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The ultimate guide to project management

From the name alone, project management sounds like something that only big businesses would have the time or resources for. But in today’s age, anyone can be a project manager!

Projects can vary from designing the newest range of clothing for high street brands to restoring your classic car or preparing for an important speech. Simple project management software is easy to access so that you can gain a range of project management techniques and apply them to whatever projects crop up in your life, personal or work-related.

What is project management?

A basic definition of project management is that it is exactly what the name implies- managing projects. Projects are distinctly unique; their key features is that they are temporary, unique and closed after their objectives are attained. Phases of managing projects include initiating the project, planning the project, executing it, undertaking the monitoring and control process, and finally closing the project. Project management skills can be easily obtained; project planning templates can be accessed through a wide variety of management software. These skills are essential in undertaking successful projects: additionally, utilization of time tracking tools can serve as an effective means of managing time wisely- poor time management can be a death knell to any project.

Use a project planning template

The temptation to start exciting new projects straight off the bat is always great, but mapping out the stages of your project using a project planning template is always a good idea that in the long run can help save you money, time and resources! Project planning templates can be as straightforward or intricate as you need them to be, with a variety of options from management software available. Project planning templates typically contain the projects scope and initiative; this is commonly represented in the form of a Gantt chart, which is a dynamic horizontal bar chart that visualizes a project schedule and makes it easy to communicate with stakeholders.

Utilize time tracking software

The greatest pitfall of project management (loss of the project due to bad decisions regarding timing) can be avoided by efficient utilization of time tracking software. Time tracking software brings a number of benefits to the management of any project; it helps you avoid multitasking (which can be detrimental to the completion of any single task), reduces distractions and procrastination, and introduces time blocking to your daily schedule which helps immensely with dividing up time for various projects (or stages within projects!). Time tracking software introduces assets such as event calendar templates that help increase your productivity and allows you to keep track of your project.

Ensure key planning is done

How many projects have failed because they’ve been led astray? The only way a project will remain on track to achieve its goals is through adequate key planning; indeed, planning can be said to be the key to the door that unlocks a project’s potential. Without adequate planning, a project will at some point undoubtedly derail; you should therefore make sure that at the beginning of each project you make careful plans and schedule the activities that need to be completed at each stage of the project. Simple project management software makes this planning relatively easy: factors such as the responsibilities of each team member, and stakeholder engagement can be thoroughly planned, thus minimizing the risk of interpersonal complications occurring further into the project. Key planning for a project should factor in this as well as identifying the project’s goals (by identifying the project’s stakeholders and their needs) and working out the schedule of delivery so that you know your project remains on track for completion and success. List all your necessary tasks, prioritize those tasks and make a Gantt chart based on time estimates for each task. Finally, determine your critical path, which is the longest path of tasks on your Gantt chart, however, don’t forget to pay attention to additional tasks.

Set Achievable Goals

Setting goals is one of the most important things we can do in both our personal and work lives. But no one wants to be working towards something that might not even eventuate- this can lead to undue stress, demotivation and lower levels of both physical and mental health. A project that is viewed as simply one massive goal, then team-members may become overwhelmed and disheartened. A project that has been broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks with clear due dates, however, seems much more manageable. Completion of each of these smaller tasks further motivates your team and leads to a healthy work environment. Remember that communication is key; if someone isn’t sure that they can reach their personal goal, then make sure you understand why and work together to alleviate the issue. Finally, make sure that your goals, both in terms of the entire project, and in terms of steps of the project, are actually achievable; don’t let ambition get in the way of common sense!

Keep the Project on track

Now that you’ve planned your project and set achievable goals, it’s time to undertake the project itself! Luckily, if the goals you’ve set are achievable, it should be fairly easy to keep the project on track and follow your plan. An effective project management technique is crashing; this is a time management tool where you reduce the time to completion for tasks in the critical path. To do this you can simply assign twice the amount of team members to the tasks require completion quickly. Another helpful time management method is fast tracking, which is when project managers rearrange the schedule of projects so that tasks that were originally planned to be completed in sequence are instead worked on simultaneously. Finally, build some slack time into your schedule; this allows you to keep your undertaking of the project fairly flexible and means that if the unknown occurs (which it almost always does!) then you will be able to delay a task without affecting the rest of your project schedule.

Make use of simple project management software

Project management software helps project managers and their teams complete client requirements and manage budget, scope and time restraints. Project management software can seem overwhelming at first; however ultimately making good use of it is necessary for undertaking successful projects, and many apps offer simple project management software with a variety of project management tools to suit whatever project you may be working on. Although software such as Microsoft Project and LiquidPlanner exists for undertaking large projects, project management software systems like Trello and Wrike have simple interfaces and provide ample support for small businesses and individuals. Project management software uses cloud-based technology, allowing it to be accessed from a range of devices and is offered by application service providers as software-as-a-service (SaaS). Projects can be difficult to effectively complete without utilization of this software; gaining an understanding and mastery of even simple project management software goes a long way in enhancing the quality and effectiveness of your projects.

Maintain a good level of contact with key stakeholders

Communication, communication, communication. Communication is key! Identify who your key stakeholders are and prioritize them according to their interest, influence and attitude. Stakeholders who may have a vested interest in your project and who have considerable influence should see significant face-to-face communication and receive regular updates on the status of the project. This should not mean that you ignore minor stakeholders however! People that may still be interested but who don’t share the same level of influence can be updated via email or internet- this ensures your project receives levels publicity through word of mouth marketing. By initially using a project planning template, utilizing time tracking software, ensuring that your key planning has been completed and that your goals are achievable, making use of simple project management software and keeping a track on things whilst notifying your key stakeholders of any changes to the project, you should become a project management whizz!