I'm feeling quite chuffed with myself. We've recently re-branded and I had a bunch of things to do with that - I got them all done on time*. We've got a big promotion going at a conference next week and I've got all the stuff ready and sorted now - the week before it's needed. I am crossing my fingers and praying that nothing goes wrong at the last minute, but so far it looks like it's all on track**.
So, with a startling lack of humility, I'm going to share my second lot of thoughts on how to get stuff done at work. (My first lot of thoughts are here.) My context is a medium-large organisation. If you're in a small organisation you've got some different challenges.
1. Plan small
I did a short project management course and one of the things that I took away from that (other than the fact that I really don't want to be a project manager) is how easy it is to underestimate the time things take. For example - it may take four hours of actual work for someone to design a leaflet. However, as the project manager, you need to allow about ten days so that a) they can get around to it with all the other work they've got on b) you can make changes to their original design and c) you can get feedback from other people on the design.
So, plan how much you'd like to achieve in the time, then cut your ambitions down by about two thirds. If you get more done, great! If not, you've still done what you said you would within the time frame.
I've fallen into the sign-off trap many times so now I try really hard to get clear from the start who is actually signing off this piece of work. Then you can make sure they're on board along the way so that you don't get to the end and find out they have totally different which mean you need to radically alter your work.
3. Ask the end users (and staff on the ground)
This is part of the sign-off versus feedback thing and it doesn't really relate to getting things done, but more to making good things. You really want as few people as possible signing off your work, but plenty of people giving feedback. The most useful feedback I get is from front-line staff. I've had a few real 'a-ha' moments with insights that should have been obvious but weren't obvious to me in my blinkered context.
4. Check, double check and triple check
I was getting things delivered somewhere. I asked the company when it would be delivered and asked them to let me know when it had arrived. I phoned and emailed the place where it was being delivered to let them know it was coming. Once I got the email saying it had arrived, I phoned the place and checked that it was being stored somewhere I could get to. So, I'm confident that this particular thing is ready to go for the conference. Overkill? It's much better than finding out at the last minute that something vital hasn't arrived.
Also, check and double check everyone else is totally aware of what they need to do and that it has been done.
5. Find efficient ways of tracking your tasks
Totally up to you how you handle this but do find what works for you and make time to use it.
For all the stuff I had to rebrand, I broke down each step in the process (there are about eight) and tracked each item through each step in the process, updating my chart every week. This way I could make sure that things were kept moving through to completion instead of being stuck on one step.
So - these are just a few things I've learnt so far but I'm sure I've got a lot more to learn. Any tips?
* Well, one bit didn't get done when I planned but it was okay.
** I feel like I'm jinxing myself writing this!