Planning a project is a creative and intuitive endeavor. It requires that you have way more ideas than you will ever use and that you aren’t hard on yourself for coming up with something that could be perceived as “stupid”. You have to be able to “give yourself a break” and become an idea generating machine to ensure that you are planning for everything you need to get done in your project.
You then need to be able to organize the information into tasks in an intelligent way.
I follow a loose “Natural Planning Model” offered by Mr. David Allen. Here’s how it goes.
Creating the vision
The reason that you have a project in the first place is because there is more than one task to complete between point A and point B. That is, your current state is not the state that you wish it were in. You have things to do.
You can’t know where a project is supposed to end up without knowing of what done looks like. That’s why I make my project something highly doable. I then envision what it would look like when the project is done and what the definition success would be.
For example, for an upcoming project of getting new all-season tires for my car, the project title would be:
“Install new all-season tires on the Solara”
and my vision of success would look something like:
“Ensure that my new tires are installed on my car and that my winter tires are put away securely until next winter.”
I store the project title as a new project in OmniFocus and the vision of success as the project’s note.
Creating the mind map
This is where your creative side comes into play. Mindmapping is an excellent way to let your ideas flow naturally and gives you the ability to account for everything related to a project. I personally use MindNode Pro for my Mac. I copy the title of the project from OmniFocus and make that the base node of the MindMap as well as what the mindmap will be saved as.
I think start adding nodes for anything I can think of that is related to the project. I don’t worry about order or context at this time. Just whatever comes to mind like:
- Order tires on TireRack
- Look at the tire recommendations form Efficise and decide which to purchase
- Make sure that you have plastic bags to store winter tires in
- Make an appointment with Monro
You get the idea.
Creating the outline
After I have a ton of ideas and potential actions I start to group them by “sub-project” in the mindmap. I then transfer them to the OmniFocus project by exporting the MindNode file to OPML, opening in OmniOutliner Pro and then dragging tasks from OmniOutlinter to OmniFocus (this workflow needs a little work still).
After moving them to OmniFocus I then decide which tasks are parallel and which have to be cone in order. I give them a context in good GTD fashion and possibly start dates and due dates for time sensitive tasks and project milestones.
Once my project is outlined then my overarching OmniFocus system provides me with the tasks that I need to see at the right times. If there are important tasks in the project then I see them show up in my “core” perspective through the day. If they aren’t important for that day, I will then see them in my available tasks in the certain context that I work in when I move to the “less important” tasks of the day.
I then do the tasks. Rocket science. I know.
It’s inevitable that you will have to change some things in your project as it moves forward. That’s where my weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) reviews come in. If I see something fishy in my project during my review, like a stalled task, complete tasks, hidden tasks (damn you, OmniFocus!), or anything else, I take care of it during the review.
And that’s it. I try to spend way more time “doing” then “planning”. That’s important.