Monday, February 27, 2017

Time and project management, the old-fashioned way

I grew up learning to manage my time and activities the old-fashioned way, using pen, pencil and paper.  Even Gantt charts were not widely used outside formal project management circles.  I later became a project manager in the IT industry, among other hats I wore during my commercial career, where I became familiar with specialized software to help control time and activities;  but I never found any one program or package that did everything the way I wanted.  I always had to adapt myself to the software, rather than the other way around.  Later, artificial intelligence was applied to some software development tools, supposedly 'helping' to manage the development life cycle better; but again, they made you fit their needs, rather than vice versa.

Now, as a private individual with simpler needs, I no longer bother with project management disciplines and software;  but there are still times when I need to organize a writing project.  I do this manually, for the most part, entering outlines and processes into regular computer spreadsheets or documents, or doing it by hand with scribbled notes.  Not as efficient as more sophisticated solutions, to be sure, but adequate for my needs.

I was therefore pleased to be reminded recently of an older, manual way of doing things.  SoftBaugh Blog has a useful article titled 'Time Management Skills'.  It's an interesting look at how simple processes and perspectives can bring discipline and order to what is often a rather less than well-ordered process.

Click over there and read it for yourselves. I think you'll find it useful.



Uncle Lar said...

Back in my days of major government projects I was quite familiar with GANTT and PERT charts, Impossible to do a critical path analysis without them. But I also found that they were only as good as the estimates and dependencies for the tasks that comprised the whole of the project.
Mostly what I found was that project managers were always incurable optimists, and no one ever allocates sufficient reserves to properly address the inevitable process delays that would occur from everything from technical glitches to pure bad luck.

C. G. R. said...

Some things from agile methodologies are pretty handy - like using a taskboard and a product backlog, especially if when managing a project team of one :-)

STxAR said...

Your blog is worth WAY more than I pay for it. I've worked over the years on many failed time management tools. This look like an elegant solution.

Thank you!!

Brad Richards said...

My tries with project management software always ended up in frustration. The software requires too much detail that you often don't have, and definitely requires adapting yourself to the software.

When I absolutely had to use project management software, I wound up doing my planning elsewhere, usually paper or simple spreadsheets, and then transferring the essentials to the software.

It shouldn't be this way, but it is. I still plan best using simple technology - often paper. "To do" lists, whether personal or project-related, seem to be too varied to fit into any sort of simple software concept - so either they *don't* fit, or you wind up with software complicated beyond usability.

IMHO people spend hours and hours of time fiddling with the software when they should be managing their projects.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty much like hemorrhoid surgery with a butter knife, but I learned Microshaft Project years ago, mostly because every place I did projects for used it, enough of the critical employees understood it sufficiently (or thought they did) for it to be something of as universal app. Plus if they had it on their box I could email them updates and revisions.

When left to my own devices I went with a self-designed block calendar (VB and java) with callouts; it allowed anything from a week to several months on a page, showed the go/no-go stuff for that date (aka "critical path") and selecting the callouts allowed whomever was viewing it as much, or as little, detail as they wanted, in English. Printing it sucked, but viewing on the client's intranet worked great (unless everyone had Internet Exploder 3.0 or something similarly antique....).

Aaron said...

After trying and failing with various project management solutions, I finally settled on Trello. It borrows a lot of Agile techniques, but's it's helped me quite a bit with organizing both work and personal projects so that I no longer feel like I'm in constant danger of dropping/forgetting something.