Time management Monday: Listing then scheduling your project tasks

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Projects by definition have multiple action steps. Something else to consider besides just which actions need to happen is in which order they need to happen, and what each task’s due date is. Not only do you need to list your tasks, you need to schedule them, and in the correct order.

Let me walk you through an example. Say you are preparing for a trip. Here is what your task list will probably look like:

  • Buy flight tickets
  • Book accommodation
  • Book rental car
  • Reserve kennel for Buster
  • Buy travel insurance
  • Ask neighbors to watch house
  • Credit card travel notices
  • Have mail held
  • Set email autoreplies
  • Finish/ hand over work while away

Etc, depending on your particular situation. Now take a look at your list. Is that the exact order in which those things need to happen? And how early before you leave do they need to be done?

First things first: decide what is the first thing. In my case, the first thing is always checking availability with the kennel. I can’t go anywhere if the kennel doesn’t have space for my dog. Once I have the kennel’s availability dates, then everything else can happen.

Whether you book your flight or accommodation first depends on a couple of factors. If your destination has a short supply of accommodation, it’s smart to lock down where you’ll stay before you book your flights. It won’t do me any good to fly to my destination if I can’t find anywhere to stay. On the other hand, flight prices can vary a lot depending on the date, so you might buy your flights first to get the best deal, then reserve your place to stay once your dates are set.

Similarly, you can’t have your mail held, buy travel insurance, or reserve your rental car until your dates are solidified.

Now think about deadlines. For example, I have to complete the online mail hold form at least 7 working days before I want the mail to stop being delivered, so I have to do that in plenty of time before I leave.

So if I re-order my list, and add a general timeline, it will look more like this:

ASAP:

  • Reserve kennel for Buster

Then:

  • Book flights and accomodation

And then I can:

  • Book rental car

And then the rest of my list can happen. But I have to make sure certain things are done in enough time.

At least two weeks before departure:

  • Do online mail hold form
  • Buy travel insurance
  • Credit card travel notices

Other things will depend on the timeline. For example if you are going to ask your neighbors to watch your house, how far in advance you need to ask them will depend on how flexible your neighbors are. Do you need to ask them way in advance? Or will they be happy if you ask them just a few days before you go?

Now that you have the timeline for your tasks, fill them into your schedule so you can make sure you fit everything in when it needs to be done.

 

You can extrapolate these steps into any other project. For example if you are planning your wedding, you’ll need to reserve your venue before you can send your Save The Date notices, and so on.

So the steps for determining your project action steps are:

1. Write a list of everything that needs to be done. Think of as many details as possible.

2. Re-arrange your list so the first thing happens first, and things that have to happen before or after other things are in the correct order.

3. Assign dates and deadlines to tasks. Pay attention to things that have to be done a certain amount of time before the date.

4. Write tasks in your planner according to their deadlines.

Planner shown: the Quo Vadis Trinote weekly planner has weekly dashboards for your categorized lists. Other planners with weekly dashboards are the Academic Minister, Minister, and Prenote weekly planners.

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