By Jiji Lee

How to Choose the Best Planning and Project-Managing Style for You


Managing all the details is easiest when your system is customized to you.

Whether you’re a freelancer, project manager, or executive, you’re likely to be juggling several different projects and responsibilities, with deadlines and tasks that vary day to day. 

For example, if you’re an editorial manager, your role probably encompasses everything from creating an editorial calendar to writing and editing articles to recruiting new writers.

And in addition to your workload, you probably have another set of personal or creative projects, like taking care of housework or pursuing creative activities or developing your fitness goals.

So how do we juggle all of these different projects while also staying on top of the granular details and fast moving parts? It’s hard enough planning and organizing one big project, let alone three or more. 

If you consider yourself disorganized, don’t worry.  According to this Harvard Business Review article, planning and organizing is like any other skill or habit, in that it can be learned and improved upon. The key is to stick with it and be easy yourself should things go off track. 

One surefire way to improve your planning and organizing skills, is to take an honest look at your working style. 

Choose tools and methods that align with your habits and preferences. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often people take up bullet journaling or excel sheets, when they have no desire to do either of those things. Yes, excel sheets may be great for one person, but it might not be the best choice for you and your working style. 

Below, we look at ways to figure out your working style, and give you tips on planning and project management strategies. 

Assess your working style 

When it comes to planning and project management, you want to incorporate tools and systems that serve your working style. For instance, do you consider yourself a visual thinker? Or are or are you data driven? Do you like writing by hand? Or do you prefer screens and devices?

Let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of working styles and see what fits you. 

Visual 

Who you are: 

  • You’re a visual learner and you prefer diagrams or powerpoint presentations to long memos or lectures
  • You love post-it notes and putting them around your wall to remind you of deadlines and ideas
  • You love brainstorming with a mind map
  • You love whiteboards because they’re big enough to capture all of your thoughts, lists, and diagrams
  • Color-coding helps you visually categorize your tasks 

Recommended tools:

Whiteboard, post-its, markers 

Digital 

Who you are: 

  • You love the speed and efficiency of digital tools 
  • You’d rather type up your ideas on a notes app than write them down
  • You like using different online tools but you don’t like carrying around multiple notebooks
  • Spreadsheets give you peace of mind
  • You like to assign numerical values to things or quantify things

Recommended tools:

Asana, Excel sheets, Google Calendar

Manual

Who you are: 

  • You like writing things down by hand because it helps you remember information 
  • You like a good old fashioned to do list and find digital apps to be overwhelming
  • You like storing all of your information in one notebook or notepad rather than toggling between apps
  • You like color coding with markers and pens

Recommended tools:

Paper planner, Project dashboard pad, washi tape, color pens

You might be more than one...

Not everyone is strictly visual, digital, or manual. You might find that you like using a mix of productivity tools. For example, you prefer writing a to-do list by hand, but you also like the assurance of entering deadlines on Google Calendar and receiving digital reminders. 

Using a combo of digital and manual tools is a great way to keep track of your different projects, so that you don’t have to rely on memory or will power alone to manage your work. 

Try experimenting with different tools and see which ones are the most effective. Remember: these tools should serve you and help you execute your work, they shouldn’t create more work for you.

How to plan and organize your projects with a dashboard

First things first, you’ll want to create a project dashboard to manage the workflow and all the different parts of your project. If you’re new to using a dashboard, it’s similar to the concept behind a vehicle dashboard--it’s a central hub that contains all the essential information.

Your project dashboard will capture your main priorities, key stakeholders, deadlines, work, etc.

You can choose to have one central dashboard for all your projects or use a separate dashboard for each one. 

Central dashboard

If you’re the type of person who likes to store their information in one notebook and you’d prefer not to toggle between apps, then a central dashboard is for you. 

You can use an Ink+Volt Project Dashboard for this purpose. Designed for people who manage multiple projects, the Project Dashboard has the function of a digital project management tool with the ease and efficiency of a notepad.

After surveying our customers, we found that most people managed up to 3 main projects, along with several other secondary projects and personal tasks. Our customers preferred managing their projects with one tool, rather than having to switch back and forth between notebooks or digital platforms.

You can keep track of up to 4 big projects, which can include your main goals, client work, specific projects, or school assignments. 

Under each Focus Area, there’s a section where you can write down all the key deliverables, action steps, and tasks you need to complete. Remember: identify your top priorities and then write them down in this section. By choosing the most important tasks, you’ll be guaranteed to stay focused on your project, and ensure its success. 

Secondary areas: In this section, you can keep track of your side projects and assignments. For example: fitness goals, creative hobbies, grad school applications, travel plans, and more.

Additional tasks: In this section, you can write down any tasks that are related to your primary or secondary focus areas, or miscellaneous tasks or errands that you’d like to accomplish. 

Separate dashboards

If you’d like to keep your personal projects separate from your work projects, and vice versa, then you’ll want to give separate dashboards a try.

For smaller scale projects like writing an article or cleaning your house or fitness goals, you can choose a notepad or planner to keep track of your work.  Or, if you’re more visually minded, you can use post-it notes and track the progress of your project with the kanban method.

If you need help remembering deadlines and assignments, then make sure to add important dates to your Google Calendar. 

Choose the tool that best fits your style: visual, digital, manual, or a mix and match. See which ones help you see the overarching picture while also helping you manage all the nuts and bolts.