In this fourth post in a productivity series, I want to give some tips on how to organize projects.
I was speaking at an event recently, and someone came up to me who had read a book I had written. As we talked about the content for a while, she eventually acknowledged, “I’ve always wanted to write a book myself. That’s actually what I want to do with my life. But it just seems like such a big task, I have never gotten around to it.”
For any of you who desire to tackle a big project but don’t know where to begin, here is my advice to you:
Instead of agonizing over the entire journey, determine the first step.
In order to determine the first step, you have to learn how to organize the project.
While I believe the following process is crucial, the manner in which you do it is completely up to you. I will share how I normally do it.
I enjoy a clean whiteboard or a blank piece of paper to be the scratchpad. Next, I get the information out of my head onto the canvas.
- Determine the Goal. Either put the goal in the middle of the page (a process called mind mapping) or the top of the page (a more linear approach). Make this the end result (“Write Book,” “Reorganize Kitchen,” “Determine Sermon Series,” “Finish Senior Seminar”) and make it simple and clear.
- Establish Sub-Projects. Begin to write out sub-projects within the main project. These are the sub-headings. If you were writing a book, the sub-projects might be writing, editing, design, publish, etc. These are big-ticket items that cannot be complete without a lot of mini-steps along the way.
- Get Detailed. In those sub-projects, begin to write out the details. You can be as painstakingly as you want to be. Depending upon how you are wired will cause you to want to do this one way or the other. I like to get everything out there, and be overwhelmed with it for a moment. I have found that there is something burdensome of keeping up with details in my mind, so I would rather have all of them out there and then I can start addressing them one at a time. It is a relief to me to have a large bullet-point list and the project no longer be abstract.
- Establish the Timeline. Now that you have all the details out there, establish the timeline. Determine what has to happen first. Look for areas that if you finish x, someone else can be helping you on y while you begin z. If there is a deadline for the end result, start working backwards and that will give you a realistic timetable of when the first item has to be complete and every item after that. Normally, I will give sub-projects a deadline in this phase.
- Organize the List. Now, you have to find a way to take what you have worked on and simplify it. If you have chosen the tools that keep you organized, start putting the items and the dates into those tools. The more detailed you are in the process will keep you more on target in the weeks to come.
- Get Started. After this process, the journey may seem long, but you at least know the first step. Get started on it! There is great satisfaction when you can start completing to-dos on such a big project. Instead of being overwhelmed by the immensity of the workload, you learn to celebrate the baby steps along the way.
By itemizing tasks within a project, you experience satisfaction by making daily significant progress.
By organizing projects, you can have a sense of closure when you go to bed at night versus feeling defeated that you will never get it done.
The goal in this process of organizing projects is for you to get things done. You have a zeal for good works (Titus 2:14)? That’s great. Then determine that you are going to make the most of the time (Eph. 5:15-17) and be productive for the Kingdom’s sake!