There are a number of different techniques you can use in your projects and some of the most effective ones also happen to be the simplest. One of these is the use of checklists to help you get everything done right and on time.
As it is such a simple idea you might not spend as much time thinking about it as you should, so here are some points to bear in mind.
There can be so much going on during a project that it is difficult to get organized and feel that it is all under control. If you try to organize the whole thing in your head then this is likely to end in disaster. In even a relatively small project you can be overwhelmed by all the things which need done, and quite often all at the same time. A good idea is to take advantage of the comparatively quiet spell at the outset of most projects to work out what checklists you will need as the work progresses. I am a great believer in making life as easy for myself as possible and this means getting ahead of the game and giving myself the peace of mind of knowing that I know what is to come and how to handle it.
Don’t Forget Anything
None of us has a perfect memory. In fact, I have a pretty good memory at most times but when I am feeling frazzled during a project this isn’t always the case. Actually, it is probably unlikely that you completely forget anything important during the project but you might end up not doing it at the right time if you don’t have it written down somewhere. The peace of mind this will give you is a huge advantage and will make sure that you are more relaxed than would otherwise be the case.
Stick to What Worked in the Past
Probably the biggest benefit I have found to using project checklists is that they let me do what has worked in the past on an ongoing basis. To do this it is important that you always have access to your checklists, so that you can update them whenever you feel the need .They certainly shouldn’t be viewed as inflexible pieces of information which are set in stone. Rather, they need to be fluid, evolving documents which are simply there to help you work better on every project you do. Even if you are just about to start out on your first project management role you can set these up and start thinking about your way of working for the future.
What to Cover?
These checklists are really going to be a personal thing which you put together, so they can include whatever you are most interested in. As a general rule, a lot of project managers like to cover risks, lessons learned and milestone writing. You can do as many or as few of these as you think you need and in whatever style most suits you. You should be sure to make them comprehensive enough to be of the maximum possible use to you. After you have finished your first project you will have a clearer idea of what you need for the future but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good stab at it before this. You will never have a version of your checklists which you will consider as being a finished piece of work so you shouldn’t feel too afraid of getting started and putting something down on paper for the first time.
Share the Information?
In a lot of jobs people are unwilling to share much information with their colleagues. I have never found this to be a problem in the project world and I would suggest that it is a good idea to share you checklists with other people in the same role. When you first start out you might want to lean on a more experienced project manager to get your first draft right. However, after this you should look to evolve them yourself into the kind of presentation and usefulness which you personally need to work better. We all look for different things from our project checklists so you shouldn’t be afraid to stamp your own personality on them and do something different from what other people find useful. As long as it does the job for you and makes your life that bit easier then it will have been worth the effort.