Lifting Your Project Management Game

If you’re finding your current project or planning approach is not effective. If you’re finding you’re not getting the stuff you want to do done, then you need to change something. Change what you do or change your plan. If you want to improve your project management and planning game try these 3 things:

  1. Have plans that cover different timeframes.
  2. Follow routines to make progress (rather than setting goals to hit).
  3. Make tasks small and easy enough that it is hard to not do.


Good day there, bakers, riders, and rock stars, Richard Huysmans here. Today talking about lifting your project management game. One of the things that researchers often struggle with is the plan deviating from the actuals. I think 2 things are at play here.

The first is that it is actually hard to plan research particularly at the detailed level, but also I think researchers don’t update their plan often enough. They for whatever reason they think that plans have to be stuck to like they’re building a house when in actual fact it’s more like doing something that no one has ever done before. As a result, it’s really hard to plan, and plan accurately. But if you update your plan as you go, you’ll get better at planning. A lot I also think that if you regularly adjust your plan, you’ll learn that there are some things that you can reliably predict. For example, I worked with a client the other day talking about grant writing, and how next time it would be faster. But in actual fact, each grant is different. So, yes you might get slightly faster at grant writing, but the proposal is different. Your bio is probably different. The team’s probably different. So, yes you’re writing a similar grant, but with a whole group of different people on a whole different subject. So, writing it is no quicker than it was the last time. So, don’t kid yourself allow the real amount of time for things like grant writing that you’re doing repetitively. If you watch how long it takes you to do something repeatedly, you can update your plan accordingly. But what kind of levels do I think you should plan at?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Cal Newport recently, and I really like his approach. It fits with what I’ve been doing. So, it’s to plan quite closely at the day and week level, to plan less closely at the month level, and then to look more closely again at what you might do for me. It’s every quarter. Every 3 months. For you it might be every semester or every trimester if you’re at university, and then obviously think about what you want to achieve in a year, and what you want to achieve for you obviously for entire project. You can also have a look at James Clear. He really talks a lot about planning and getting your planning right, and how specifically you plan. I think that’s really useful. So, the way that I generally work is to have multiple plans rather than one big plan. So, that would mean for me, I’ve got a plan for the next 3 years. I’ve got a plan for this year. I’ve got a plan for this quarter. Then each month I check my progress against the quarterly plan. So, a monthly plan isn’t detailed saying this is what I’m going to achieve this month. All that essentially is 1/3 of my quarterly plan. Then each week I have a plan of what I want to achieve, and obviously every day I have a plan of what I want to achieve. Cal Newport talks about doing a startup, and a close down routine. I think that’s useful too and as part of those routines you do your plan for the next day as part of your shutdown routine as well as checking off how you progressed against your plan that day. Then your startup routine is to reconfirm that that’s your plan for the day and map out exactly how you might do it.

So, if you want to improve your project management game, have a go at thinking about planning at different levels, different time frames, and most importantly make sure you update the plan as you go.