Projects take a lot of coordination to complete. It is key that you maintain an open communication with your client and that you over-deliver on your services if possible. To ensure you stay organized and on top of each project, I have devised a system that will help you keep on top of your projects and remove the stresses of project management.

*Note: This is simply a guideline for you to follow that has helped me and will change and evolve depending on the size of your team.

1. Define the Scope – Project Blueprint

The first and most important step of any project is defining the scope of the project. What are you supposed to accomplish with this project? What is the project objective? In this step, you will want to break down every element of the process, define what the deliverables and determine the work that is required to develop these deliverables.

2. Determine What Resources Are At Your Disposal

When you have determined the scope of the project, you will then need to find out what resources are at your disposal that will help with accomplishing the given tasks. What people, equipment, and money will you have available to you to achieve the project objectives? As a project manager, you usually will not have direct control of these resources.

3. Determine Timelines

Before you are able to accurately distribute the given tasks, you need to break down the tasks based on your project timeline. As you develop your project plan you may have some flexibility during the project, but deadlines are usually fixed. It is your responsibility to ensure the job is done on time.

Deadlines are usually broken down into soft and hard deadlines. Soft deadlines are ones that are set by you and hard deadlines are set by the client. Your goal as an entrepreneur is to deliver a quality product as fast as possible, ensuring the final product is as good as you can make it.  Hard deadlines usually come with a larger cost to the client than soft deadlines.

*Note: Once you set the soft deadline, you should then think of it as a hard deadline. It is your responsibility to develop a reasonable project schedule.

4. Assemble Your Team

It is extremely important to establish a strong team to draw upon. There are only so many hours in a day and it is key to build a strong team of people you trust. Developing a dialog with your team early is extremely important.  Work through your  project blueprint and confirm with your team that the timelines are achievable. If they are not, find out what resources are needed to get the job done on time. If you are still able to adjust your schedule when working with a soft deadline, adjust accordingly.  If you are not able to, develop a game plan to ensure the tasks are done on time.

5. List the Main Tasks

Break down your deliverables and determine what tasks need to be accomplished in order to meet the deadline. This list should break down all the main activities that need to be accomplished by each team member.

6. Break down main Tasks into sub-tasks

Once you have determined the main activities that need to be accomplished, you then need to break down each task and determine what tasks need to be carried out in order to accomplish each of the main tasks that have been given to each team member. How many levels deep you go of more and more detailed steps depends on the size and complexity of your project.

7. Develop a Plan of Action

Once you have broken down each of the components that make up your general task or job, you then need to determine the order in which these tasks need to be performed and which parts work in unison or which parts work independently in a serialized manner.

8. Analyze Plan – Ask for Feedback – Change if Required – Review with Team and Client

At this stage, you will want to review your plan of action / project blueprint with your team to get confirmation that tasks and timelines are achievable. If they AREN’T you will have to determine the best way to make the plan of action work — be it through overtime or crew hires. If the tasks and timelines ARE, you will then want to review with your client. This plan of action should be done before the work even starts and you should also make sure you get some sort of sign-off from the client.

There is almost never enough time, money or talent assigned to a project. Your job is to do more with the limited resources than people expect. However, there are often limits placed on a project that are simply unrealistic. It is your responsibility to either say ‘no’ to the project if your business model cannot support the given job OR subcontract parts of the work to another company that you have developed a working relationship with. In these cases, your budget must reflect these changes. Ask for the changes at the BEGINNING of the project.

9. Distribute Tasks to Specialists

Anytime you distribute tasks to others, you are putting trust in their abilities. Developing a team of specialists is critical to the success of your business. If you do not trust members of your team, things will inevitably fall apart.

10. Put your Plan into Action

Making the plan is important, but the plan can be changed. Change them as needed, but always keep the scope and resources in mind.

11. Monitor Your Progress

In most cases, it will feel like you are making little progress at the beginning of the project as people settle into their roles and start working within the system that you have created. It is key that you monitor this part of the process as well to ensure that things are moving along. Don’t get discouraged if the progress seems slow. By doing this, you will have a better chance at catching issues before they become problems.

12. Track your Progress and adjust as necessary

Keep records. Every time you change from your plan of action / project blueprint, write down what the change was and why it was necessary. Every time a new requirement is added to the project write down where the requirement came from and how the timeline or budget was adjusted because of it. You can’t remember everything, so write them down so you’ll be able to look them up at the end-of-project review and learn from them. This is also a great way to keep your client informed about any changes that will be made to the final invoice.

13. Transparency

Keep all the specialists and clients informed of progress along the way. Let them know when you complete each milestone, but also inform them of problems as soon as they come up. Ensure that your team is also informed. If changes are being considered, tell the team about them as far in advance as possible. Make sure you also keep everyone on the team aware of what everyone else is doing.