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How do you manage your projects (and your personal life) ? I tend to become psychotic because nothing seems to work. To specify the requirements & information better (as a developer's way of thinking...):

  1. There are several client projects, that can be :

    • Web site development
    • Web site design
    • Graphics
    • a mixture of them
  2. There are several personal projects that can be the same as client ones plus:

    • Cleaning junk from the house
    • organise my music library
    • fix my bike etc.
  3. All projects will have:

    • Documents like :
      • accounts information (web services like ftp, ssh etc.)
      • invoices
      • client information (history of purchases, personal information etc.)
    • Project files
    • Exports, drafts, etc.
  4. I am using a MAC and an iPhone (and a lot of web !)

  5. I desperately NEED to have:

    • Projects and tasks organised
    • An estimate that every project & task needs and can change through time until completion

The problem is that there is an overload of tasks, work and information and reduces my productivity and motivation to complete goals. At the time of speaking I manage 4 personal projects, 3 personal professional projects and several corporate projects. I simply can't find a way to deal with all this stuff in a place.

Even though I am trying very hard, it seems that I need some guidance from experts. I am not very strict with dates (I definitely do not want to manage projects by time but as an estimate) and I have read a lot of GTD and pm methodologies as Scrum. At the end there is so much to organise that I feel devastated and stressed. Finally it ends where I do nothing and feel depressed.

The question that will change my way of thinking is: Am I started to become paranoid about organisation, or am I lacking somewhere that I can't see ?

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Hi Roberto, welcome to PMSE! Initially I thought this question could be offtopic, as being too localized, but then I realized that this question may be more common to managers than expected. I'd suggest you to put it in a way other people can take advantages of the answers you might get. –  Tiago Cardoso Nov 26 '12 at 12:33
    
I believe would worth also to elaborate where you got stuck in with GTD... did you read amzn.com/0142000280? –  Tiago Cardoso Nov 26 '12 at 12:35
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Roberto, have you checked out productivity.stackexchange.com? –  Tiago Cardoso Nov 26 '12 at 14:59
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I really like the underlying question, but please refine it to be better suited to the PM:SE environment. Nobody but a professional therapist can answer the question as it is currently stated (and it would be a breach of professional conduct to do so.) The question must have an objective answer that is independent of the observer. I think you're asking for guidance about how to find the tipping point where the process actually reduces the chance of project success, or how to balance process with objective. –  Mark C. Wallace Nov 26 '12 at 17:17
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Potentially related questions pm.stackexchange.com/q/353/4367 and pm.stackexchange.com/q/489/4367 –  Mark C. Wallace Nov 26 '12 at 17:18
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Your writing suggests that you are driving to a set of results or a level of perfection that does not really exist, as if you are trying to predict the future with 100% accuracy and have no variance in your plans. Neither is possible except for the very lucky exception that happens every now and again.

It is not a tool or proven time management methods or estimating methods that will help you. Instead, I think you need to reset your expectations. When you understand that decisions are made without all the information--especially the outcome since it has not happened yet--and that all plans WILL have variances, you would not experience shutting down and getting depressed. Don't look outside, look inside.

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+1 for "driving to a set of results or a level of perfection that does not really exist". Remember that perfect is the enemy of good enough. –  Doug B Nov 26 '12 at 17:56
    
I really like your reply and I believe you understand me. The truth is exactly what you're saying: I am trying to find the perfect "algorithm" to foresee or predict the future. I believe that time passes by quickly and I must organise everything with military intelligence accuracy so I will have a small failure rate in my expectations and Get More Done. This actually works and I have found great ways to organise and predict. The problem is that it's like a dominos game that when something fails, everything after it collapses and everything falls apart, out of time and schedule. –  RobDel Nov 26 '12 at 22:20
    
As great as military intelligence may or may not be, I am quite sure they have their fair share of variances in their predictions. There are thousands and thousands of random variables that affect our results; we directly control five of them and indirectly control a few more. Everything else happens to us. That's hard for all of us type A people to accept, especially when we have all these great quotes like 'failure is not an option' or 'do or do not, there is no try.' –  David Espina Nov 26 '12 at 23:11
    
What do you suggest ? –  RobDel Nov 27 '12 at 6:12
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This sounds more like a personal time management issue rather than a project management issue, though I'll admit that the two overlap. If you can better manage your time you should be able to reduce your overall levels of stress. Some things that can help:

  • Prioritize your work. If something is a nice-to-have put it at the end of your to-do list and only deal with it when the must-haves are complete.
  • Delegate your work. If you are running something like 10-12 projects you are almost certainly going to get behind the curve on all of them. Are there any projects that you can delegate to someone else, or delegate some of the project work to?
  • Streamline your work. Base the amount of documentation etc supporting each project based on criticality and complexity.
  • Focus your work. An inordinate amount of time is wasted switching between tasks. Try to focus on one project per day so that you can avoid losing time as you "switch gears" between projects.
  • Limit your work. If the amount of work associated with your projects is too much, admit it and move to reduce the number of projects you have.
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Yes, they do overlap. I am afraid I have read thousands of times about this suggestions from various productivity and managements blogs and books. The problem with them are that all of them, most of the time are only theoretical and when it comes to real life, they fail. It's not possible to reduce the number of projects and it's not compulsory to complete them all, now. This is mostly a project management and "best path to follow" issue. If I could organise them better and have estimates, I should have known when each will be completed and when to do which task. –  RobDel Nov 26 '12 at 14:24
    
My personal experience has been that they all do work in real life, provided that you have the courage to implement them. If you are looking for a quick fix you are out of luck. The hardest to do are delegating work (where you have to learn to trust... or more precisely to "trust and verify") and limiting work (which I've found most people have trouble doing). The other three should be a natural part of the way you operate. –  Doug B Nov 26 '12 at 17:54
    
Can you explain "limiting work" ? Are you talking about the work hours per day/week ? –  RobDel Nov 26 '12 at 22:40
    
More in the sense of limiting the number and/or "intensity" of the projects that you have so that you can fit the amount of work you have to do within your capabilities. Basically you have to admit to yourself and others that you can't work on an unlimited number of projects and still deliver good-quality products. –  Doug B Nov 27 '12 at 14:11
    
You can't work on unlimited number of projects at the same time, but you can organise/manage them so there is not much dead or wasted time and the productivity is as good as it can be. The skill I wished I have is to manage 1000 tasks and know when to do what and how long will it take. I believe that there is no such tool out there as software or web application to do that. Even though Gantt charts are complicated to create and very difficult to update. I mean, there are project managers that are responsible just to create and maintain charts and to-do lists. –  RobDel Nov 27 '12 at 14:45
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Imho, GTD is the answer (or, at least, one of the answers):

I think that GTD might have started to become obsolete... Who keeps notes in paper? The world is changing and time & project management changes too - new tools and methods of organisation appear.

GTD lacks also in multiple projects organisation

1) there is nothing wrong with electronic records; forget about paper; the key is to deal with one piece from your inbox at any given time (this will help you to stay focused during weekly review; when you don't see the rest of your inbox, it's much easier to deal with)

2) multiple projects should not be problem at all - just assign an extra tag pointing to a project; quite often actions, belonging to different projects, could be done within the same context (phone calls); this will allow you to keep track of your projects and keep your productivity level high at the same time

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It's very difficult to keep on with a process. Especially when new projects pile up and never get completed. –  RobDel Jun 18 '13 at 7:29
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