Not meeting your goals in a timely manner? Don’t fret, we’ve created a 5-step guide to help you meet project deadlines every single time.
1) Establish End Goals
If you want to develop a failsafe game plan to meet your intended goals in a timely manner, start with the end in mind. Starting with a clearly defined end goal (scope) allows you to focus on the tasks you must perform to accomplish your goal(s). After defining your goal(s) we recommend that you write it down. Grab a pad of colorful sticky notes, rip one off and write your goal(s) on it, and be specific! Now adhere it a wall or window.
Next, rip off a few more and write the primary tasks and subtasks (each on a separate sticky note) that you must perform to accomplish your goal(s). Then, adhere those to the wall or window below your goal statement.
Now assign a level of priority for each task. See our previous post which teaches you how to prioritize your tasks accordingly.
2) Evaluate Task Dependency
It’s time to determine when the primary tasks/subtasks can and should occur. Arrange the primary tasks/subtasks sticky notes in the order they must be performed. As you do this, you’ll find that several tasks can be performed simultaneously, and other tasks have a dependency to another task, meaning it must be completed before another task can start. Take your time and really think about the order of occurrence.
3) Utilize PERT
Stop pulling time estimates out of your butt, and use PERT. PERT is a proven methodology that project managers use to estimate time and cost. Remember the acronym P.E.M.D.A.S. from grade school? We hope so… It’s time to use it. Here’s the formula for PERT:
PERT = (P + 4M + O)/6
The variable “P” is the pessimistic value. Ask yourself, if every possible thing that can go wrong goes wrong, how long would it take to complete the task? The variable “M” is the most likely value. Ask yourself, based on history, how long did it take to do this task or a similar task before? This value also factors in the possibility of unforeseen delays. Lastly, the variable “O” is the optimistic value. Ask yourself, if everything goes smoothly and there are no delays, how long it would take to complete this task. Once you have your estimates, plug them into the formula to determine the estimated time needed for each task. Now write the estimate on the corresponding task on the upper right side of the sticky note.
4) Plan for the “What If”
Mike Tyson said it best, “Everybody has a PLAN until they get PUNCHED in the mouth”!
The sure way to avoid or minimize the impact of the “What If” uppercut is to anticipate it and plan for it. Don’t spend hours strategizing, outlining a phenomenal plan, and assembling an All-Star team, and get sucker punched by a risk that you didn’t see coming.
We recommend that you review every task you must perform, and ask yourself, what could go wrong? Rip off a few more sticky notes, create a note that describes and defines your plan of action for each “What If” you identified, attach it to the corresponding task you’ve now created a contingency plan for, and calculate the PERT estimate for it.
5) Put the Pieces Together
Let’s recap! You have defined your end goal(s), determined the dependency each task has, used PERT to calculate an estimated duration for each task you must perform, and have created a contingency plan for all of the “What If” scenarios. Now, it’s time to put the pieces of your schedule together.
Enter each one of the tasks and “What If” action items (you’ve written on the sticky notes) and its duration based on the order in which they occur in one list (schedule). We highly recommend that you use a project management scheduling software, however, it is perfectly okay use to Excel to create an outline to keep track of the tasks you must perform. This list (schedule) eliminates the guessing and clearly defines the “what and when”.
Successful project managers and teams meet their deadlines when they are super organized, and aware of every deadline they need to meet.
Implementing these steps is a sure way to meet your deadlines with ease and will help keep you on track. If you think you need a more tailored plan to meet deadlines for more complex projects, reach out to us. We know how to simplify complicated and frustrating projects, and have more than a decade’s worth of experience in strategic planning and execution.