Basecamp. Trello. Monday.com, Notion, Airtable, and Asana. When the subject of project management comes up, most of us go straight to listing off tools—and there’s certainly no shortage of those. I’ve tried most of them. Fundamentally, they’re pretty similar, and importantly, none of them will solve your productivity problems if you don’t have project management fundamentals in place.
So before you redraw your processes or drop your next chunk of change on another big promise, make a commitment to work on these five project management basics.
1. Lay down the who, what, and when in advance.
Every project needs (and deserves) at least a basic project plan.
- What individual tasks need to be done to achieve your goal?
- By when?
- Who’s responsible for each task?
Don’t have a project management tool? Write the answers to these questions down on sticky notes—my preferred method in many situations—and put them on a white board so you can adjust as you go. (Don’t forget to take a photo of your masterpiece!) Then transfer those details to a format you can track (email the team with the timeline, for instance).
This is super basic, yes. But how often do we all skip this step, dive into the work, then realize mid-stride that we don’t know what’s next or who’s responsible?
Work stalls out when these go unanswered, so do future-you a productivity favor: Answer them in advance.
2. Balance your detail work with a big-picture view.
Whether or not you consider yourself a “detail” person, some part of your work involves digging into the minutiae. And details are important. But details can be dangerous.
It’s easy to get lost in specifics and lose sight of the bigger picture. A successful project manager consistently reminds herself to step back and re-address the 30,000-foot view.
- Now that we’re in motion, do we still need certain tasks, or did circumstances change enough that we can cross them off the list?
- Is there another (better, faster) way to get to the same outcome?
Zoom in, zoom out, repeat.
3. Pay attention to what you’re avoiding. (It’s valuable intel!)
We all have tasks we push to the back burner until we can’t avoid them any longer, and ones we shove so far under the stove no one remembers they ever existed. Have you thought about why you keep getting hung up on those particular tasks?
If not, it’s well worth tuning into that question. That “why” will give you important information about how to handle those problem tasks in the future and be more productive.
Are you putting things off because:
- You genuinely hate the task?
- You’re not sure how to move forward?
How to productively proceed depends on your answer. (We’ll dig in more below.)
4. Break it down, break it down now.
When people avoid tasks, it’s rarely because they just don’t want to do something. It may look like that on the surface—and occasionally it’s true—but more often, they’re stuck because the details aren’t clear.
Some of us get stuck and struggle to find the right questions to ask. Many of us feel like we “should” know how to move forward, and that stops us from asking the clarifying questions we need answers to.
Next time you or a member of your team feels stuck, try breaking the task down into the smallest pieces that make sense.
Are there questions you need answered before you feel comfortable moving ahead? Identify the people who can answer, then ask.
Does the task feel a little too big or overwhelming? What are the smallest parts of that big task that need to be done first? Even something as small as “open your browser and search” can get you started.
5. When and where you can, delegate.
Genuinely hate the work you’re avoiding? Depending on your role, you may be able to delegate components to teammates—especially if you’ve already broken the work into smaller chunks.
Just be sure to ask for support and see if your timeline works for them, too. Give clear, organized details and try to keep your project communications in one place. And if you really want to be a dream teammate: Commit to returning the favor as soon as you can.
Need a marketing project partner?
With strategic marketing work, video production, digital advertising, web design and development, and a host of other marketing projects moving through the Snapshot offices day after day, project management fundamentals keep us on task and on track.
Need a partner to lead any of those projects or handle other marketing needs? We’re easy to reach and ready to help. Contact the Snapshot team here.