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Knowing/determining project status at a glance?

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  • Knowing/determining project status at a glance?

    Okay, so I have my context lists and since they are on paper they are a little messy, but they are up to date.

    And I have my active projects list.

    And I have my SDMB list.

    And, I guess I have a cheated bit and I have a "soon as I can" list and a "weather permitting list".

    So what is the problem?

    Somebody who is important asks me:

    1. What is the state of x project?

    2. Or, what do you need to do today?

    3. Or, can you do such and such?

    I look at my calendar, but that only begins to help me answer 2 or 3.

    I look at my lists and I can't answer 1 from my action lists, and I can't fully answer 2 or 3.

    When I had the old fasioned "to do" list, I could give a meaningful answer.


    I might have "go to paint store" on my list because I can't paint until I have the paint, but I don't have it tied to a date. So I might bump that for something proposed and not be able to get to the piant store then for another week.

    Or I might be asked, how is the course planning going, and all I can say is, after looking at my list, and hoping I find the action related to that project, is "I need to photocopy Prof. Smith's syllabus". That sound's like a little bit of nothing or evasive and at that moment I can't recall all the things I have already done such as I have reviewed several texts, several DVDs, gotten the State's mandated curriculum and reviewed it.


    And, not exactly related, but in the context of number 1 (above) a team member may propose that I begin investigating a solution that I long ago eliminated. If I don't have that referenced and summarized in my project notes and look at it and find it, I will start up that alley all over again until it dawns on me that I am experiencing deja vu. So, I guess I think I need some kind of project tracker! What do y'all think...or do?

  • #2
    Sounds like a job for project support materials. Which could be as complex as a detailed log of work on the project, or as simple as scribbling "DONE, 6/20" on an index card and throwing it in the project folder.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Are they really asking "what is the state of project x"? Or, are they asking, "do you have time to do something"?

      If the former, then I suggest you keep a folder or a notebook, so you can answer it appropriately. If the project is long-term and very complicated, I would expect all members of my team to provide me with weekly status reports; but if your team leaders aren't asking for that, you might want to write one up for yourself at the end of each week. Include the following: What you accomplished during the week; what you wanted to accomplish but couldn't, and why; a list of all open issues and roadblocks that are preventing you from moving forward, and what your strategy is for dealing with each of them; and what you plan to accomplish next week.

      If they are really asking the latter question, then you should respond by asking, "What would you like me to do, and when would you like it done?" After they answer, then respond with, "Well, let me go through my lists to see what I've already got on my plate. If I can move some things around, I should be able to help. Is it OK if I get back to you by the end of the day?"

      If they are willing to wait for an answer, then you can take the time you need to review. If not, then just show them your list... the sight of over 100 "to-do" items should be enough to prove that your plate is already full.

      If the requestor is your boss, it can sometimes be helpful to ask them to help you prioritize. Explain, "I would love to help, but I have all these things on plate. Would you mind going through them with me to help prioritize all the other things I've committed to?" I guarantee they'll be impressed that you have a comprehensive list of all your commitments, and that you've given them the opportunity to ensure you're working on the right things at the right time.

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      • #4
        Why do you need to glance at a record to know your current status on a project? For most of my projects, I know intuitively. If someone were to ask me, "Where are you on writing Giant Armors?" I can say, "Three-quarters through the first draft." I don't need to consult my records.

        But I'm sure you have different kinds of Projects. So, what kind of records would you need? A timeline? A list of Actions (with completed Actions crossed off)? A percentage, updated occasionally?

        I prefer to keep fewer records than more, so I only use metrics on Projects that need them. And different Projects seem to require different metrics.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
          So what is the problem?

          Somebody who is important asks me:

          1. What is the state of x project?

          2. Or, what do you need to do today?

          3. Or, can you do such and such?

          I look at my calendar, but that only begins to help me answer 2 or 3.

          I look at my lists and I can't answer 1 from my action lists, and I can't fully answer 2 or 3.
          I think part of the answer might be that you haven't done a weekly review. I find that the weekly review occurs often enough I know the state of most projects, what my current priorities are and if I have the bandwidth for more.

          - Don

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          • #6
            I don't think that a NA list, a simple project list, or smdb list(s) are going to answer that question. It would be best to have project support material in either print or electronic format, which you can make as simple or complex as works for you. The lists will show you what you have, will have, or may have, but they shouldn't go into detail or else you wouldn't have the overview GTD suggests you have.

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