Organizing your Projects

In my first project management role, I had one project.  It was lovely.  I read the PMBOK, the whole thing.  I did everything it told me to do.  I used Ask Jeeves (that’s pre-Google) for questions that it didn’t answer.  I finished on time and on budget.  It was a lot of work, but it was rewarding.  I learned a lot about project management theory and the recommended way to do things.  

There have been very few times since then that I have had one project to manage.  It is a great thing when it happens because I can truly dedicate the time that it deserves.  But, chances are, if you are a project manager or a breathing person, you are managing multiple projects.  How many projects should a person have at one time?  Of course, it depends.  And, that is another topic for another time.  For now – let’s focus on keeping yourself organized.

The following are a couple of tips to stay organized if you have a lot of initiatives.

  1. Organized Filing System for project files.
    I am not a born organized person.  I have really had to work on this. It’s imperative to have standard processes for how you handle your project-related email and files.  If you don’t have a system, it will take you too long to find what you are looking for.  
    For each project, I create a document folder for the project.  For each project, I create the following subfolders – Initiate, Plan, Execute, and Close.  For me, the weekly team meeting minutes would have a subfolder under Execute.  The charter lives within Initiate.  Do whatever works best for you, but be consistent.
  2. Create an individual project plan for each project that you have. It’s easy to miss the details when you have a lot of initiatives.  You have to be a bit more intentional.  Create the plan in the tool of your choice and review it consistently.
  3. Provide your project sponsor a weekly project update.  This is more for you than it is for the sponsor.  This summary allows you to explicitly state what needs to be accomplished the coming week and what got accomplished the prior week.  The more projects that you have, the more you need to be clear about what needs to happen to move the needle.  This takes time, but it is worth it.
  4. Determine the appropriate routine for risk management for each initiative.  A lot of project management is about managing potential risks. Large projects might require a routine that involves a cross-functional team; whereas, smaller projects might not be as involved or frequent. It’s much better to pro-actively manage your risks than have one creep up and sideline your project. It’s easy to lose sight when you have multiple projects.  
  5. Stay on top of meeting management.  With multiple meetings on multiple topics for multiple projects, it is easy to lose track of what needs to happen and what people said they would accomplish.  Send meeting minutes and leverage them to drive progress and update plans where appropriate.
    If you do not have a routine for staying on top of meetings covering various initiatives, they will all become a jumble.

Truly – the more work we have, the more we tend towards disorganization.  One large project can be a lot, but three small ones can be hard to keep straight.    

In order to drive towards a timely and successful conclusion, be intentional about your organizing routines.  It will save you time and headaches in the long run.  

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