43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

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.

MarinaMartin's picture

Public Accountability

You might want to try putting your reputation on the line to make sure you accomplish certain tasks by their deadline.

At the moment, I have a number of blog ideas I've been toying with, and two days ago I put a bunch of links to them off my main website, which plenty of people visit on a daily basis. Namely clients. And all those links were broken. Amazing how productive I can be (suddenly, I don't want to re-word that sentence 100x) when other people are looking.

I suggest to some of my software-producing clients that they really chunk their product down into versions and they announce the next version number, launch date, and new features ahead of time to their client base. A really specific launch time -- 12:07pm MDT on January 13, 2008 -- is key. Again, putting themselves on the line got them to produce.

You could also put money on the line and offer clients a discount if a project isn't delivered on time. That's a lesson you'll only have to learn once.

Mind you, all of my projects are things I LOVE, but because I love them, I have the tendency to draw them out foreeevvvveeerrrr because I want them to be "perfect." Deciding on an arbitrary deadline and publicly holding myself accountable for meeting it is actually making me very happy, in a roundabout sort of way. :)




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »