Staying Organized as a Project Manager

November 5, 2010

Keeping all of the balls in the air

Staying organized in any endeavor, much less while managing a project, is a task that most people find daunting. The sheer number of task management, to-do list, and organizational software you find with a simple Google search can be mind boggling. Is software the answer to organization though? If software is the answer to staying organized, how did people stay organized in the time before computers? Let’s take a look at some alternate methods for keeping a project organized that don’t involve another URL to remember or gadget to beep at you.

Technology is not always the answer

Lorie Marrero (2007) outlines seven organizational concepts that can help you get organized without adding to the digital detritus that already dominates our lives. Her tips are to:

1. Be decisive

2. Give everything a parking spot

3. Plan ahead

4. Assume laziness is the norm

5. Put things right where you need them

6. Have duplicates when it makes sense

7. Batch up your tasks

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “A place for everything and everything in its place”. All of Marrero’s steps boil down to that simple concept. You can be decisive and give everything a parking spot by making a decision about what’s important to your project and what is not according to your project plan (that whole planning ahead step) and then assigning the important items to their proper place in the queue. People want to accomplish tasks in the easiest manner possible, so keeping information that is used often in an easy to access location or near to where it will be used, like keeping a work break down structure list near the project team’s work area, helps to insure that information and data are readily available.

Checklists, check!

According to Jeremy Glennon (2009), getting into the routine of writing out a list of assignments will not only give you something to refer back to in case you forget what you need to be doing, but the simple act of writing down your action items helps them stick in your mind. Lists also give you a visual representation of tasks being competed. When you’re deep in the throes of some nebulous code it can be nice to look at the task list and see all of those crossed out projects that have been completed. Lists allow you to see the forest instead of the trees. Never under estimate the morale benefits of seeing tasks completed. Knowing that you really aren’t the only person doing work on the project can be a real help during those late nights alone in the office.

No man is an island

As project managers we can be tempted to focus in on the “manager” part of our title and forget the “project” part. Our jobs, first and foremost, are to start, run, and complete projects in order to provide increased business value and, ultimately, revenue. Realize that the other members of your project team are there to help you accomplish this goal, but this doesn’t have to be solely achieved by simply doing the work. WikiHow says that having a team member review your work can be a beneficial motivator to keep your house in order. Sure, the stakeholders in the project are also going to be receiving status updates, but it can be nice to have someone who won’t be directly impacted by your performance or in a position of authority over you to give you a friendly nudge if you happen to be straying from your charter.

In closing…

Staying organized can be a challenge; arguably the biggest challenge of managing a project. If you can utilize these techniques for staying organized you will have overcome your biggest hurdle. Just remember to make decisions effectively, assign tasks and meetings to their own designated area, plan ahead, put things like assignment lists and tools of the trade close to where they will be used, and have someone not in a position of authority look over your progress regularly.

Glennon, Jeremy. (2009, May 2). How to Stay Organized: Day-to-Day Rules to Live in an Organized Way. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-stay-organized-a114356. (2010, November 5).

How to Stay Organized. (n.d.). Retrieved from wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Stay-Organized

Marrero, Lorie. (2007, March 13). Don’t Just Get Organized, Stay Organized! 7 Concepts That Stick. Retrieved from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/dont-just-get-organized-stay-organized-7-concepts-that-stick.html. (2010, November 5).

By: Phil Stilber

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One Response to “Staying Organized as a Project Manager”

  1. Sean Maher said

    Great write-up, I think my biggest takeaway from this weres the steps that improve the efficiency.

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