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Top 5 Benefits of Using Gantt Charts for Your Projects

Top 5 Benefits of Using Gantt Charts for Your Projects

If you are involved in a lot of projects at work, you need a way to be able to stay fully organized, to get things done in the best possible way, and to finish projects on time. So, what you really need is to start using Gantt Charts. What are Gantt Charts? Well, if you are not an expert in project management, you may not be familiar with these charts. But once you do familiarize yourself with them, you will wonder how you ever got projects completed without them.

So, let’s start out by talking about what a Gantt Chart actually is. A Gantt Chart is simply a project management technique that helps you to plan activities and track all project schedules. It is a terrific way to be able to display all of the tasks involved with a given project against time. Basically, it is a simple chart that tells you what you need to do and when you need to do it. The left side of the chart shows the tasks that need to be completed, and the right side is used as a timeline. Each activity is shown on the timeline by a bar that shows how long the activity should take.

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Benefits of Using Gantt Charts

There are several benefits of using Gantt Charts, and all of them involve making your job a whole lot easier. Here, we are going to discuss the top five benefits of using these charts to help you get projects completed on time.

1. Organize Your Thoughts

This is an excellent way to be able to keep your thoughts organized while you are working on projects. When you are able to organize thoughts, you can compartmentalize the various parts of each project, and this makes it a lot easier to get things done. You can do little things one by one and see results, rather than focusing on everything all at once and getting nothing done.

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2. Track Your Progress

When you have a Gantt Chart to look at, you can see how much progress you are making on projects you are working on. You can use the chart to prioritize high level tasks and to allocate tasks so you get the most important things completed first. You will always know whether you are on track and what still needs to be done.

3. Set Realistic Time Frames

Because the right side of the Gantt Chart is a timeline, you will be able to see what you are doing, when certain tasks need to be done, and how long it should take you to complete tasks. Make sure when you are setting time frames that you take into consideration other things that you will need to do during the same time frame. This will help you prepare for or avoid interruptions in your work that could keep you from getting things done.

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4. Clear Things Up

Often, diagrams and charts can be a lot easier to read than paragraphs of information. Gantt Charts give you the information you need in diagram and chart form so that you can see the whole picture and understand it completely. This is much clearer than having to piece together bits of information and figure it all out on your own.

5. Keep Your Team Informed

When you place the Gantt Chart in an area where your entire team can see it, everyone can stay on top of things and get projects completed faster. The Gantt Chart will let everyone know what the objectives are, when tasks are to be completed, and the process you will use to complete them. This will make a huge difference in how your team performs, and projects will get completed much better and faster.

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Featured photo credit: Startup Stock Photos via pexels.com

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Jane Hurst

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Published on October 5, 2020

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

I think we’re all familiar with that feeling of needing to solve a problem, trying way too hard, getting frustrated, and then throwing our hands up in defeat. For example, when my editor assigned me this topic, the structure and concept of the piece weren’t instantly clear to me. I had to problem-solve to figure out how to even begin. But problem-solving isn’t quite so linear. It’s not just a matter of brute force. You can’t just muscle your way through. This is where creative problem solving comes in.

Creative problem solving is about using what we know about how the brain works to come up with outside-the-box solutions to creative problems. Sure, we can do things the same way we’ve always done them. Or we can try creative problem solving, which means we spend time ideating (a.k.a. brainstorming), collaborating, ruminating, and refining to land on better and more novel solutions than we could have if we tried to force or rush a solution.

Stages of Creative Problem Solving

There’s no right or wrong way to try creative problem solving, but there are some stages that can help you integrate it into your creative process. Here are the 4 stages of creative problem solving

1. Ideating/Brainstorming

If we’re using creative problem solving, we’re not just going with the first idea that pops into our heads. Brainstorming is crucial to come up with more novel solutions.

One of the most important things to keep in mind during brainstorming is that this is not the time to evaluate or judge ideas. The goal of ideating is to come up with as many ideas as possible.

There’s an improvisation rule called “Yes, And” or the rule of agreement that can help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.[1] The idea is simple. If you’re brainstorming in a group and someone tells you an idea, you need to go along with that idea. That’s the “Yes” part of “Yes, And.” Then, you can take it a step further by trying to add to that person’s idea.

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Let’s say you and your team are trying to figure out how to rebrand your shoe company. Your colleague says you could use a mascot. If you’re using improv’s “Yes, And” rule, you might agree and say that the mascot could be a shoe or a sock or a lonely sock looking for a shoe.

During the ideation stage, no one should be worried about which ideas are good and which are bad. Everyone is trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, and everyone should be trying to make the most of everyone else’s ideas.

“Yes, And” can also work if you’re creative problem solving alone. Instead of discarding ideas, you should be saying yes to your ideas, writing them all down, and trying to make all of them as workable as possible. But before you get too far in your creative process, it’s important to run your ideas by someone else.

2. Collaboration

I know sometimes you don’t want to share your ideas with other people. Maybe you’re self-conscious or you just don’t think that your idea is ready for prime time. However, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and let other people join your creative process if you want to reach the best possible creative solution.

When we’re working in a team, it’s important to not judge each other’s ideas until we’re safely in the final stage of the creative problem-solving process. That means no critiques, no evaluations, and no snarky comments. Not yet, at least.

The reason to hold off on evaluating ideas at this stage is that some people tend to shut down if their ideas are judged too early. There’s a concept called creative suppression that occurs when people stop a creative pursuit temporarily due to feeling judged, shamed, or embarrassed.[2] Even worse, creative mortification is when judgment, shame, or embarrassment makes you quit your creative pursuit altogether.

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When you’re collaborating with others while creative problem solving, you don’t want to shut anyone down. The more people who are actively engaged in the creative process the better.

In improv, there’s something called “group mind.” The basic idea is that a group can come up with a better solution than any single individual. It makes sense since each person in the group enters the creative process with their own strengths, knowledge, background, experience, and ideas. That means that when the group is working harmoniously, the best contributions of each individual will be reflected in the team’s solution, making that solution far better than what any individual could have come up on their own.

So, find someone you trust and lay the ground rules for your collaboration. Tell each other that you won’t be judging each other’s work just yet to bring out the best and make it as creative and effective as possible.

3. Pause

It can seem counterintuitive to pause during the creative process. But to tap into the creative unconscious parts of your brain, you need to stop forcing it and let your mind wander.

The part of your brain that you’re using to understand this article right now is not necessarily the part that’s going to come up with the most novel solution to your problem. To start using your creative unconscious brain, you need to take a break.

Have you ever had that experience of struggling with a problem and then effortlessly figuring it out while you were showering or walking the dog? That’s your unconscious brain doing the heavy lifting.

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This part of the brain can’t be forced into creative problem solving, so stop consciously obsessing about your problem for a while. Take a walk. Go for a drive. Let your mind wander. Dream. This gives your unconscious mind a chance to sort information and come up with some truly novel solutions.

The bonus to letting your unconscious take over is that it’s effortless. Conscious thought requires you to burn lots of energy, while unconscious doesn’t. So, stop trying so hard and let ideas come to you.

4. Refine

At some point, you’re going to have to start evaluating, eliminating, and refining your ideas to get to the best solution. But if you’ve brainstormed, collaborated, and ruminated enough, you should have plenty of material to work with.

An Example of Creative Problem Solving

I think it’s helpful to walk through an example of creative problem-solving in action. Let’s go back to the example of me writing this article.

First, I was presented with the problem, so I started brainstorming and “Yes, And”-ing myself. I thought about everything I already know about creative problem solving and did some preliminary research, but I still didn’t have a structure or theme to tie my ideas together.

Once the problem was marinating in my mind, I started talking to people. I talked to an old friend about my initial ideas about the article, but I still didn’t have any words on the page just yet.

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Then, one morning, the article seemed to come fully formed while I was showering. I could see which examples would work best and how to structure the article. So, I sat down to write and refine the ideas. During the refining stage, I swung back to the collaboration stage when my editor further refined and improved my ideas.

It’s important to remember that these four stages of creative problem solving aren’t linear. They’re circular. After I refine an idea, I can go back to brainstorming, collaborating, and pausing as needed to develop and improve that idea.

Bottom Line

Creative problem solving is, first and foremost, creative. You have to give yourself time and space to be able to reflect and ruminate. It’s also important to collaborate as necessary to improve your ideas with the help of other people.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t force creative problem-solving. Forcing it only leads to frustration and failure, so give yourself some time and a team you trust to come up with the best possible solution to your problem.

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Featured photo credit: Per Lööv via unsplash.com

Reference

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