How to make time management and project management so simple yet actionable so that I don’t need to read and re-read books and notes to keep up with effective planning and execution? This what I came up with – a pair of three’s. One set of three principles for planning and another set of three principles for execution and delivering. Of course there is a lot more to that, but I would attribute the rest to the techniques. Once the principles in places it would inform the techniques to be used and applied. Here they are:
Following 3 principles are for the planning phase, before you start working.
- Identify Projects. What are the key few projects I want to be involved? Test case: can I quickly list it? If not, the planning is done wrong. If I cannot name the projects I try first to name the themes. Examples : Security, Performance, Cloud, and Knowledge Management.
- Identify Project’s Goals. What are the goals or deliverables for each project? Test case: can I list the deliverables for each project? If not, the planning is done wrong. Project is not about doing things, it’s about achieving outcomes. If it’s hard to define the deliverables I try to think about what would be a quick win for a project, it then becomes the goal/deliverable and informs the execution. Examples: Security Threat Model for module X, Performance issue Y’s culprit identified and solution provided, Cloud deployment Z validated from ops perspective.
- Create a Timeline. What’s the timeline and milestones? Test case: are the project goals tied to hard dates? If not, the planning is done wrong. The goals will never be achieved and deliverables will never be delivered.
Following are three principles for execution and delivering once the plan is in place.
- Time box. Chunk the project goals and deliverables into smaller pieces and tie them to the smaller time boxes – weekly, daily, hourly. Test case: can I quickly tell how much time I will be spending today (this week) on project’s X deliverable Y? If I cannot tell how much time I am going to spend on project’s deliverable at any given time – the deliverable won’t be delivered.
- Prioritize. Do less reject more. Test case: is it what I am doing of priority? The projects, the goals, and the timeline identified during the planning inform the prioritization, if I am doing something that doesn’t fit in, I am spending time for irrelevant un-important stuff. Drop it.
- Is it still relevant? Nothing is ever static. Test case: is the project of relevance? Test case: is the deliverable of relevance? Test case: is the timeline still valid?
So here you are – when planning – use the three principles for planning, when delivering – use the other three. Simple.
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Image by Jason Staten