Often in the creative world, if you have three weeks to do something, many times it will take you the full three weeks to do it. But, if you’re like me and have procrastinated until the last second, then it seems like suddenly you’re able to accomplish so much more in a short amount of time.
One way to avoid this time ambiguity is through project planning. By planning out what you have to do and setting aside how long it will take you to do it, you not only make sure that nothing gets lost through the cracks, but that you’re not scrounging at the last second to get everything done. Here are some basic guidelines that apply to most projects that can help you get through your next endeavor.
First and foremost all projects start with a deadline – When’s it due? Deadlines can usually be broken down into two basic types – there are those that are pre-established, and there are those that are project driven. Pre-established deadlines are similar to the normal due dates for things we deal with every day. Project driven deadlines are created after it’s been determined how long it will take to do something. These kinds of deadlines are better with teams and accountability partners because of a task’s tendency to expand to the time allotted. If the task ‘takes as long as it takes’ there needs to be some accountability to make sure that everyone stays within a reasonable amount of time.
Regardless if your working with an established deadline, or if you’re determining your deadline, the first step is to break down the larger project into separate sections. They can be the planning stages, then different phases of the project, and finally project wrap up steps. When I worked in video, there were three distinct parts to every production: preproduction (planning), production (execution), and post-production (putting it all together). Each one of these larger sections got it’s own block on the calendar first.
Then, once you have your large blocks allocated, you break apart each section into it’s smaller tasks. When you get into that level of organization, if you have a team you can start assigning tasks for even greater efficiency.
Sometimes when you start planning out your smaller tasks and assessing how long things will take to accomplish, you may need to go back and adjust the timing for your larger sections. At this point, if you’re working with a pre-established deadline, you may need to go back further still to the deadline itself and make adjustments if necessary.
The best tool for keeping it all straight is a Gantt chart, which is a bar chart that shows you your project plan over time. If you use a Gantt chart in project management software, it will show you the status of your tasks as you and your team complete them.
Obviously, project management is much more complex than what I’ve explained here. But hopefully this is one more tool you can add to your arsenal that will help you get the job done everyday.