Good ideas… on paper

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 20, 2009 in: Project Management, Time Management Strategies

Not too long ago I switched over the project management system I was using with my vendors and staff. The process was slightly painful, time-consuming, and had some costs associated with it. As you can imagine, I approached the change with no small amount of forethought to make sure that it was worthwhile to make the change. I weighed the pros and cons and finally made the move… even though I couldn’t exactly articulate all of the reasons for the switch. I knew it was the right one to make (and since I’m the boss, that’s good enough!)

Shortly after that, I stumbled across a great blog that did a nice job of articulating the idea, even if the blog was technically about something slightly different.

As someone who likes to think and read about productivity, I was reading a blog about someone who had created and was successfully using a time management and productivity system that was based on paper. I have nothing against that (I know lots of people who still use paper systems for a variety of reasons). And whether or not you use a paper-based time management system, you would do well to take the time to read this article by Charlie at .

There was a lot of valuable insight in this article and I wanted to share some of it with you.

Insight #1: The point of productivity systems is not to get my life into the system, but to help me live my life through a system. This is a brilliant articulation of why some people have trouble finding the right time management system… and also why I had to switch project management systems earlier this fall. You need to find something that works for you. You don’t want to use a system that enforces strict structures that don’t work for how you work.

My advice to you: If you’re not happy with how your project management or time management systems are working, the problem is probably not you. Get a new system.

Insight #2: The author discovered, “What I needed most is a system that helped me generate motion.” He is rightly critical of the uber-popular Getting Things Done (GTD) system because it wasn’t working for him. It created a lot of steps but not forward motion. For some people, writing down the all the steps they need to take is the best thing to get the project going. For other people, it’s not. Maybe you just need to create some critical mass on a project to get the forward momentum you need.

My advice to you: Figure out how you best move projects forward. Is it with a long list of tasks that you check off one by one? Is it by starting with some creative brainstorming? Is it by approaching the project as a series of smaller projects? Figure it out and embrace it.

Insight #3: Scaffolding. The writer of the article references coding Ruby on Rails and how scaffolding helps coders build and deploy a program. This one is trickier to understand if you’re not a coder, but I think he’s trying to say this: Your productivity system should get out of the way and allow you to get your work done, and it should be fluid enough that you can make mid-course adjustments as you go.

My advice to you: We don’t live in a world that always fits into neat boxes. Embrace productivity that works towards goals, but balances a dedication to completion with a dedication to excellence. Those don’t always go together!

Happy Blogging!

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