Efficiently Tracking Projects for Time Management
 
 
Efficiently Tracking Projects for Time Management

There are many effective ways to keep track of projects. There are options like electronic PDA's (Personal Digital Assistants), a variety of software choices, and the old tried-and-true handwritten system.

When it comes down to it, managing and tracking projects are about empowerment. The more efficient you are in keeping a project moving forward, the more likely you are to get it done. Taking the necessary steps to reach that success, requires being empowered along the way.

To track and manage a project of any kind, there are some fundamental questions that have to be examined and answered. Some of these include:

1. How much actual time is needed to accomplish the project?

Most failed projects fail because not enough time was allocated to complete them. Expectations based only on desire, and not on reality, almost always create problems from the start. Examine, or find out, what's driving the fixed completion date. Is it a must, or is there some flexibility in the date?

If there are problems from the outset, that is sign that the project may not succeed. Beware the red flags!

2. Every project needs a champion – someone that guides it and maintains the larger picture when tunnel vision happens. If it's your project, then you're "it."

If you're part of a team effort, is there a designated champion? If not, find out who will take on this crucial position. Without a champion, the project is at risk of failing. Teams require a leader who will keep them focused and moving forward. A good leader can rise above the details, challenges, and temporary road blocks.

3. "The devil's in the details."

Every project has myriad details. As you saw when we looked at prioritizing, you simply can't keep everything in your head and be effective.

Break the project down into its smallest details. Outline what's necessary to accomplish the entire project. Then, assign a time frame to accomplish each segment.

Exercise 1.

Think about a project you have to get done. It may be something you haven't yet begun, or even something you've been putting off doing. Now's a good time to focus on it!


Write down below, the outcome that you want.

__________

__________

__________

Now think backwards. What steps would you have taken that would have allowed you to accomplish the project? Write them down below, starting from the end to the beginning.

a. _____

b. _____

c. _____

d. _____

e. ______

f. _____

g. ______

h. _____

i. _____

j. _____

k. _____

l. _____

Now go back and see what the smaller benchmarks were that you needed to achieve those steps. There may be small details you may have overlooked. If the project, for instance, is to install something in your house or office, you'll need to measure the space first. You may need to make some phone calls to find who carries a part, or do some research on the Internet to locate different models before you make your choice of products.

a.
_____

b. _____

c. _____

d. _____

e. _______

f. _____

g. _______

h. _____

i. _____

j. _____

k. _____

l. _____

Recognizing and managing details are what makes or breaks a project. Managing and tracking the details are critical.

4. Teamwork.

Teamwork is great when you have it, but it may not be so easy when there are snags. If you're working on a project as part of a team, clear communication is vital to your project's success.

Keep everyone on the same page. Have regular, short meetings to be sure everyone remains clear on their part in the project, and to iron out any snarls or road blocks. Make sure everyone gets heard. Use the team to brainstorm solutions.

If and when, changes occur, make sure everyone on the team is informed of these changes right away, to avoid creating problems or mistakes. Have all emails and memos be clear, concise, and to the point.

5. Keep projects organized. Update your project outline and plan, when each new action is taken.

Use a good system to track your project. We'll address this in a later session. For now, make sure the system you use is simple enough to detail what you need, yet complex enough to manage changes, additions, and subtractions, which any project will normally go through.
Managing for Accomplishment

Okay, we've worked on a lot of the basics, so far – beliefs, goal setting, what it means to manage projects, prioritizing, making room for dream projects, how to get the results you want, and tracking projects. You've gained some skills and learned a lot so far.

Now for the bad news. You can't manage time, not really.

What you actually do is manage activities and results. Keeping your focus on activities and results is the key to reaching your goals, and to finally achieving that dream project of yours.

It's useful to keep your eye on, not only the details you need to manage, but also on how you manage them. Try to do everything and you will get wiped out fast. Finding a balance is the best and only way to get things done. This is especially true as you get more skilled at managing your time and begin taking on more to-do's.

Let's look at some useful techniques to build your ability in self-management, and to manage for results.

First, let's bust a myth here! Multitasking, contrary to popular belief, doesn't work well. Doing things that you're not very skilled at, requires your undivided attention. Multitasking takes twice as long, so focus! You may think that you're saving time by doing several things at once but studies show the opposite is usually true. Focus 100 percent of your attention on each task and watch it go more smoothly.
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Next, organize tasks into blocks for efficiency. Group similar activities together to save yourself time.

Learn how to engage in group activities. Groups accomplish more together than any one person can do alone.

Here's a article many of us could stand to learn, or relearn. Sometimes you need to say, "No." It's hard for a lot of us to do that, especially those of us who are type A's, but it's important to learn. Without it, we get wrung out, exhausted, and we don't know why. It's really alright to say no sometimes, even to those people or projects that are important. It's important to take care of your own needs and your own well-being. We all have to recharge our batteries on a regular basis. Saying no occasionally helps us do that.

Along with saying no, you have to manage your personal time, and your family's too. Don't get yourself, or your family, over-scheduled. Try to do what's manageable for all concerned.

Exercise 1.

Take a moment to examine your daily routine. Where in your life have you said, "Yes," when a, "No," would have been more appropriate or more empowering? Write that down.

__________

__________

__________

Now, looking at what you've just written, how could you turn this around? What could you do that would give you some breathing room, some time for yourself? Or, what could you do, or who would you have to talk with, to shift things so that it wouldn't be a burden or a drain on you? Write that down.

__________

__________

__________

Now put a time frame on that. When will you take the steps you just said, to make a difference in your life? Don't put it off. Set a time that's soon, so you can begin making the shift in your life that counts.

Here are a few more useful ways to manage time for results.

Be sure to schedule some quiet time. Too much soccer, baseball, debate club, and other activities can wreak havoc, not only with you or your kids, but also with your kids' homework, emotional well-being, and health. Some quiet family time allows everyone to relax and reconnect. Quiet time is more important than one more activity.

There is also an element of time management that we often forget. Focus on "now." Do today what's in front of you to do, every day. This will help you take care of the coming tomorrows and all their challenges.

No one is a master of everything. Learn to delegate! Let others help you, by doing what they're good at. Be sure to give clear instructions to them before they start. This will avoid mistakes or confusion and save time.

Want to avoid burnout? It can happen both at work and at home. When we keep doing things we don't enjoy, or that are difficult, and use up a lot of energy, at some point, we start to drag, maybe even get sick. There's a remedy to help avoid this pitfall.

Learn to ask for help. BUT first, decide what's really important. Many times we fill our schedules with "stuff" that isn't so useful, or even important. It's time to make some decisions about priorities, so you have time for the things that really matter.

Exercise 2.

Take a look at what you do every day. Is there an area of your daily or weekly routine that you could delegate or get assistance with? Wouldn't those things help get the job done more quickly, or more easily? Write that down.

__________

__________

__________

Now think of who you could ask for help, or to delegate that task. If the task is large, are there several people you could ask to get involved? Who can you enlist in this project? Write that down.

It's not wrong to ask for help. You may need to rethink how you feel about this. It's not that you aren't able to do the task; it's the old adage, "Two heads are better than one." A group gets things done much more quickly and efficiently than one.

Don't forget to schedule time for friends and family. This is where the fun and energy of life really is, where we can be ourselves, and let our hair down. We all need this, yet, this is an area of life that we often neglect in the name of "getting things done." Make this time a priority. You'll notice the difference.

Let's examine an area of our lives that we often fail to notice. We all have things that happen repetitively in our lives, things that we can count on to happen. Here's a useful question to ask yourself:

What can you put on autopilot in your life? If you could reduce those mildly annoying, or simply repetitive tasks, or repetitive situations in your life, would that make a difference for you? Would there be just a little less stress in your life?

Exercise 3.

List at least three things that occur in your life (personal or professional) that are repetitive.

1. __________
2. __________

3. __________
4. __________

Now list which of those things that you could put on autopilot, so that it wouldn't take so much of your attention every time it occurs. What action could you put into place that would be more efficient than how you handled that action in the past?

1. __________

2. __________

3. __________
4. __________
Okay. Now, to something so simple we often don't even give it much thought, except when it happens. Where do you waste time in lines (queues) and how can you avoid them?

Consider the everyday things like lines at the bank, or that long line when you drop the kids off at school, or others. Why not find a way to unblock that wasted time?

How about trying something different? Why not bank online and save actually going to the bank for those few situations where you have to meet someone face-to-face. Or, try dropping the kids off at school a block away to avoid the long lines. Think of other ways you could avoid some of the lines you deal with regularly. Be a little creative. Finding free time is a great reward!

Here's something else to think about. The world won't end, if you don't do everything on your list today. I heard a saying once along the lines of, "There's always more to do in a day than there is time in a day. So, we can only do the best we can today."

I don't mean "the best' as an excuse. It's a statement meaning that you've stretched yourself to accomplish more than you thought you could do, and you're satisfied with that. That's all anyone can really ask of us.


To really manage yourself and your activities so you get great results, requires putting some balance into your life. Balance comes with thinking creatively, being unwilling to put up with the annoying moments that we can do something about. The more balanced we are, the more we are able to manage time well. It seems like empowering ourselves is quite useful, don't you think?
 
 
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