Eating the elephant: Project planning

I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life – avoidance behaviors are my bread and butter. Of course, I don’t want to be a serial procrastinator and I work really hard to keep things on track. My mom told me once that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. This saying has stuck with me and helped guide my decision-making and planning into adult life.

Breaking down a large project into bite-size tasks is one way that I keep myself on track. I am a huge writer of lists, and often my lists include primary tasks and secondary tasks below them. This helps me see my accomplishments as I progress on a project and reminds me of what needs to be completed in order to check the whole project off my list. Sending an email invitation may be the main task, but in order to do that, I need to upload the list, layout the email, have it reviewed, and set it to send.

Creating three episode outlines and recording the first full episode of Convergence & Consequence is truly an elephant of a task – especially in a seven-week timeline. This week I organized my workflow for the coming weeks and gave all deliverables a due date in order to keep my project moving in the right direction.

I’ve tried some different project management software for work and school and have had mixed success. Often, I think it’s a lot of work for not a lot of reward. While I’d be perfectly happy just sticking to my pen and paper lists, I decided to use the tasks section of Microsoft Teams to organize my workflow. Teams was my first choice for two reasons: 1) I already use it for work so I’m familiar with the software and 2) I like that it sends reminders when due dates are approaching. Teams could also be very useful if you’re working on projects with other people.

I divided the project up into seven buckets, each representing one week of the project timeline. Then I created tasks within each bucket and assigned due dates to the tasks. Finally, I was able to add items and notes to some of my tasks if I felt like they needed further explanation or detail.

Being able to add items to the tasks will be helpful with my tendency to avoid or procrastinate. First, one of the more daunting parts of this project for me is the research. I’m a slow reader so knowing that I have a mountain of research to get through each week is nerve-wracking. Instead of looking at my bibliography of 30+ sources and wondering how I’ll ever get through it, I divvied the readings up throughout the first few weeks by topic. I added the readings that I intend to get through to the annotated bibliography tasks each week in order to keep me on track.

Another aspect that I like about using Teams for project management is that it is easy to adjust the plan as I go. If it feels like I’ve loaded too much work into one week, or I need to push things around, they can simply be dragged and dropped or reassigned to a different bucket. Being able to adjust the plan easily and as needed will help me reach the goals the plan supports.

I look forward to continuing my research into the Lost Generation in Paris this week. The reading I have done so far has reminded me how much I love these authors and their work. Furthermore, it’s reminded me of the importance of living life to the fullest possible extent and experiencing everything that you can. Truly great things are rarely created in a vacuum. These authors, especially my favorite, Ernest Hemingway, are not without their issues, but they sure knew how to go out and tear it up and great literature came in their wake.

See my mini-presentation on project planning and deliverables here.

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