In the design world, our work isn’t seasonal per se, however our workload does fluctuate from one month to the next. During ‘quiet’ times, we always have a backlog of company-related tasks we’ll happily tackle. However, when we’re busy and rushing around like mad, how do we make sure standards don’t slip for our clients? Our Project Manager, Georgina, tells us how she keeps everything running smoothly.
If I’m being honest, I use the same approach to plan our work in whether we’re busy or quiet – there’s just a lot more of it during busy periods, but here are some tips I’ve found useful during my 10+ years in project management.
Lists, Lists and more Lists.
Perhaps you’re someone who can retain your to-do list in your head. If you are, I envy you, I am not. I keep an ongoing to-do list, which I hand-write at the start of each working day. I know lots of people have shifted to digital methods to track their tasks, but I like the process of writing each item down. It gives me time to consider it and commit it to memory. Anything mentioned in passing on a phone call goes on the list. I don’t trust myself to remember everything.
I start each day by reviewing my list, adding in anything which has cropped up the previous day by email or phone. I also check my calendar for any time related tasks, e.g. end of month reporting or payment runs which need doing that day. And on the list they go. I like to have one centralised place for all my tasks.
When work is busy, and my to-do list is growing as quickly as I’m ticking items off it, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and drop the ball. It is important to be realistic about what I can achieve in a day. At the start of each day, I ‘star’ the three most time-sensitive things on my list. These become my ‘must’ items. The items I must complete that working day. Obviously, I regularly do many more than three things in any one day, but this keeps me focussed and stops anything from slipping too far behind schedule. If I complete my first three with lots of time to spare, I review my list again and star the next three and so on.
The most important thing when things get busy (ok let’s face it, most of the time) is communication. By this, I don’t mean that it is essential to tell everyone everything, far from it. Our designers don’t need to know details about website hosting for example, the copywriters don’t need to know the final print deadline, they just need to know their copy deadline. Be choosy about what you share with everyone, keep it efficient and to the point. This gives much less space for miscommunication and a higher likelihood that you’ll get what you’re expecting, when you’re expecting it.
Keeping in tune with your colleagues
On a similar note, an important thing to consider when you’re the one coordinating everyone, is that everyone is an individual. Different people work better with different methods of communication, for example. If our Lead Developer, Ash, is deep within building someone’s website – it’s much better to schedule in a time to go through multiple questions or projects at once, rather than interrupt him with ad-hoc bits and bobs. On the flip-side Big Mike works well on the phone and can often give me instant answers to questions or forward me things I need then and there etc. Being aware of your audience not only keeps everyone on-side but can also result in more helpful correspondence and less duplication of conversations.
Let’s face it – we’re human. Things sometimes do go wrong. People get ill, miscommunications sometimes happen, despite thorough planning, projects can over-run due to unforeseen circumstances. We are always honest with our clients (and our employees) in these situations, we give them as much notice as we possibly can if plans change, and we never deliver work we feel is substandard just to ‘meet the deadline’. Integrity is one of our most important values.
Obviously everyone develops their own methods for keeping all their plates spinning, but these are some things that work well for us!
If you’ve got a project you’d like to talk to us about, contact Big Mike on 07899 090675. We’d love to chat.