of your project. The fact is that initial project organization, for almost any size project, can take as little as 10 minutes if you follow these simple steps.

2 Minutes – Define

Take the first 2 minutes of your planning sessions to write out the goal of the project. Answer these questions to further solidify the goal:

  1. What is the purpose of the project and what will it accomplish?
  2. How will you know when you are done with this project?
Answering these two questions is essential to organize any project. Without knowing what you are trying to accomplish and what done looks like you won’t be able to identify the right tasks and actions moving forward.

1 Minute – Identify

Take the next 1 minute to identify the single next, physical action of your project. If you are a GTD nerd then you know all about the power of the next action and how it can propel you to get form “I don’t know what the heck I am doing” to “one step closer to done.”

When I say “the next, physical action”, I mean that exactly. If you need to call someone to get a quote on a new set of tires but you don’t know the number of the tire guy, then you next action would be “Google tire guy’s number”. That seems obvious, but it can also be quite subtle.

Rather than say my next action is to “think about ‘x’”, ‘x’ being anything under the sun, make my next action “draft 10 reasons why I want to ‘x’”. This gives you a next action that is physical and something that is accomplishable.

It may seem extreme, but identifying your next action gives you a stake in the ground to start from. Since you identified what the project will look like when it’s done, you now have the starting point and the ending point.

5 Minutes – Organize

The next 5 minutes is spent organizing the next steps of your project. This is where you can become too detailed if you aren’t careful; don’t let that happen to you. Instead of analyzing why a certain task will be the best one to do after another certain task, which tasks can be parallel to one another, or what are all the major and minor dependencies of tasks and sub-projects, simply find the tasks that can be done at any time or have a natural order to them.

You don’t have to plan the entire project in a matter of 5 minutes, what you need to do is organize a list of tasks in a natural order to move the project past the next physical action. You can always come back and do another 10 minute project planning session to finish your project organization.

2 Minutes – Review

Now that you have the bulk of your project organization out of the way, take the last 2 minutes to step back and review your project. If you see any glaring things that need to be changed before you dive in or pass it off to a coworker, take care of them now. Make sure that you next action is truly a next action. Ensure that your list of subsequent actions are laid out naturally and aren’t full of awkward dependencies.

Lastly, quickly go over the goal of the project and what will be true in your world when the project is completed successfully.

There isn’t anything like being able to take a large amount of ideas and snippets of actions and quickly put them together into a full fledge project in 10 minutes. It helps keep the momentum of the ideas flowing and greatly reduces the resistance between idea andaction. While this simple plan may not work for a project like “build a replica of Taj Mahal”, many of the projects that we need to accomplish for our work and lives can be organized in a matter of 4 steps and 10 minutes.

(Photo credit: An image of a hand with a pen drawing a sketch via Shutterstock)

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