Be a Project Management Ninja!
Like it or not, at one time or another, we all have to handle projects. With any position, job, or assignment comes a checklist of things that need to be completed. So it's best to just suck it up and focus on the objectives and tasks at hand. It's important to be aware that with each new challenge, the success of managing it depends on experience, the people on your team, and your tools.
Although managing projects is understandably stressful for many (especially when handling several projects simultaneously), the challenges of getting things done on time and doing it well put some superheroes into overdrive and ready to take on the world. Of course, project management may not be suited for everyone. The "chicken little" type, for example, may take flight when they see the sky falling. If this is you, assign it to someone else or read on. But even huge obstacles like falling skies are no match for the "get-er-done" ninja! Here are a few things that have always helped me to kick it up a notch and achieve the impossible:
Set the priorities. Always establish the priority of projects or project components before setting a timeline. This may seem obvious but sometimes we humans tend to want to tackle the easy things first regardless of their importance. That may not be the best choice when many project deadlines are looming.
Assemble the team. If you have the luxury of a team to help you, meet as soon as possible. For those of you who would have listed this bullet first, that's okay too. But there are times when a list of different projects require different team players. Once you establish the type of help you need, meet with them to discuss the project(s) and the priorities so that everyone is on the same track. Select your team based on talents and experience. Hard deadlines require serious players who you can count on when the going gets rough. If you are blessed with an intern or two, start them on lighter projects and avoid the "sink or swim" mentality, which could set them (and you) up for failure.
Create a calendar. Whether you or someone else takes on creating the calendar, get started on it immediately. Timelines are crucial to any project and can be a real eye opener relative to deadline feasibility. You may find yourself asking to have a deadline extended before you even begin!
Determine the roughest parts. This may be more critical to your project than you know. The sooner you are able to realize the potential hurdles that may pop up along the way, the better. Your plan to tackle the most difficult obstacles will help keep deadlines realistic and achievable. For example, imagine a project that will require a product container that is not readily available? You don't want to realize this when it's too late to appropriately research or design a cost-effective solution.
Alert the troops. It's important to let anyone who is on a "need-to-know" basis to be informed of what is coming down river as soon as possible. They may have information to share with you that could throw the proverbial wrench in things and upset your project flow. For example, planning to have a large amount of inventory come into the warehouse as part of your project may be impossible during a certain time period of annual maintenance. Or maybe a favorite vendor won't be available to handle your order or IT department is unable to meet your deadline.
Divide and conquer. If you are lucky enough to have a team, make sure everyone has their assignment, clear instructions, and a deadline (don't give them the hard deadline but instead add a couple of days or more before it's due). With most projects, not all of the activities need to be completed by the same individuals. Separating parts of the work makes sense to save time so have folks work independently when appropriate and with the understanding that questions are welcome throughout the process. For example, a graphics design team will likely separate work by having someone work on image preparation while another typesets copy and yet another handles technical aspects of the project.
Review familiar parts of the projects. You may want to take a look at the familiar aspects of your new project to see what you can re-purpose. Why reinvent the wheel if it is not necessary? You can save time and money finding efficient shortcuts that don't compromise quality.
Communicate on a regular basis. Always stay in touch with anyone and everyone who has something to do with your project, both internally and externally. If you don't, you better be prepared for some not-so-fun surprises that you won't have time to tackle!
Do your homework. If something odd surfaces before the project starts or along the way that doesn't make sense, check it out. You or your team members may need to research various parts of the project to be sure you are not headed down a rabbit hole. I used to tell my team that we are only as good as the information we receive so verify, verify, verify! Think like an expert, be an expert.
Finally, follow the project every step of the way from beginning to end. You (and the team) will need to take full ownership if it is to be successful.