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 what you plan.
Yes - things do change frequently and quickly. So, my suggestion is to plan and manage closely at the daily, and weekly timescale. And broadly at the yearly and higher. See image below.
Above project you might also have program. And above program you might have portfolio.
- Portfolio = Your (research) career. Your life in 5 years. Think about where you want to live, and who with? Doing what, for how much, with who?
- Program = Your PhD. Your social life. Your family life. Longer courses.
- Project = Individual chapters in your thesis. Kids. Short courses. Relationships.
- Year = Now you're getting more specific. It is beyond a list. It is more than an idea.
Things that I include in that plan relate to the person I want to be → good dad, partner, son, friend, and worker.
They also include want I want to do or experience → music; sport; art; culture; new people; new places.
And the work I want to do → launch new programs; grow social media influence; gain new clients.
Now, of course I get more detailed in each area, but not in terms of frequency. Just in terms of who or what matters.
- Semester = I don't plan at this level. My work is better planned quarterly. But working at a university, that might be what you focus on.
- Quarter (of a year) = More specific. Number of calls I'll make. Emails I'll send. Events I'll hold. Programs I'll launch. Holidays. Events. Family. Friends.
- Month = 1/3 of what I set myself in a quarter. Literally that simple. No detailed thinking required from a planning perspective. BUT I do check-in against my quarterly goals, monthly so I know how I am tracking.
- Week = Falls out of my quarterly and yearly plans.
- Day = Falls out of my weekly plans.
I also tend to focus on systems rather than goals per say. So, if I want to host 48 webinars this year, I set up a system that sees me do a webinar each week.
And I got that idea from James Clear - you can read more here: https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems
And that article goes the final point. That if your aim is to do more, finding more purpose does not normally help. Or if it does, it is short lived. For most people, purpose is not required to brush our teeth daily. But we do. Regardless of how we feel. And with very little immediate benefit of doing so. And with very little effort. What works there (brushing teeth) - and again this is not my thinking, it is the work of others - it is routine and duration. The routine is to brush teeth before bed. It is not a choice. It also is short enough that it doesn’t impact how “late” you are to bed.
So, if you’re struggling to manage your projects or just want to lift your project management game:
- Have plans that cover different timeframes.
- Follow routines to make progress (rather than setting goals to hit).
- Make tasks small and easy enough that it is hard to not do.
“Thank you again for all you have provided so far. You have been great to work with and your tips were really useful.”
Dr Kostas Knoblich, Early Career Researcher
Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He has been supporting research portfolios, programs and projects for more than a decade. He knows the theoretical approach to project management as well as the practicalities of academic and research projects. He is a #pracademic. Richard’s strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than a decade. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality.
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