Project time management Philosophy

I think I hit a new record of being a full year late on a project....a YEAR!
I've decided that most of the delay is due to poor time management.
Basically, it's a production machine with many sub-projects, all this stuff
needs to be envisioned, sketched, drawn, built, tested, revised and
installed. A lot is bull work drilling and taping and simple machining.
Some is more involved. No big deal, that's what I do, in addition to
everything else, mostly boring office work. I could probably finish-up in a
week or two if I was on my game and undisturbed. (People tell me I'm
disturbed) Two months ago, I could probably have finished-up in a week or
two if I was on my game and undisturbed. I find it harder and harder to
switch hats and utilize my shop time most productively.
Are there any secrets to managing projects that you will share? I need a
new road map. It was suggested to do the hardest sub-assemblies first and
fill in short times with bull work. I've been told to do the easiest stuff
first, the shortest time stuff first, the longest time stuff first, the most
exciting stuff first....etc. etc. etc.
I have four more major projects on the book and I want to manage them
better...they will make me some serious money! I'm always amazed at some of
the things that you guys do...tell me the secret!
Reply to
Tom Gardner
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My two cents is to work on it some every day. Maybe some days are better for design and paper work and research, other days are better for firing up the power tools. Think about logging your time spent on your projects every day, something like "1.5 hours designing drive system", or "45 minutes on trial assembly and fitting". It may be that you are not putting in enough hours, or spending more time planning than doing.
I suggest that having four projects going on at the same time is probably too many, if you have a full time job. Focus on one or two of them.
A lot of people also have unrealistic views on how long a project would take. There may be a human being somewhere who could do the project in two weeks of steady work. However, that human being may not be you, you may not have the skills or experience or discipline to do the project in the most efficient way.
I used to do quite a bit of project management in my engineering job, but even in a professional environment with very skilled people, we usually ended up behind schedule, for one reason or another, sometimes conflicting priorities, sometimes unexpected problems.
A standard project management tool is to have a set of milestones. Example: End of October, drive system assembled and tested. End of November, control system wiring complete. End of December, trial run. Milestones are suspposed to be specific deliverables, not vague things like "design 50% finished". This way you can tell if you are behind schedule, etc. But stuff happens, and projects do fall behind schedule, the trick is to get back on track and not beat yourself up too much about being behind.
I don't know you, but one of my inlaws is infamous for starting huge projects and not finishing them. He was refurbishing a house to move into, and moved into it a year or two later, unfinished. He ran out of money to buy cabinets, etc. One day I called to talk to his spouse, and he suddenly went into a speach about how he was only at the old house to take a short break, etc. But I had not said anything or expressed surprise that he was at the old house, I did not even care how he spent his time. Obviously in his mind he should have been at the new house working on it, so he had to justify to me why he was not doing it, whether I cared or not. This guy is a loser, and I sure hope that you don't have as many problems as he does, but sometimes you can learn by studying the more extreme case, and see little bits of yourself in that reflection. People do get into patterns of behavior, and you are right to look for a way to break a pattern of behavior.
I think that many people suffer from project paralysis. The project looks so large that they don't know where to start, and they worry more than they work. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Good luck. Maybe this gives you something to think about.
Tom Gardner wrote:
Reply to
Richard Ferguson
I just joined another project with a local company. We are trying to estimate time and cost for design work on a system that has to be prototyped by the end of December. Problem is that it is very poorly defined. No schematics, little information about responsibilities, designs or other important stuff such as available budget. If it weren't so interesting, I would run away from it. These guys need some serious help and we are apparently the only ones who can bail them out.
We have to go through the task of making some SWAGs and writing on fog for our proposals.
Sure is good to be retired. I thought I was done with this BS.
Earle Rich Mont Vernon, NH
Reply to
My secret to success is so simple that most people laugh it off, or it simply goes in one ear and out the other, even if they are paying $125 an hour for my lecturing them on how to improve their bottom line.
First, you must have a clear vision of what you want to have within a year, two and three. You must believe this to be possible.
Second - you look at the panorama, the overall landscape of your project and list clearly identifiable problems. If there is a river you must cross, then a bridge must be built. If you are to work in Mexico, then Spanish must be learned. You make these obstacles IMPORTANT on your activities list.
Third, you list everything that must be done, followed by when it can start but most importantly when it MUST be completed. (The bridge can start anytime, but it must be completed Oct 10 because that is when the final assembly is to be delivered and you need to cross the river with that wheelbarrow). You put this information into a Gantt chart, a simple line by line time map for you to use as a reference, reminder and communication tool with those you work with be they employees, suppliers, customers, friends, kids....
You carry in your shirt pocket a couple of pieces of paper. This month's calendar with meetings and stuff on the front, and the back with phone numbers to your principal players. Another blank page upon which you make notes of things to do, ideas, and reminders, and notes on problems that keep popping up. These popping up problems will be reviewed when you do potty on Saturday morning and a Pareto analysis made on the flay - Which two problems are causing most other problems and what can you do to extinguish them?
Every morning you look at your lists and think of the plan and list the six most important things that must be accomplished that day for it all to come together. Learn to delegate the URGENT stuff which are phone calls, interruptions and stuff that is important to them, but not important to your plan. This is a crucial test of character which few people can master since most of us like being good-guys and since everybody knows that if you want something done really quick, ask a busy person. Lose this!
Whenever you have time, go to
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and read it bit by bit.
Projects are the spice of life if you learn to master them and not be a slave to them.
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Reply to
Wayne Lundberg
On Fri, 03 Oct 2003 18:29:33 GMT, "Wayne Lundberg" pixelated:
Wayne, you have it down! Thank you for this. I'm going to put it up on my office wall...maybe tomorrow. ;)
I'm finally learning that lesson and am starting to get things done around here.
Just this year I'm letting the answering machine get any call which comes when I'm focusing on something important. It really does make a difference. And I avoid a helluva lot of damned salescritters. That's a Win/Win, wot?
Wow, I never stopped to think of it from that perspective. People have been doing that to me for too many years.
Hey, it's written by that famous Wayne Lundberg guy. ;) I had to look up "pareto analysis on the flay", analyze that you had probably meant "fly", and go from there.
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clued me in to a process I knew about but didn't know the name.
BTW, there are a few glitches in that site. Mixed PDF/HTM pages, the patent/over40years page is misnamed (no suffix) so it comes up as ascii+code. Better take a look.
Too true.
P.S: I really meant that "Thanks!" above. You're quite enlightened and those of us who get a glimpse of it are appreciative.
Reply to
Larry Jaques
Pure Gold!
My managers are getting copies printed out for them from your links. I'm so glad that you responded, Thanks!
Reply to
Tom Gardner
Thank you Tom and Larry - you have made my day!
Reply to
Wayne Lundberg
On Sat, 04 Oct 2003 16:46:42 GMT, "Wayne Lundberg" pixelated:
Great. Send money! ;)
.-. Life is short. Eat dessert first! ---
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Comprehensive Website Development
Reply to
Larry Jaques
Well Tom, It looks like you are getting a ton of ideas. So I guess I'll chime in. First of all, understand that by definition "a project has a beginning and an end". Projects that do not end, are no longer projects, but are considered "tasks". After you digest that concept, you must define what is to be included in the project. This definition of the project is sometimes called the "scope". Essentially, what is in the field of view. After you understand what must be accomplished, break the up into measurable, attainable, chunks. Sometimes called a WBS or Work Breakdown Structure. The operable word here is "attainable". Don't get so detailed in this sectionalization that you spend more time trying to tweak this definition, that you forget that you are supposed to be working. Too many first line and middle managers I deal with, get mired in the BS that they created. Once the project scope and WBS is built, it's a matter of working your plan, after planning your work. How do you measure how far you are in the project? Let's say it is a $50,000 project. When you have spent $25,000 in material and labor costs, you better be 50% complete. If you have a six month project and a month into it, you've spent $25K, You are in trouble! Go to
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and see how a Project Management Professional deals with projects.
Project Management is common sense written down, taking into account for he triple constraints. Time, Money, and Scope. Widen the scope, and you can count on increasing both time and money. Cut back on the money, and narrow the scope, plan on adding time. 2 lbs of feathers weighs the same as 2 lbs of steel.
Jim - PMP
Reply to
D.B. Cooper
A very nice collection of information, Wayne. More valuable than many similar hardcopy books, and more interesting.
Best regards, Spehro Pefhany
Reply to
Spehro Pefhany
Thank you!
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Embedded software/hardware/analog Info for designers:
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Reply to
Wayne Lundberg

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