Project management is hard! Or maybe not really. Whether you are a team of one or running a small business, we have some tips from our own experience on helping you make project management an easy, painless part of your work life.
SET UP A ROUTINE AND FOLLOW IT
We check our project management system every morning. It’s the first thing we do after pouring a hot cup of coffee of course. From here we are able to gauge how the day (and also the week) is going to unfold. We know who we owe deliverables to, who we need to check in on, what timelines need to be adjusted, and so forth and so on. This used to be hard to do in the beginning (as new routines usually are), but now it occurs like clockwork. We stay on top of things and our clients know what’s going on with their project and how to access various pieces and history.
BULLET LISTS OVER PARAGRAPHS
We are living in a time when people get lost in long paragraphs where they’re hoping you’ll get to the point. Often times they’ll skim or skip over parts, meaning there is no way to guarantee they got the right information you were trying to give them. For this reason, bullet lists are always easier to digest over long paragraphs. When you are talking about items you need from your client to get started on a project, or steps they need to take for the best way to provide you with feedback, a bullet or numbered list will help them easily understand what you are telling them, and keep their head in the game.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
We’ve heard countless times stories of clients who check in with their contractor or design studio to try and find out what’s up with their project. A few days later the next version of the project arrives happily in their inbox and all is right with the world. But the problem is, there were several days where the client was in limbo and not sure what to expect.
Managing expectations with your client is very important. How should they expect to hear from you (email? project management system? phone call?). Of course no one wants a client calling their phone at dinner time or while you’re out for a night on the town with your friends. In most cases, a client just needs to know that you’re working on their project or request. So, when they check in and say “Hey, just wanted to get an update on this….” that doesn’t mean they are looking for the completed piece now. A response would be “Hi Jim, thanks for checking in. We’re more than halfway through this part of the project. We’ll have your deliverable to you on Friday.” You continue working, and they continue not worrying because everything is alright.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
We use Basecamp2 and are very happy with it. It took us a couple different test runs with a handful of systems to land here. We don’t think there is one universal system that works for everyone. You will have to try them out if you go this route. The best project management system is the one that you actually use.