Project management with sticky notes

My job title is: Online Learning Community Project Manager.

And I’m learning what that all means in a BIG way. There are a million* little strands that require my attention. Some today, some yesterday and some on an ongoing basis. And oh, boy, do I get overwhelmed. (Should I admit this online? where current or future employers might see it? Ah well). I can easily get trapped in the putting out fires circle, spending all my time answering questions and running around giving pep talks and troubleshooting every little thing. I can also easily lose track the parts where I’m waiting for feedback, updates or resources from colleagues. It’s not very productive and then I keep picking up and dropping things according to other people’s immediate needs.

So I have a new plan (I love plans. And lists. And colour-coding both).

To prepare, I got a legal sized file folder and some sticky notes. I wrote each major part of the project on a separate sticky note: upgrade software (find virtual server); write handout (review draft #1); finish instructional design for module x. And this is the secret and the brilliance; I put all the sticky notes inside the file folder.  This morning I got to work, looked in side, and chose to focus on ONE task. I pulled out the associated folder (I’m writing an evaluation report on a grant), and have worked on that this morning. It works, it really works!

This is working for me for a few reasons.

  1. I can brainstorm and let my mind find and elaborate on the tasks better with pen and paper.
  2. The individual tasks are hidden in a closed file folder. If they were on the wall of my cubicle, I’d freak out about all the tasks I have to do, and think about each one for 15 seconds on an endless loop. Not productive.
  3. I can move the sticky notes around (like near like) to see which ones feed off each other (very efficient).
  4. I can see the whole project at once to more easily decide what my priority is each day.
  5. It’s beyond easy to update the notes, or throw them out and write new ones as that part of the project advances. It’s also low stakes to update and scribble on the sticky notes.

Do some people keep this all in their head? I can’t believe that. One former colleague has the most elaborate excel spreadsheet that works for her. I tried it for a while, but I got lost updating the spreadsheet instead of work (when it takes two minutes to find, open and update the spreadsheet for a 30 second task, that’s not productive). Another former colleague would write everything in a beautiful notebook (she said, but not in so many words, that beauty begets a peaceful mind). I tried that, but as soon as I turned the page, I forgot about the notes and lists that I’d make. One current colleague has a stack of loose papers on her desk, but that just fills me with anxiety. What if I LOST something? I’m pretty happy with my technique – what’s yours?

* I admit, a slight exaggeration. What about it?! (grin).

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One thought on “Project management with sticky notes”

  1. Your sticky note system makes sense to me, and I understand your reasons.

    Some of my colleagues and I telecommute to the office. In the office, each team has a board with cards on it, each card representing a task. Developers who have finished a task move it to the right on the board and then go look for another. It’s flexible, visible, and easy to understand.

    Us remotes have an electronic version of this. Sort of. It doesn’t work very well. It’s complicated. It just isn’t as good as having a cork board, cards, and push pins.

    Sometimes, low tech works better.

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