I'm writing this mantra for myself: staying organized is key to productivity.
I often forget how important it is to stay on top of project management stuff. I prefer staying immersed in the work - where real discovery occurs.
Answering emails, writing task lists, reviewing requests and functionality requirements - these are tasks that seem to hinder creativity.
Remember that a Zen life is not a lazy life. Sure, it’s all about simplicity. But it takes work to keep things organized.
So let’s all smile, breathe and go slowly into the Zen of Project Management.
The task list
Keeping a project to-do list and maintaining it throughout the progression of a project might be the single most important thing I do all day. If I do nothing else all day, at least I know exactly what needs to be done tomorrow.
To-do lists in project management software like Basecamp are one of the most important features they offer. Still, writing down a daily list on paper and scratching items off feels great; I get way more satisfaction out of crossing off a task by hand then I do clicking a checkbox.
Designate time for email
Answering emails from clients and co-workers is obviously important, but answering them as they come in is a productivity killer. When I schedule time – say, once every two hours – to read and answer emails, I allow myself to really focus on the work, distraction free, all without being completely unreachable.
It’s also important to clean house once in awhile.
I also need to work on deleting or archiving old emails that have been answered and dealt with. If I let them sit in my inbox I quickly become overwhelmed. Since we use Basecamp at Q Digital Studio, all our communication is archived and organized for me so, if I really need to revisit an old conversation, it's there waiting for me.
Being able to communicate ideas effectively is crucial to productivity. Teams who don't communicate well amongst themselves or with their clients, won’t get on the same page.
While there are many tools out there that make the task of communication easier, effective communication is really a skill that needs to be honed, and always improved upon.
Finding the right words has always been hard for me, which is why I'm a much better communicator when I can write down my ideas. I need time to think about what I want to say.
But that doesn't help me in meetings where I'm expected to respond more quickly. However, even if it seems awkward, I should give myself time to think about what I want to say before I open my mouth and let it out.
And then there's the listening part. If I don't actively listen to what's being said, if I let my mind wander before someone’s idea is fully expressed , my response will always be one part half assed and one part unintelligible – a perfect recipe for getting nowhere.
Project management is everyone's job
Project Manager is no fluff title.
As a web designer, I doubt I'd get much work done if I was also solely responsible for managing projects. Susan, our fearless leader at Q Digital Studio, is the project manager on our projects and she's great at it. But that doesn't mean I get to play hooky when it comes to organization, communication, documentation or any other project management task.
Back to the beginning
A Zen master is taught that belt will only become black with wear and use, but once it's too torn to tie, a new white belt is put on.
No matter how well I master project management, there is endless room for improvement. In truth, I'll always be a white belt.
No matter how well I feel I'm doing staying organized and on top of project management, I can always do better by go going back to the beginning and back to the basics.