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How to Tackle Large Projects

Large projects can be daunting whether it is a project at home (a renovation, a new garden, planning a big trip) or a project while on contract.

When you’re working on a client project, very often there is a Project Manager (or you are a Project Manager) so the roles and steps have already been carefully thought out. In other cases, though, especially with smaller clients, you may find yourself consumed in a complex project and unsure where to start.  If you have little or no project management experience, this can be quite stressful.

One way to get going is to remember the Eating an Elephant theory. It would be impossible to do all in one shot, but to eat the elephant (the big project) one bite at a time(the manageable pieces) would be much more feasible.

Project Management

Therefore, the trick is to break the project down into manageable pieces and to work your way through those pieces. Here are a few tips to get you started:

(a)    Don’t “freak out”.  It’s OK to panic a little but only on the inside and just to get past the initial shock.

(b)   Then start to plan:

  1. What are all of the things that need to happen?

  2. Plan a timeline. Some tasks will be dependent upon others happening first.  (i.e. You shouldn’t book hotels on a big trip until you know you can get there).

  3. For each distinct task, decide what is needed to complete it (i.e. tools, information, help, other resources etc.)

  4. Start to execute.

(c)    In essence you are creating a Project Plan just like any Project Manager, but it really doesn’t need to be complicated.

(d)   If you find you are in over your head, let the client know early on.  Perhaps it would be a good investment for them to hire a Project Manager.

Finally, the small tasks that you “bite off” need to be manageable (by your definition) or you WILL get into trouble.  Keep it simple and you will amaze yourself at what you can accomplish!

What tricks do you use to approach large projects?  If you’re an experienced Project Manager, do you have any other simple steps you can suggest to a new contractor?