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Single-person project management

I'm a college student with a small software business and a few other projects that take up at least a few hours of my time every day.

As I've begun to intern at different tech companies, I've studied the way they manage projects.

One medium-size web/media company I worked at had very clear goals for each quarter in terms of sales and traffic, but also, as it affected my department (tech), what features needed to be added to the sites during each quarter.

The web startup I'm working at now has a ginormous whiteboard in one room with both two-week and six-month timelines for what's going to be accomplished. Every milestone has a number of sub-tasks, some of which are "core", the others ranked in priority. Every single one of the tasks in a given priority is tackled before moving onto the next.

Observing how these larger companies work has transformed the way I think about my own dinky business and has made me think much more seriously about the sort of planning I do.

I've seen some very positive results from this thinking so far, in terms of goals I've set for getting major releases out and some revenue goals.

But I'm still at the point where, if I tell myself something like "Yes, this build needs to be out to testers by Monday!", it's pretty hard to take myself seriously and work accordingly. I have a hard time managing the smaller goals of a project and tying them to deadlines. This tends to make them drag on longer than they should.

So I've thought about reading some books on project management and possibly using some of the tools developed for that task. The apps I've looked at, though, seem to be aimed at people with clipboards and Gantt charts who run around managing underlings.

So I'd like to ask you guys the following:

1) Has anyone had luck with tools like Merlin or OmniPlan for planning in 1-person operations?

2) What books would be best for me to learn project-management? I've been leaning towards getting Scott Berkun's "Art of Project Management" because I liked The Myths of Innovation. But it seems like a lengthly title more for managing teams of people.

Todd V's picture

re: Self-Project Management

The key in any type of project management is whether it can help you easily navigate the further action or clarity you may need when you need it. And if a tool can not only layout the plan but also help you navigate those components of clarity and action, even better. See David Allen's book Getting Things Done - especially pp. 58-59 on project planning.

I put together my own implementation to projects, sub-projects, and their relationships based on this you may find useful as you search for the tools that will work the best for you.

The other thing to mention is that different things motivate people. For some, deadlines don't motivate them - they counterintuitively don't want to do what is due. These may be more motivated by the outcome visions the tasks of a project are related to. They would be better served writing down those outcomes and reviewing them regularly than tying everything to a deadline since deadlines don't motivate them. Whereas for others deadlines are their chief motivator. They would be better served putting a deadline on just about everything.

Hope that helps.




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