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Seeing a project through from start to finish, usually while facing challenges such as budget limitations and time constraints, is both an art and a science. A skilled project manager is able to stay on a tight schedule, manage people and tasks smoothly and be flexible enough to make last-minute changes, all without losing sight of the ultimate project goals.

Don’t panic if this juggling act seems overwhelming; take a deep breath and follow these basic project management tips to make everything work like clockwork.

1. Create an initial project plan.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of proper project planning. As the old adage goes, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Before you jump into a new project, take the time to map out a work plan with the following information:

  • Overview: What is the project? What background information is necessary to understand it?
  • Scope/goals and objectives: : What is the size of the project? What are the deliverables? What are the overarching goals and objectives?
  • Resources needed: What people do you need to complete this project? What materials, equipment or other special resources do you require?
  • Roles: Of the people you need for the project, what role does each person play? Who is in charge of each piece? To whom does each person report?
  • Timeline: What is the deadline for this project? How much time do you anticipate each step will take?
  • Budget: How much money do you have to complete this project? Is this budget reasonable to achieve the scope, goals and objectives you outlined above? If not, what are possible solutions?
  • Questions and action steps: What additional information or support do you need? What are the first action steps that you can take?

This project plan will no doubt go through many revisions, but mapping it out from the beginning is essential (all the project management tips in the world won’t help you if you don’t have a solid plan).

2. Assemble your project team.
Using your project plan as a guide, gather your team together and assign roles and responsibilities. Make sure each person knows exactly what he or she is in charge of, and answer any questions that arise. Get feedback from team members on your initial plan, and take their suggestions into account as you move forward. People with diverse skill sets are likely to bring a different perspective from your own to the project plan and can add their own project management tips in their area of expertise.

3. Set milestones.
Break your larger plan into smaller steps, each attached to a deadline and incorporated into your overall timeline. Delegate these tasks to team members, set up regular check-ins and trust your team to take care of their responsibilities.

4. Adjust your plan as necessary.
Your plan is an excellent starting point, but most projects evolve and change along the way, and you will have to be prepared to be flexible at times. For example, if you lose part of your funding, you may have to scale back the scope of the project and think of creative solutions to save money.

Learn more about how to manage team roles and responsibilities.

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