How to Easily Organize a Project

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Have you recently been selected to organize a project at work such as an upcoming event, an online publication, or local campaign?

Maybe you want to organize a personal project such as a friend’s birthday party, a beach vacation scrapbook, or community fashion show.

The good news is that you can vividly see the completed project in your mind’s eye.

The bad news?

You’re not entirely sure how to organize the steps in between so you can actually arrive at the project finish.

Should you start at the end of your project and work your way backwards, or should you just start somewhere at the beginning and plow your way through to the end?

You may find it hard to believe, but the solution to the problem is actually a combination of the two approaches described above.

In this post, I offer a handful of practical steps to help you organize a project.

The next time you have to organize a professional or personal project, simply follow these steps.

You’ll find yourself one-step ahead in the planning process in no time!

 

Give your project a name.

You’re going to spend several hours at work on your project, so it only makes sense to give your project a name. This step helps to solidify the project as an actual physical thing. It’s no longer just an idea, it’s a reality.

How should you go about naming your project? It’s a good idea to be as clear and descriptive as possible. You don’t want to accidentally confuse yourself in the process or mistakenly confuse your project with another.

What does your project entail? What’s the most succinct way to describe what it is you’ll be working on over the next several weeks?

If you need to, you can brainstorm several different options and choose the one that makes the most sense. If you’re organizing a surprise birthday party for your friend Stephanie, you may name your project, “Stephanie’s Surprise Birthday Party,” as opposed to something vague like, “Birthday Party.” 

 

Set a due date for your project.

A project without a due date probably won’t be completed. The project will most likely drag on and on for weeks, months, or years, possibly until someone tires, forgets, or fails to complete it.

When does your project need to be completed by? Are there any external factors that influence or dictate your due date? If so, what would be a suitable due date given these bits of information?

Are you free to choose your own due date that is not influenced by external factors? If so, go ahead and select a specific date (day, month, and year) by which your project needs to be completed. If you’re organizing a party for a friend, you might choose Saturday, July 27th as your due date, or the date of the party.

If you feel a touch of procrastination or uneasiness when selecting a due date, don’t worry! It’s not uncommon for people to get excited about setting a final date for a project.   

Take a deep breath, see the end of your project in your mind’s eye, and write down your due date in your calendar, schedule, or planner. And just like that, you’ve set a due date for your project!

List out project categories.

The next step in organizing your project is to create broad project categories. You can think of these categories as large sections within your project.

Having project categories is a convenient way for you to break down work within the project so it is more manageable. Project categories allow you to become laser-focused, plus they help you gauge your overall progress in your work.

Take a moment to brainstorm several broad categories for your project. What are the different components or pieces of your project? How do they fit together to form the project as a whole?

You don’t have to come up with all of your project categories in one sitting. The important part is that you start to think about all the potential categories involved and get them down on paper or in a digital format.

From our example above, “Stephanie’s Surprise Birthday Party,” you might create categories such as refreshments, invitations, and decorations.

List out project tasks.

The next step is to list out tasks related to each of your project categories. Which items naturally follow each of your project categories? What types of tasks need to be accomplished for each category?

Take some time to brainstorm and write tasks underneath their respective categories. Again, you don’t have to come up with all of your tasks in one sitting. You just want to get the process started. You may even find that starting the project task process will get your creativity juices flowing!

From our example above, we might create category tasks such as the following:

Stephanie’s Surprise Birthday Party

Refreshments

  • Brainstorm refreshments for party
  • Make food and beverage shopping list
  • Go shopping for food and beverages
  • Order cake at bakery
  • Pickup cake from bakery
  • Setup food, beverages, and cake

 

Invitations

  • Create guest list
  • Pick up invitations from store
  • Address invitations
  • Mail invitations
  • Track invitation RSVPs

 

Decorations

  • Brainstorm decorations
  • Make decoration shopping list
  • Go shopping for decorations
  • Hang-up decorations

Revise and add due dates.

Now it’s time to review your categories and tasks to make sure everything is complete. Review your project categories once more. Do you have all the necessary categories needed for your project? Feel free to edit, move, and adjust your notes, as need be.

Next, you’ll want to make sure your tasks match your project categories. Are your tasks listed under the right categories? Do you need to add, remove, or consolidate tasks in your project? Again, feel free to edit, move, and adjust your notes, as necessary.

When you’re satisfied with with your categories and tasks, you’ll want to add in specific due dates. You can start the process by identifying due dates for specific categories. You’ll then want to work your way down to creating due dates for individual tasks as these tasks are what will actually move the project forward.

From our example above, we might create due dates such as the following:

Stephanie’s Surprise Birthday Party

Refreshments: Due Date July 27th

  • Brainstorm refreshments for party – July 11th
  • Make food and beverage shopping list – July 12th
  • Go shopping for food and beverages – July 26th
  • Order cake at bakery – July 23rd
  • Pickup cake from bakery – July 27th
  • Setup food, beverages, and cake – July 27th

 

Invitations: Due Date July 21st

  • Create guest list – July 9th
  • Pick up invitations from store – July 10th
  • Address invitations – July 10th
  • Mail invitations – July 11th
  • Track invitation RSVPs July 11th – July 21st

 

Decorations: Due Date July 27th

  • Brainstorm decorations – July 11th
  • Make decoration shopping list – July 12th
  • Go shopping for decorations – July 22nd
  • Hang-up decorations – July 27th

 

After you’ve added in dates, review your work once more, and make any final edits. For instance, you may want to move around the categories and tasks so they are in chronologic order as in the following:

Stephanie’s Surprise Birthday Party

Invitations: Due Date July 21st

  • Create guest list – July 9th
  • Pick up invitations from store – July 10th
  • Address invitations – July 10th
  • Mail invitations – July 11th
  • Track invitation RSVPs July 11th – July 21st

 

Refreshments: Due Date July 27th

  • Brainstorm refreshments for party – July 11th
  • Make food and beverage shopping list – July 12th
  • Order cake at bakery – July 23rd
  • Go shopping for food and beverages – July 26th
  • Pickup cake from bakery – July 27th
  • Setup food, beverages, and cake – July 27th

 

Decorations: Due Date July 27th

  • Brainstorm decorations – July 11th
  • Make decoration shopping list – July 12th
  • Go shopping for decorations – July 22nd
  • Hang-up decorations – July 27th

 

And if you’re feeling even more task-oriented, you can rewrite the tasks into one long task list with their corresponding due dates as follows:

Stephanie’s Surprise Birthday Party

  • Create guest list – July 9th
  • Pick up invitations from store – July 10th
  • Address invitations – July 10th
  • Mail invitations – July 11th
  • Brainstorm refreshments for party – July 11th
  • Brainstorm decorations – July 11th
  • Track invitation RSVPs July 11th – July 21st
  • Make food and beverage shopping list – July 12th
  • Make decoration shopping list – July 12th
  • Go shopping for decorations – July 22nd
  • Order cake at bakery – July 23rd
  • Go shopping for food and beverages – July 26th
  • Hang-up decorations – July 27th
  • Pickup cake from bakery – July 27th
  • Setup food, beverages, and cake – July 27th

 

See how simple that was? With just a little bit of planning and thought, you can successfully organize a project. The last step is to enter in all of your tasks directly into your calendar or planner so you’ll be sure to complete them when the right time arises.

A version of this post appeared on the blog in 2016.

How about you? How do you go about organizing a project? Do you like to take your planning step-by-step project, or do you have a brainstorm, and then organize everything later? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

Do you want help getting organized? I offer professional organizing services and organizing mindset coaching. Click here to learn more.

Need help planning an event? My eBook and online course, How to Plan a Great Event in 60 Days, shows you how to plan a great event from start to finish…the organized way! Click here to learn more.

Organize a Project: Try These Simple Steps
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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.