As a small business owner, you’re constantly taking on new projects.
Whether it’s adding a new product line to your store or launching a social media campaign, your time and resources are spread over multiple initiatives. Then, you add in running a business, managing a team and ensuring quality from every angle, and managing those projects can become difficult. But with a few simple tricks, you can stay on top of every project and meet every deadline.
Here are the four essential steps for keeping projects on schedule:
1. Create small project milestones to keep you on schedule.
The first step in ensuring a project stays on schedule is knowing exactly what the project entails. Take time to write down all the components of the project. This will help you prioritize each project task because you’ll know which ones need to be accomplished first. It also reduces the chance of you realizing additional resources are needed in the middle of the project. Once you’ve compiled all the project tasks, it’s time to schedule them.
2. Schedule milestones, and cushion your timelines.
Cushioning your timeline will help you stay on or ahead of the project’s schedule. Unforeseen projects and events often pop up, and cushioning your timeline ensures you can pivot among priorities without adding stress. If your project involves third party vendors – like distributors or graphic designers – the padded time will also help should they get behind schedule.
To begin scheduling your project milestones, first bump up your hard deadline. This gives you a few days to play with if it comes to crunch time. (Depending on your lead time, you could bump your deadline a couple days or even up to a full business week.) Then, begin to back up each milestone to the new deadline date, cushioning each a bit. Consider how much time each milestone will take and how long you’ll realistically need to accomplish it.
When you’re done scheduling the milestones, you will have a detailed project calendar that will serve as your workflow.
3. Communicate your timeline and needs to your team.
Notify your team of any requirements you have of them early in the project. Communicating your needs and your project schedule as soon as possible allows team members to plan accordingly. For instance, let’s say you’re preparing to offer a new product line. You know the product will deliver in three weeks, and you need your team’s help inspecting and displaying the product. It’s essential for the entire team to be aware of all the important dates – product arrival, product display, product launch, etc.
Letting each team member know where and when their help is needed will help them be prepared to act efficiently and promptly. Clearly communicating with your team reduces miscommunication, and ensures everyone is aware of what’s needed of them.
4. Delegate where you can.
You could take on a lot by yourself, but taking on too much can often decrease the quality of your efforts. Delegate wherever you can so priorities are divvied among your team. For example, if you’re planning a remodel that you want to personally supervise, it’s a good idea to take other tasks off your plate temporarily. Finding a team member to manage even the smallest of your daily or weekly workload will give you extra time to focus on your new initiative.
Completing new projects on or ahead of schedule has multiple benefits. You feel proud that you accomplished what you said you would; you set an example for your team; and you are less stressed because you weren’t pulling details together at the last minute. And when you finish those new initiatives on time, you’re able to quickly move on to the next, generating more revenue.