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From the Editor 
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Premium How-To Course 
Be Realistic About What It Takes 
Be Realistic About How Long It Takes 
Be Realistic About Priority and Urgency 
Project Practitioners 
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January 31, 2013, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.

From the Editor

Neil Nickolaisen has said that procrastination is a critical leadership tool. Good thing, since I've elevated it to an art form. It's especially bad this time of year, when the languid pace of the holiday break seeps into the day-to-day, amplified by half-serious resolutions not to overcommit myself this year …and suddenly January is over and nothing is done.

I combat procrastination in three ways: Be specific about what I need to do, be realistic about how long it will take to do it, and refuse to confuse priority and urgency. Assuming I'm not the only one wondering where January disappeared to, I thought this week we'd share a few resources I've used to get a grip on myself and my task list this month. Just make sure you don't use them as yet another way to procrastinate. We've also got two new templates, plus Kent McDonald checking in from Big Bend National Park, and Ann Drinkwater on finding the right cultural fit for your next endeavor. Let's get started!

Featured Article

Project Lessons Learned from America's Best Idea
by Kent McDonald

Kent McDonald I'm writing this in the Denver Airport as my wife and I are returning from our trip to Big Bend National Park. While we were on this trip, I got a reminder that it was my turn for an article, and it occurred to me as we were on one of our many hikes, that the story of our trip held some great project management lessons. I thought I would share some of those main lessons here. Read the rest »

Premium How-To Course

Agile Methodologies: Overview of Extreme Programming
Presented by Kent McDonald, KnowledgeBridge Partners

Agile's most prescriptive methodology is called Extreme for its focus on taking ordinary software practices to maximum -- even extreme -- levels. The result is an extraordinarily cohesive, driven, self-managing team. This mini-course by Kent McDonald provides a high-level overview of Extreme Programming, explains the motivation behind various XP techniques, and addresses some common misconceptions as well. 1 PDU Learn more »

Be Realistic About What It Takes

The key here is realism. "I need to finish that signoff" may sound simple enough, but when you break it down into "finalize the risk list, set up a review meeting with the team, get approval from the sponsor, complete signoff," the landscape changes. Use these tools to get real about what's on your task list.

First, Make a List - Action Item List Formats
Lists are good. Good lists are better. These example formats will help you keep track of all those miscellaneous action items, along with key information about owners, due dates and status. Remember to record actions, not amorphous "stuff I wish was done." To keep yourself honest, start each item with a verb. ("Finish" doesn't count.)

 Oops, Was That Your Apple Cart? - IT Process and Staff Impact AssessmentPREMIUM
While you're reviewing what must be done to finish, find out what must be done after you finish. That project is going to change something somewhere (otherwise, why are you doing it?), and change means impacts that will create work for someone. This assessment checklist is for IT projects, but you can easily adapt it for others. Use it to assess and summarize how a project will impact staffing groups, end user experiences, and specific processes so you can make your action item lists that much more realistic.

And Then There's Everything Else - Personal Time Management Assessment LogMEMBER
Now that you've made a list, take a look at the things you're doing without even thinking about it. Use this form for a few days to record where your time goes. It's designed to be very fast and very low overhead. After a week or so, analyze the list and look for the invisible time sucks that are tamping down on your productivity. (Guidelines are included.)

Be Realistic About How Long It Takes

One of our former consultants used to advise us to multiply all estimates by pi. That may be a bit extreme, but on the whole, most people are notoriously bad at estimating things. That's especially true when you're not taking into account all of the other, unlisted stuff that will distract from your task list (like sleep, for instance).

It'll Take As Long As It Takes - Estimating Process and MethodsPREMIUM
That's not a guess likely to win you many friends. Promising everything by the end of the week isn't much better, but it can be hard to get realistic if you've never done something before. This guideline provides an overview of project estimating methods, so you can pick one or more that works well for your situation and be sure you're not promising 60 hours of work in a 24-hour day.

It's Not Just You - Pete's Estimating LawsMEMBER
Think you're immune? Think again. This loosely bound set of Universal Laws provides amusing reminders of possible influences and errors encountered when estimating work.

 So, What Do You Think? - Project Plan Signoff ChecklistPREMIUM
Once you've got everything lined up, this checklist helps the project manager and other stakeholders ensure the plan is truly complete before officially signing off. Though this form is designed for IT use, it can easily be adapted for use on other types of projects.

Be Realistic About Priority and Urgency

You've got a list, and you know what it will take to finish. Now get real about which things you should do first. Sometimes it's the most urgent stuff. Sometimes, it's the most important stuff. Sometimes, it's just the stuff you're least likely to mess up in your coffee-deprived state. In any case, it helps to know where everything falls in the general scheme of things. These worksheets can help.

Can I Add +5 for the Fun Factor? - Scored and Ranked Project List for Portfolio ManagementSPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until February 14, 2013
This simple worksheet walks you through creating a scored and ranked project list for portfolio management and resource allocation. Because of its simplicity, it can be just as effective for prioritizing a set of personal "projects" that are vying for your limited attention.

Do You Know Why This Matters? - Strategic Project Prioritization WorksheetPREMIUM
On a more organizational or departmental level, this Excel template will help you analyze and rank project candidates. Rankings are based on how much each project contributes to the organization's overall goals and related strategies, so you can be sure you're ranking ROI, and not just popularity or star power.

Project Practitioners

Do You Really Want to Work There? - Determining Cultural Fit, by Ann Drinkwater
The time has come. You have started to pursue new endeavors and want to make the right choice. It can seem daunting and change can be tough. While the devil you know can sometimes be better than the devil you don't, that's not always the case. Don't become paralyzed in a situation that doesn't offer the promise and culture you desire. Culture is the largest component to long-term satisfaction and success.

Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing

Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.

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