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Easy Project Organization in 10 Minutes Flat

Easy Project Organization in 10 Minutes Flat
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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