The Ultimate Guide to Getting Organized with A Project Plan
This article was written by Doug Cunnington from NicheSiteProject.com.
He’s a project management professional and a niche site creator that was able to generate more than $6000 from Amazon last month. Check out his blog to learn more about him.
Have you ever started a new project with great enthusiasm only to be overwhelmed just weeks later?
I know when I started my first niche site I was super excited to buy a domain and set up hosting – everything was going great!
Then, the walls came crashing down as I realized I had no idea what to do next – build links, write content, start an email list, or build a Facebook following…??
I was overwhelmed.
I just didn’t know what to work on next. Then I found that planning upfront can help out a lot! Planning is one of the main foundations of Project Management.
Targeted Project Management
Project management is a huge, vast discipline. You can use project management methodology to support nearly any kind of effort that requires work. For large scale endeavors, incorporating some form of project management dramatically increases the likelihood of success.
Let’s Hone in on the Important Stuff!
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is a reference book with over 380 pages, and it thoroughly defines all areas of project management. As online entrepreneurs and web masters, we do not need the full structure of the PMBOK, so I will highlight the areas most relevant to our needs.
The number one area to improve upon for online entrepreneurs is getting organized.
What are my sources? My experience in my professional life and “online” life conducting dozens of one-on-one coaching sessions with full time software project managers and online entrepreneurs revealed that organizing tasks is a common competency gap. Effective organizational skills positively impacts the full project life cycle and will also transfer over to activities in your daily life.
If you are following along in your own version of the PMBOK, getting organized roughly describes the Planning Phase of the project.
Getting organized, at a minimum, requires creating a task list. It will help far more than you think.
Start at a high level, and write down the broad tasks to complete; cover all aspects of your project from start to finish.
Once you have the high level list, go back and fill in the lower level tasks, or subtasks. Refine the list down as much as you can – I like to divide a high level task into subtasks that take 30 – 90 minutes to complete.
Why 30 – 90 minutes? That is the perfect amount of time for you to focus hard on a task and complete it in one sitting.
Spend about 30 minutes creating your task list:
* Don’t worry about mistakes.
* Don’t worry about documenting every detail or every task.
* Don’t worry about making a perfect list
You will revisit your task list often. The task list is a living document that will grow and change with your project. You can make changes or add to the task list at any time. If you think of something later or want to add more detail, then don’t hesitate to make changes.
Who is responsible for each task? Each task needs to have an owner. If you are a one person organization like many of us are, then you probably own all of the tasks. If you have a team of resources, like a writer or link builder, then you can assign tasks to the appropriate person(s). Review each item in your task list and assign an owner.
This is one of the most valuable exercises in getting organized, and it is often skipped or overlooked. You need to determine if there are any dependencies among tasks in the list.
A dependency is the relationship among tasks that determines the order that the tasks will be completed.
There are four types of dependencies, but we will only focus on two:
- Finish to Start – One task must finish completely before another task can start. For example, you have to select a niche before you can start creating the content for the website. It is impossible to start writing articles and reviews before you even know your topic.
- Start to Start – One task must start before the other task can start. For example, you have to start keyword research before you can start competition analysis on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP). You do not have to completely finish your keyword research before starting to analyze your competition.
Review each task and subtask on the list. Determine whether the task has a dependency on any other task. If there is a dependency, then note this relationship.
Task Duration and Dates
A list of tasks is a great first step, but now we need to indicate when things will be done. When you assign dates and durations, the list forms the schedule of the project (it is now a project plan instead of just a task list). Let’s break this process down into a couple steps:
- Review the list of tasks and write down the amount of time the task owner needs to complete each task. Project management methodology refers to this as the task duration. As I mentioned, I prefer the task durations in the sweet spot of 30 – 90 minutes, but some will take much longer. For example, writing a 2,000 word article will likely take several hours. Now you have the framework for the next step.
- Start at the top of the task list and assign start and end dates for each task. Be sure to take into account both the duration and dependencies.
Another approach to assigning start and end dates is to begin at the end. You might want the project to end by a specific date. Start at the end of the task list and fill in the target end date for the last task. Work your way backwards, taking both the duration and dependencies into account as you fill in the start and end dates for each task. You may find that you can’t complete your project in time without adjusting the duration of tasks or moving the end date of the project out farther into the future.
I recommend using a spreadsheet for your task list. A paper document will also work if there are no other options, but it is much more manageable to have your list electronically so you can easily update, add and change tasks.
Do you want to get started?
Just follow this link to gain access to a free project plan template.
I am currently investigating other free and paid applications that help outline a project plan. I will share the information at http://nichesiteproject.com when it is available.