How To Improve Your Projects In An Hour

This article was sponsored by Quire.

When it’s time for the clocks to change, we can all look forward to that extra hour! I used to be able to spend it in bed but now I expect it will be whiled away watching children’s TV – the boys won’t understand that it means a lie in and will take a few days to adjust to the new later morning routine.

It got me thinking about what else I could do with that hour. File all my payslips, for example, instead of letting them pile up on the bookcase in the bedroom. Or clean the fridge. Or do something productive on my projects to make them better.

Here are 5 tasks that take an hour (give or take) that would fundamentally improve your chance of project success.

1. Write some success criteria

If you skipped over the part where your project should have success criteria, now is the time to write some.

You can only claim project success if you know what success should look like. You need something to compare back to at the end of the project, so work that out now.

Within an hour you should be able to extract the relevant business objectives from the business case or project charter and turn these into success criteria. You may have to wait for the project sponsor to ratify them or for the project board to meet for final agreement. But you can get them drafted and submitted for sponsor approval in your hour.

Not sure where to start? Read this: The Definitive Guide to Project Success Criteria

2. Read your issues log

And then do something about it.

Issues are all too often added the list and then expected to somehow disappear. Or we get sucked into doing the day-to-day project work and forget about them.

Use your hour to transfer the tasks related to handling issues to your project schedule or task list. Allocate each task an owner if it doesn’t have one already. Update your log with what you’ve already done. Aim to close one issue by the end of next week (or make up a bigger target that’s appropriate for you).

You might need to get more information in order to investigate or close an issue, so you could use the hour to ask colleagues for what’s needed or to go over some data you’ve been sent (and up to this point ignored – don’t worry, we’ve all been there!).

Get a free issue log here.

3. Chase up your colleagues

I bet that you have a note of work that your team and stakeholders are supposed to be doing for you that they have not completed.

Use your hour to chase them up. Go through your action log or inbox or wherever you store this kind of thing and contact everyone who owes you a response. If the deadline has passed, chase with stompy boots. If the deadline has not yet passed, remind them that it is coming.

This might take less than an hour but in my experience if you start talking to people on the phone it always takes longer than you expect as you go on to discuss other topics related to the project. I would recommend the phone rather than email or IM. They will find it harder to wriggle out of their responsibilities!

This might help if you feel that you are not getting anywhere: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Colleagues to Take Responsibility at Work.

4. Review your To Do list

My To Do list is on paper (and while there are plenty of task management apps out there, and Quire is one the best I’ve seen, I can’t bring myself to move away from my notebook just yet). It’s not a project schedule or project task list. A To Do list is my personal work to do outside of my projects, although sometimes project tasks find their way on to the list as well.

I also use an action log for project-related tasks, and you can get a copy of the spreadsheet with multiple tabs for all the RAID elements and more, over in my templates shop.

The problem is that some of the tasks on my list are massive like ‘Write ebook’. Some are tiny like ‘Change my username’ and some just don’t mean anything any more like ‘KDP Select’. What’s that about? Am I supposed to research what it is, register the ebook I haven’t written yet or something else?

Use your hour to get to grips with your tasks. If you are electronically minded, transfer all your paper notes into a task management app. Break down the big tasks so you can see what is realistically involved. Prioritize. Add dates and deadlines, then set reminders. If you need to manage other people’s work as well, stick their tasks on your list too. (Quire does all this, by the way.)

Then do one small thing and mark it as complete.

Believe me when I say that in an hour of focused time you can do all this. It will make you feel really great about your workload.

5. Take some photos

Feeling creative? Take some photos or shoot some video of your project. That could be anything including:

  • screenshots of your new software
  • an interview with your project sponsor
  • a team photo celebrating completing a milestone or even just of your team working in the office
  • a snap of your latest project artifact or someone using your prototype
  • a photo of your Kanban board or the output from the latest facilitated workshop.

Why? Because pictures are great for visual communication. Pictures and video help your stakeholders understand what they are getting and what is involved with getting there.

When they understand that they can support you better and they will be more engaged. And they are more likely to consider the project a success. Equally, if what they see doesn’t shout ‘success’ to them, wouldn’t you rather find out about it now instead of at the end?

For more tips on stakeholder engagement, grab my stakeholder template kit – it has everything you need to build productive working relationships with everyone on the team.

Snap your pics, give them a quick crop and polish in Picmonkey (or even PowerPoint, which has lots of basic features of editing images including some nice frames). Then create a task around sharing them and attach the pictures to the task so you know where to find them again.

What will you be doing with your extra hour?

Quire is a new-generation task management app that lets you accomplish your big goals or dreams by breaking them down into small doable steps. Sign up now for free. Find out more on the Quire website.