A project manager has the job of keeping multiple projects organised so that they run on time, on budget and to an agreed deadline. Harder than keeping one project on track is keeping an understanding of all projects which are in progress or upcoming at any one time. Here are some tools and methods which I use at different levels, in order to manage projects:
From a top-down level, I need a global list of all of the clients and projects which I am working on. This helps me keep a record of the project information, job number, project size, my involvement (time), and keep a record of the project status.
Solution: I use Microsoft OneNote to keep track of this. It’s easily updated, quick to make and edit tables and it starts up automatically on my machine. In one table I have all the information I need. Could easily be done in Word or Excel too.
Weekly Tasks – Resourcing
Understanding and gauging the next week’s resource is fundamental to keeping projects on track. Experience with various account managers and clients will dictate how much time is given to what task, and when. The important thing is to schedule the correct amount of resource, as early as possible. Once confirmed book in briefings and other meetings to follow.
Solution: Use Microsoft Excel to schedule project work and resource. Use the same request sheet to check off requested tasks and book in meetings for the following week.
Daily Tasks – Client Projects
Looking at my projects with a client view, there are often multiple projects, and potential projects, happening at any one time. Not only do these range in size, but also importance and their current progress through their life cycle. It’s important I have an understanding of each piece of work as it passes through the agency.
Solution: Trello boards are a great way to keep track of a project’s progress through it’s life cycle. It also allows tasks, deadlines and notes to be added, as well as assigning labels for quick reference of what tasks need doing. It can also be shared with other members of the wider team.
Hourly / To-Do’s
At the opposite end of the scale to the project list is all of the to-do items which need to be done. These are the bits which keep projects running smoothly and on time. Get these problems, issues and risks sorted sooner and the easier the project will run.
Solution: TeuxDeux.com or something similar allows for to-do lists to be set up with an understanding of how much needs doing from one day to the next. Check off when done and move on to the next. Paper and pen also works for this part!
Overall, I find these combinations of client, project and task trackers allow me the greatest control and most freedom to get stuff done, after all that’s the main task at hand. The tools I use evolve constantly, and often change depending on the range of projects I have. I’ll also frequently refer to the project costs, timeline and statement of work, and use various other web based project tools.
One tool not mentioned here is Basecamp. It’s great for keeping track of one main project, but it’s difficult to maintain an overview of the information about lots of different projects.