Project Overload

You have a huge project coming up, relax...and prepare now to make things run smoother.

Your boss has put that overhaul of your companys billing procedures on the back burner for months, and now it is time to finally get the ball rolling...with you as the project leader. Or, perhaps you have just been handed the responsibility for re-organizing the documentation of customer correspondence for the entire Northeast region a project that could take weeks or even months to complete, but nonetheless is due next Tuesday.

No matter what the project, certain principals of proper planning apply. And the key is to put the plan in place before the project begins while things are still relatively calm, rather than attempting to wing it as the project actually goes into motion and the deadline quickly nears.

To follow are some proven techniques:

Work backwards from the due date.

Many people make the mistake of establishing a project schedule from the point at which they begin the work, rather than first taking into account the most important aspect of the schedule: when the project has to be finished. Calculate how long each task will take and subtract that time from the due date.

Assign priority status to various tasks.

In creating your time schedule as per the bullet-point above, you need to also take into account which project tasks must be prioritized. For example, if you know that part of the project involves sending something to an outside vendor (and waiting for it to be completed and returned to you), you must prioritize that project task...allowing for the extra time.

Identify the resources you will need to complete the project and allocate them accordingly.

For instance, if your project involves creating a 50-page presentation for your boss complete with multiple handouts for an upcoming meeting, it is likely you will need not only your talents and your computer skills but also the services of your companys photo-copy department to run duplicate sets of the presentation.

Allow time for setbacks.

As you might expect, not everyone always has the luxury of time to make up for mistakes, but the truth is, something challenging will almost always arise in any sizable project...whether it is a co-worker (whom you are depending on) that calls in sick on the very day you need them most, or a power outage that costs you several hours worth of computer data. If at all possible, pad your schedule to provide extra time for the inevitable setbacks that can occur during the course of your project.

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