Keeping track of multiple projects

How do you keep sane when juggling multiple projects? For me, a to-do list and a way to organize project-related information make life so much better.

I’m planning two Idea Labs and an expertise location pilot, supporting a training course, assisting with a proposal, helping with two workshops, answering questions related to four potential Idea Labs, and adding to my community toolkit.

The key challenges are:

  • keeping track of all the actions I need to take and by when, so that I can estimate my workload and give people more accurate feedback
  • organizing information so that I can find and share it
  • following up on what I’ve asked other people to do

Toodledo helps me stay focused on what I need to do at work and at home. Capturing all the different things I need to do and making sure that due dates are written down means I don’t have to stress out about things falling through the cracks.

The Lotus Notes Activities sidebar lets me organize project information and refer to past discussions. Activities also makes it easy for me to add other people and share resources with them.

For following up, I’m getting used to creating tasks representing things I’m waiting for, and regularly reviewing this.

How do you eat an elephant sandwich?

One bite at a time.

Process: Using Activities to organize workshop-related information

We regularly organize Innovation Discovery workshops that bring together experts across IBM and client decisionmakers to explore emerging topics. In the past, this involved a flurry of e-mail, particularly if we had last-minute substitutions. The flurry could get confusing, as we usually plan several workshops simultaneously. I refuse to keep all this information in my inbox. I’ve been setting up Activities for each of the workshops I keep an eye on, and we’re getting better at using the Activities to organize information.

Here’s what the workshop Activity needs to do:

  • Store planning information: agenda, logistics, etc.
  • Store workshop and output files: bios, presentations, and so on.
  • Store links to relevant resources, such as the associated Idea Lab
  • Share background information (both general and client-specific) with experts
  • Keep a record of correspondence related to the workshop, so that people who join the workshop late can see the context

In addition to storing information, the Activity can also help:

  • Organize bookmarked profiles and e-mail correspondence during the search for experts, so that organizers can see which potential speakers have already been contacted and what the status is
  • Remind people of the steps to take in organizing sub-activities such as the Idea Lab
  • Organize related resources for those sub-activities
  • Collect all final documents and share them with the group without filling people’s mail files

It’s easier to set up and add people to an Activity than it is to set up and add people to a TeamRoom, and with Lotus Notes 8.5, you can sync Activities for offline use.

NOTE: Although it works best when lots of people use it, the Activity works well even with just one person updating it (me). I keep others in the loop by using the e-mail notification features. This is good to know if the lack of adoption among your team members has been holding you back from using Activities or other nifty tools. They don’t need to use it if they don’t want to. It works even better when other people use it, of course, and someday it may even reach the point of mainstream acceptance. We’ll see. =)

Here are the ingredients we’ve been working with, and some improvements I’d like to try the next time we organize one:

  • README: How to use this activity – This entry is essential. This should be the first item on the list. It should describe the structure of the Activity, what’s in the different sections, and what to do when.
  • Planning: This section should contain the latest agenda. When logistics are sorted out (including which hotels people are staying at), include them here as well.
  • Output: Final presentations and output documents go in this section. We put this near the top for easy reference.
  • Client information: All the account-related information goes here.
  • Background information: Industry-related notes, and so on.
  • Finding experts: Any bookmarked profiles for experts under consideration. Also, e-mail correspondence for referrals, confirmation, etc. This helps us do the search for speakers even if a team member is suddenly unavailable.
  • Idea Lab: Checklist and related resources for the idea lab, if we’re running one for this workshop.
  • Discovery Lab: Draft presentations, more planning documents, related resources (such as the link for visitor wireless accounts), and correspondence. This is a work area that people can use to coordinate with each other.
  • Post-lab checklist: Post-engagement checklist that reminds us to do our lessons learned, case study, etc.
  • Minutes and archive: Meeting minutes, meeting invitations, other correspondence, and other files.

I love refining these tools!