My Latest Book

Product Details

Also available on Amazon.com, Amazon.fr, and other Amazons and bookshops worldwide! 

To Think About . . .
Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment. Nassim Nicholas Taleb
My Other Books

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

Click to order other recommended books.

Find Us on Facebook Badge

Search This Site
Latest Comments
Log-in

Discussion Forum > Project management tools

Hi, it seems as though a desired feature of a time management system is a way to stay on top of multiple projects and see them through to conclusion. By "project" I mean any activity you set out to do, large or small, that requires one or more action in the future.

Project management on the company level seems to be a fairly robust discipline, with lots of large textbooks, certifications and whatnot. Many universities offer programs in project management. It strikes me that these systems could also be applied to personal time and project management.

Wondering if anyone has been involved with project management in the workplace, and whether it is applicable at all to managing a set of personal projects? Is it total overkill? Can it just be boiled down to making a simple Gantt chart in Excel?

If so, any software you would recommend? I got an email the other day for Microsoft Project, and it got me wondering whether it would be worth taking the time to master this software (or something similar).
May 15, 2015 at 1:33 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
For simple personal projects, I love how CAF4 worked for me,

http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2446303

There was the problem of outpacing the "Backlog" that I noted but aside from that I still highly recommend trying it if you want to incorporate project handling to an AF-like time management scheme.

An improvement to it would be to use a two-week dismissal system like what I am using now. I might just call it Date Enforced Context Autofocus, or DECAF.
May 15, 2015 at 2:04 | Registered Commenternuntym
Thanks -- my local bookstore has an entire shelf devoted to project management (eg http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Project-Management-Body-Knowledge/dp/1935589679). There is a Project Management Institute. The Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management) is packed with different approaches.

This seems to be a well-developed discipline, but it also seems to have a lot in common with what we talk about here. Yet it never seems to find its way into the personal time/project management discussion. Is that because it is more suited to the business environment?

Can anything concepts/techniques be borrowed from the discipline of project management and applied to one's personal life?
May 15, 2015 at 14:15 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
Hi Simon,

I was a PM for a long time and I've also played around a lot with personal productivity. I've made a few attempts to translate what I would do at work into plans at home, mostly just for practice, but they've never stuck. The most successful were simplified versions of scrum and kanban.

I think most of the overhead and process of project management at work is aimed at communication, consensus, co-ordination, direction and accountability and they are all handled face to face and informally in the much smaller realm of my personal life.

I do from time to time plan out elements of my personal life using whatever tool is at hand, from pen and paper to electronic planning. I rarely rigidly follow up though, its more that planning seems to be a good clarification exercise from time to time. The results then usually end up on my AF list, or in the bin.

The closest I've seen to a useful personal PM process is David Allen's Five Phases of Project Planning. This is simply enough to hold in my head and I sometimes use it mentally to help flesh out a plan.

Hope that's useful...

Matt
May 15, 2015 at 14:31 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Gregory
Simon: In response to your specific mention of MS Project, my recommendation is NO if you'd have to pay for the software yourself AND you don't hope/plan to pursue a career in project management. I don't know if Project is really the best, but I do know that it will look very good on your resume if that's where you want to go. (I'm sure it will look even better if you have other tools on your resume too, but most places I've been in the last 10 years have used Project or something very similar.)

As for whether or not it's overkill for managing personal projects, it probably is. If your personal projects involve other people who may be involved in other projects that you are also managing and tracking in Project, and you're allocating percentages of their time and so on, it could be helpful. Or if you love to get wrapped up in overly elaborate scheduling as a way to get out of doing the actual work, Project would certainly fit the bill. ;-)

But if you do a little Googling you'll find Excel templates that can draw Gantt charts for you, if that's what you like. If your personal projects aren't quite so schedule-oriented, there are some mindmapping tools that can lay things out in a two-dimensional format with an emphasis on relationships and dependencies. (Project can also do a relationship map of sorts, but I don't know anyone who uses it. I don't know if that means it's useless, or just not useful to anyone I know.)

Bottom line is that these corporate-level methodologies and tools are meant to track the time and cost of multiple complex projects involving many overlapping tasks, people, equipment, facilities, dependencies, etc. to make sure that they are on budget. And very often there is a Project Manager whose entire job is to manage the project so that other people can perform their own tasks without having to worry about the bean-counting.

Most likely, very little of this applies to your personal projects. So again, unless you are interested in PM as a career, this stuff may not help you much. On the other hand, you can certainly study it as a hobby if you find it interesting, and decide for yourself how much time and expense you want to devote to it (keeping in mind that this would be a project in its own right, taking time away from your other projects).
May 15, 2015 at 16:20 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie
The answer is: you don't want Project Management for personal projects. MS Project is overkill and over complex for any project less than 10 people.

What you really need is a notebook or a folder. Log what you're doing if you want. Brainstorm on a piece of paper. Make an outline of parts to address. Collect materials. Occasionally add something to your general todos. That is everything.
May 15, 2015 at 16:29 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
MS project is way too complex for me. I have used Merlin on another Mac - also quite sophisticated but fun to use, too, and I don't have to mortgage my house to buy it. But not really needed for me. I do keep an app called "SG project" in case I have a very complicated event, it's also a lot of fun to use, and very simple. One book I really liked on project management was the One Page Project Manager - I forget who wrote it. But in all these things, David Allan's approach is the simplest - I look at it as a process which can be as complicated or as simple as I need it to be to get it done.
May 15, 2015 at 16:55 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Great, thanks. It does sound as though MS Project is a bit too complex for day to day life, unless you are planning a wedding while trying to run a business.

I thought MS Project (or a similar but simpler program) might be good for corralling a small group of core projects and imposing a bit of structure to ensure they are completed by a certain date. But, I suppose pen and paper works just as well as complicated software.
May 16, 2015 at 18:36 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
I have already shared that I found AgendaGuru (www.agendaguru.com) and it is perfect rescheduling tasks in my agenda!!
I had a major issue with my deadlines and, as a consequence, I had to work all night long to compensate...
I thought it would be good to have a software that would automatically reschedule my tasks in the calendar, until I finished the one I was working on and I found one that does precisely that: AgendaGuru and it seems to be extraordinarily simple!
It is still a beta version and only available online for computers... Has anyone tested it?
July 2, 2016 at 4:31 | Unregistered CommenterJosé Miguel
Hii..... you can also have at this category of tools - Project Management. There are lots of tools available that can be used to manage your project or your website. You can try this link below and get the reviews of best project management tools;
http://www.toolsinsight.com/category/project-management/uszNgYk=
March 31, 2017 at 10:30 | Unregistered CommenterAlice jolly
After chatting with Seraphim, I've found the Theory of Constraints thinking processes very useful as a flexible tool for project management above the simplicity of a task list and less than that needed for a traditional engineering project.

I'd say the most important one is the prerequisite tree for project management.
April 1, 2017 at 15:59 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton