Happy New Year and welcome to 2012!
It’s that time of year again … the time when we take stock of the year that was and set our goals and intentions for the year ahead. And quite likely, as a business owner, this is a time of year when you revise your business plan and systems and start planning projects for the next 12 months.
I’m very happy to say that last week I finished planning my projects for the year ahead. Now comes the fun part … implementing them! Planning is futile if it’s not accompanied by focused action.
One of colleagues asked me the other day how I plan my projects. So I thought, as well as sharing my technique with her, I’d share it with you too.
To start, I make myself comfortable with lots of paper and coloured pens. Some people like to use their computer, others a white-board. Everyone’s different and it’s important to do what suits your needs best. But personally, it’s paper and coloured pens that work best. With a white-board, but that comes in later.
Next, I start by listing all the projects I want to accomplish within the next year – or six months or whatever. For me, I tend to work on a yearly basis.
This also includes things such as updating existing sites, revamping existing products and so on.
Then I prioritise them – I rewrite each project in the order that I’ll be working on it. It’s extremely important not to spread yourself too thin. If you have five projects you want to complete, working on all five at once can be more challenging and distracting, often taking longer to achieve any real results.
But by working on just one project at a time you can give it 100% of your focus and then, once that’s completed, move on to project #2.
So that’s my MASTER PLAN – an overall plan that is purposely kept very simple.
The next step is to start the process again, but this time just focus on whichever project you prioritised as #1. Now it’s time to break that down into each individual task that you need to do to complete this project, again prioritised into Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and so on.
You can also put dates alongside these projects and/or steps to help keep you on track, particularly if any of these projects have set deadlines. Sometimes you may find that giving yourself a deadline helps you stay motivated too.
By being detailed in my planning and having everything I need to do to complete a project outlined, I find it much easier to focus on what needs to be done. For example, when I start my work day tomorrow I don’t have to spend any time thinking about what I need to do … and don’t need to worry about forgetting tasks. It’s all written down for me.
I simply go to my list for Project #1 and start with the first thing on the list. When that’s done, I cross it off and move on to Step 2.
Now, remember I said earlier that it’s best to work on just one project at a time? That’s the ideal way to work, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes you may need to be working on two or more projects at once. And this can still be effective, particularly if you have a good team working with you – this team could be staff, partners or contractors.
In that case, what I find best is to divide my available time into the required number of time-slots and commit to a different project in each time-slot. For me, I work on Project 1 on Monday and Wednesday and Project 2 on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is dedicated to marketing sites and general planning.
And although I try to not ‘work’ on the weekend, I must admit, I am often so keen to progress with whatever I’m working on that I can’t help myself. So the weekends are spent working on whatever I happen to feel like. 🙂
This is a quick summary of the system that works best for me. Please feel welcome to start using the same technique for your own planning and adapt it to suit what works best for you.