We live in the digital age and we’re constantly bombarded with new technologies, conversations, and other demands on our time. It gets to be a real challenge at times to focus!
For myself, I have to keep work and home life as separate as possible so that when I’m at the office, I’m dedicated and engaged in client projects and requests, or in running our business. However, with usually dozens of projects in the pipe and ongoing daily website requests, how do we manage it all? Each project has its own tasks, goals, team members, etc and throughout the day we get content requests, tweaks, and sometimes emergencies. We always have a lot of things going on.
Three things: process, tools, and experience. Keep in mind, this is just the approach that works for me, that’s evolved over the 15 years that I’ve worked on client projects.
On an ongoing basis, I maintain a priority list of tasks that I need to get done. This is more a shorthand ‘To Do’ list, that I keep open in Notepad. At the top of the text document, I have all the priority items, but use the bottom to type out quick notes to myself. So basically, I’m using it as an actual physical notepad. At the start of the day, I review my ‘To-Do’ items but revise it through the day as new requests come in and tasks get completed.
If I see a task that will only take a few minutes, I tackle it immediately to get it off my list.
For scheduling, I use Google Calendar and am religious about making appointments. I’ll even block out 1 or 2-hour blocks of time on projects that needed dedicated time allocated.
Then for the larger projects, with many moving pieces, I use Project Management software to manage the task details, team assignments, communication and other documentation. My favorite is Redmine but also use Trello, Basecamp, Jira, Gitlab, and even just Google Docs depending on the project.
I’ve already mentioned a few of the tools that make managing projects easier but there’s a few more that I’d also like to mention:
- Redmine is a task-oriented project management tool that allows you to break a project into separate ‘issues’ and assign them to different team members. You can set the estimated time, status, and include as much information as needed. Whenever any update is made to an issue, you can be notified by email. This is great for organizing massive amounts of issues.
- Trello is like a bunch of post-it notes on a board. You can put bits of information into each note and move them from column to column, and assign to members as needed. This is very scrum-ish and is great for fast-moving projects with lots of different teams.
- Google Sheets is a great way to quickly write out task summaries and prioritize or for bug tracking. With the built-in sharing and commenting, it makes for an a simple and quick solution.
- Dropbox allows us to share tons of files seamlessly across our different locations and between each other without even thinking about it. That way, our assets are all synced up.
- Gmail is always needed, providing stable and secure email but also for their terrific searching capabilities. There are times when I have to go back 8 years to pick up an old conversation from a project.
With all the different technologies, personalities, deadlines, etc it’s hard to keep focus. Having a good process and tools helps but it’s also experience that makes a difference. Over the years, we can recognize which requests need more immediate attention, where problems may arise, and where things can be streamlined.
It reminds me of a guy I used to play racquetball with years ago when I was working at General Mills named Charlie. I was just a young man of 19 at the time, and he was in his fifties. I was quick on my feet, with a quick return, and plenty of power. He planned his shots and was always precise. He won every time. Similarly, if you approach projects in a steady, strategic manner you can get so much more done and not waste all your energy.