Sunday, March 11, 2012

Project Management Schedule

This post is written in response to a request to hear more about how I manage my time.

First, let me say that I feel like I do a poor job of it. I'm always trying to improve, finding the balance between productivity, community engagement, and personal life.

I use a methodology called Getting Things Done by David Allen, often shortened to GTD. It is a pretty inexpensive book, available used in paperback for a few dollars.

The method starts with capturing everything into an Inbox, even if it's not a task, even if you have no idea where or when you'll follow up on it.

The first thing I do every morning is sit for a couple of hours in the natural daylight and wake up. The first hour or so involves listening to the birds and drinking tea. Then I fire up the iPod, catch up on blog reading, and start the productivity process for that day.

I clear my Inbox of anything that landed there the day before. I create new projects, contexts, or file things under Someday/Maybe. I review the work that is due that day and try to wrap my head around how I'll get it done. On light days I browse through contexts and see if there are any screaming for attention. "You've got a bunch of show applications due this week. Spend time in the office!" is one of the things that OmniFocus might say to me.

Next, I write a blog post or two. The one exception to my task management system is my blogging. Instead of keeping upcoming blog posts in the GTD queue, I keep them in the drafts folder of Blogger+, my chosen blogging app. Throughout the day, when a blog topic hits me, I open it up and create a blank article with a title to remind me what it will become.

Then, I respond to blog comments and write important emails. I used to leave emails in my mail program's inbox until I responded to them, but I don't do that anymore. They all get put into OmniFocus because I forgot about too many over the years. Once they scroll off the first screen, they're gone forever as far as my sieve-brain is concerned.

After this, all bets are off for how my day gets spent. If there are time-critical tasks in town that don't involve just "picking something up", I'll have to take a trip to town. And when I do, I make it count. I'll do every single task from every project, whether it's due or not. This habit means that I only go to town once or twice a month.

To decide how much time I need to spend in the studio, I have a production calendar on paper on the wall. With it, I track how many hours are spent in the studio by everyone who helps. At the end of the week I total up actual hours, carry an deficit to the next week, and track production value. There is a minimum retail value that needs to be produced every week. There are two numbers that I calculate every week to help with that - average weekly production, and catch-up production. I arrive at the average by dividing the retail value of the year's production by the number of weeks we've worked this year. If it's below our required weekly production, which it always is, I track how much we need to produce that week to catch up to our average.

All of this is just a fancy way to track for myself and communicate to others how much work there is to do so that we have inventory for our midsummer shows.

Once I've put in the production time for the day, for the week, or whatever, then I spend any remaining time on other things. There's always a ton to do: bookkeeping, Etsy store management, show research, and more.

There's one more routine GTD task that helps keep all of this stuff on track... The weekly review. Once a week I review every single project, including Someday/Maybe. I make sure that every one of them has an appropriate next action, and that every action has a context. Some weeks, I consolidate projects and restructure them to make more sense, organize contexts, etc., but this usually isn't necessary.


Andrew Kieran said...

Nice one Blossom :D

I particularly like the idea of spending a couple of hours in the morning drinking tea and letting your brain wake up. I read that in a previous blog post and gave it a shot. I just make a big pot of tea with milk and sugar (in a bucket, like a soldier) which tends to keep me going for an hour while reading a book or playing a few turns of whatever game i'm getting whipped at (I suck at tactical wargames, but I love playing them).

I find that when I take the time to do this in the morning my mind works much better throughout the rest of the day, I'm calmer and I get more done.

The next upgrade of course would be moving to the other side of the glen so I'm not dwelling in permanent shadow. But that'll have to wait.

Blossom Merz said...

Thanks, Andrew!

Of course, you know I wrote this post for you... I'm currently living in a north-facing valley where we rarely see the sun. I've got a 150-watt incandescent, full-spectrum bulb on a timer to wake me up at 5:30. I lay there in the "sun" for a little while before getting up. It works wonders!

Be well!