Managing Projects at Work

I'm going to take a look at how I manage projects at work and try to bring in some actions items I can bring into The Ordently Methodology.

I consider myself to be extremely productive at work. I've worked at several companies over the past 10 years and have received reviews that have specifically praised my ability to break down complex projects and get them done.

I'm often working on a few projects at a time, but there is always one focal project that I put more of an effort on. I only handle one project that has a hard deadline. This is a hard rule that I have learnt to set. This is something that has drastically improved my productivity and my mental health.

If something else comes up, I make it a point to mention that focusing on the new project would involve drastically increasing the timeline for the other focal project I'm working on.

Have only one personal project where most of your effort goes into. You can run a few projects, but only one gets the meat of your attention.

As a soft rule, what I try to do is keep Fridays open for the other projects that I work on. The goal on that day is to move the needle forward in progress or add more information or learn more about the project that makes it easier for me to jump into next week. I find it a healthy habit to shuffle between progress and learning every week so that you don't feel like you're stalling on just one front - If I did some learning last week, I try to do progress this week.

Keep 20% of your time scheduled to work on other projects. Be mindful to track this as the other projects deserve some love too.

As you progress doing your focal project, you start getting more comfortable with it. You end up in a position where you are able to get most of your weeks worth of tasks done in 2 or 3 days. In this case, what I try to do is use the 10-30% of additional time you save into working on your non focal projects.

If you're ahead of schedule on your focal project, use the saved time to work on your non focal projects. Don't use it to reduce the deadline.

Projects often have an end-date. If your end date is too far away or keeps getting pushed, you're doing it wrong. Here are some tips on how to run projects:

  • Set the scope, make sure its small and simple
  • Create multiple sequential projects if it is spans across months
  • Celebrate each project completions - communicate your work, even if its small.
  • Scope creep? Push it to a short follow-up project if it drastically affects end-date
  • Make sure you have at least 20-30% cushion time. This should be part of the estimate
  • If a project involves multiple people/departments, try to break it down into async non blocking projects.
  • Orchestration Projects - schedule this in advance if it involves other blocking projects to be completed.

A project should be simple and achievable in a fairly short amount of time! If something takes longer than a month or two, try and break it down into smaller projects.

One of things I diligently do is followup on project stats at least once a week in detail. This helps orient myself in some ways:

  • Is the project on track?
  • Is the project dealing with some potential roadblocks?
  • Is there something missing in the project?

If you've come across something that needs addressing, take a step back and reorient yourself. This happens all the time, but its fixable. Reset the scope, agree on a new deadline and continue on the new path.

If you've hit some sort of bump on the track to completion, take a step back, reorient yourself and move forward.