How to create a Project Plan: Here are the steps and a Project Plan template to get your project done!
Are you ready to tackle that big project?
Is this your year to roll out a new product?
Introduce a new service?
Update your website?
Promote an online training program?
Develop a new workshop or keynote?
Recently, one of my Mastermind partners quizzed me about Project Plans. She knows I’ve relied on Project Plans for years – more than 3 decades, actually – to bring large, complex projects to fruition.
In my 25-year corporate marketing career…
I created Project Plans to organize $100,000 tradeshow events, to manage corporate websites with $250,000 budgets, and to research and write a case study printed in Fortune magazine.
In my 10 years as a marketing consultant and branding expert…
I created Project Plans to develop and launch new services and products, create webinars and workshops, and lead a significant revamp of my website.
What’s my “secret”? Create a Project Plan – a simple, strategic tool.
Decades ago, when I stepped into the role of Marketing Communications Manager at a high-tech corporation, I learned how to juggle a host of projects. On any given day, deadlines competed for my attention: company websites, newsletters, direct-mail campaigns, email campaigns, print ad campaigns, public relations efforts, and logistically intensive tradeshow events.
Every project had multiple milestones and, all told, an army of copywriters, designers, website developers, and other team members.
It was understood that deadlines would be met – never missed. So I created a Project Plan template and mastered using Project Plans.
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Follow these 10 steps to create your Project Plan – using my Project Plan template – and you will complete your project.
As with any strategic activity, creating your Project Plan requires concentration. Set aside time. Minimize distractions and interruptions, so you can stay focused.
Click to download my Project Plan Template. Save the downloaded Microsoft Word document in an appropriate folder on your computer. At the top of the document, type the name of ONE project to complete. For example: “Create content for a new workshop.” Use one Project Plan per project to avoid confusion.
In the “Activity” column, type a list of every task involved in your project, from start to finish. Keep each task description brief. (Long descriptions can get confusing and overwhelming.)
In the “Persons Responsible” column, type the name of the person(s) responsible for completing each task, even if it is you.
Check the chronological order of your task list. Move rows to organize the tasks, as necessary.
Review the task list to ensure it’s as thorough as possible. Creating a detailed task list helps to clear up “fuzziness” about specific steps involved to complete your project. Keep in mind: Clarity is the enemy of procrastination!
Here’s an example to ensure your list is thorough:
Let’s say you plan to create an outline for your new workshop and want your Mastermind partner to review it and give feedback. There are actually 4 different tasks that, most likely, would happen on 4 different days. Therefore, your Project Plan would list the following 4 discrete tasks, with the person responsible:
- Create outline, give to MM partner [Me]
- Review outline [Mastermind partner]
- Meet to discuss feedback [Me and Mastermind partner]
- Finalize outline [Me]
Now it’s time to set the project’s completion date. Print your in-progress Project Plan. Grab a pencil and eraser. In the last row showing the last task on your list, write down a date in the “Due Date” column.
Here are tips:
- For our “create new workshop” example, this would be a hard-and-fast deadline if you have committed to present this new workshop at a conference or corporate event.
- If you don’t have a “drop-dead” date for your project, choose a target completion date.
- Do not skip this step! Setting a target completion date is a critical step to (a) commit to your project, (b) finish your project.
Now it’s time to identify a due date for each task. Grab your in-progress Project Plan, pencil, eraser, and a paper calendar. Consider printing your Outlook calendar, which would show scheduled out-of-office dates. Whatever you use, consider it a “scribble calendar.” (You’ll see why in a minute.) Starting at the bottom of your Project Plan, identify a completion date for each task.
Here are tips:
- I like to mark each task’s completion date in the “Due Date” column AND scribble the task on the calendar. If you start seeing too many substantial tasks loaded into one week on the calendar, it’ll be clear that you need to adjust dates for some of your tasks.
- Work your way up to the very first task in your Project Plan.
- Erase and adjust due dates for each task, as necessary.
- If you started by identifying a target completion date (as opposed to a firm “drop-dead” date) and find that you’ll need more time to finish your project, you can move the completion date by a week or two, then adjust all task due dates accordingly.
- Remember: The goal is to identify reasonable due dates that you can meet, week after week.
- You may want to identify key milestones. For example, it may be critical to give the workshop outline to your Mastermind partner by a certain date, prior to his/her extended vacation.
- For lengthy and complex projects, I like to build in contingency time. Often, I’ll include a 1-week task that is simply called “Contingency.”
- Many tasks in your Project Plan must be completed by others on your team (virtual assistant, designer, website developer, etc.). Be sure to contact them to ask about their availability. You don’t want to discover, late in the project, that your website developer will be on vacation for 2 weeks, just when you need him/her.
- When you’re done writing due dates for each task on your printed Project Plan, type the dates into your Microsoft Word document to finalize your Project Plan. I like to print my completed Project Plan, then place it in a binder or folder, so I can refer to it often. (Over the course of the project, I scribble lots of notes and sometimes adjust dates.)
Place each task’s due date in your Outlook calendar, day planner, or other scheduling system that you use. Be sure to indicate how much time the task requires. This way, when you schedule other activities and meetings in your calendar, you won’t over-pack your week and over-commit your time.
Here are tips:
- You can schedule a meeting with yourself to accomplish each task. This ensures you have set aside time to address your tasks, so they don’t get pushed to evenings and weekends.
- Once a task has been completed – on the printed Project Plan – I like to highlight it or cross it out. That gives me a great deal of satisfaction! You can also put a checkmark next to tasks, as you complete them.
- Give your Project Plan to team members who are responsible for specific tasks. Ask them to schedule time in their calendar to address their tasks on or before the due dates. Often, a team effort is required to complete a project, even if you’re a solopreneur. To complete the project on time, all team members must complete their tasks on time.
This is less of a step, and more of a MINDSET. Every task’s due date is a commitment that you make to yourself. Give each task the time – and priority – it deserves. Meet each task’s due date, and you will successfully complete your project on time.
Click to download my Project Plan Template.
Have questions? Need help?
I’m happy to guide you through the process to create your Project Plan! Send an email, and we’ll set a time for a consultation: Patrice@BrandingAndWebsites.com
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