Sunday, July 1, 2001

Project management in your pocket


By Kelly Forrister

One of the most common questions I get in the Palm handheld-related classes I lead is, "How do I manage projects on the Palm computer?" With Palm handhelds as standard issue in most companies these days, many users are embracing them for capturing to do lists and project planning, while moving away from their legal pads and paper files. With a little creativity, the built-in Palm applications can be adapted to serve as great project management tools.

There are dozens of third-party applications available for list making and project planning. I have yet to find one that is as intuitive and easy to use as the Palm OS To Do list. My standard for evaluating any hardware or software tool is simplicity. I've trained many people over the years and have been consistently reminded that unless a system is simple and easy to use, the system will die. Therefore, while the method I recommend may seem oversimplified for some, it will certainly be a great resource for many of you who have multiple projects and want a seamless, intuitive system for managing your life.

The five categories

The system I recommend is simple: create one category as an overview list of your current projects and four key action categories to track the list of current actionable information related to those projects. This will all be done in the built-in To Do application in the Palm handheld.

First, let's set up some useful To Do list categories. There are five context-sensitive categories that provide terrific leverage in managing projects and actions. The categories are:

  • Calls: all of the phone calls you need to make;
  • Errands: things you need to do away from the home or office;
  • Next Actions: things to edit, email, review, read, write, etc. that are not calls or errands;
  • Waiting For: things you are waiting for from someone or something else;
  • Projects: a list of all of your current projects.

You may want to break out the categories above between personal and professional. Since I own my business, my personal and business actions are merged. You can decide for yourself whether to distinguish business and personal actions. However, be aware that what you can do at the moment--your context--often determines your next action. For example, if you're on a plane and you've used up the battery in your laptop building a spreadsheet, it doesn't matter if checking the formulas in that spreadsheet is your highest business priority. It may be that all you can do in that context is to read the novel you've had on your list of personal next actions.