Daily Archives: April 26, 2010

Some creative ways to use Microsoft Project for Brainstorming

It seems odd to use Project for brainstorming, I admit. But there are advantages to it, as well. The one obvious one is this: when you are done, you (potentially) have a plan of what to do in front of you! But there are other advantages as well. But first, let’s start with how I do this.

Let’s take an easy example. Say I was planning on doing a major personal project (E.g. run a marathon, take 6 months off and travel, buy a new house). I would start by listing major activities. Write out as many as of them as I can, from start to finish. Then once I had my major activities down, I would start adding underneath them all the major tasks that I had to do.

  Now I have the outline of a plan, with the major activities and the major tasks associated with each activity.If this is going well for you, great. However, if you are getting stuck with coming up with activities, try this: start planning project X, execute project X plan, complete project X. For example, you might have: start planning to run my first marathon, train for the marathon, complete the marathon. It’s pretty sketchy, I know. Often times when you are planning to do something you have never done before, it is. If you have more activities, great: add ’em.

Once you are done with your activities, you need to have tasks. If nothing else, have two tasks per activity: start activity Y and complete activity Y. (If the activity is so small as to take little time, perhaps you can convert it to a task to stick under another activity).

If you don’t can’t come up with any tasks, then one could be: define tasks for this activity and list the tasks you need to do to accomplish this (talk to experts, do online research, etc). Some tasks are:         Research/Investigate X, Review findings with others, Plan next steps, Complete this activity, Document / record something, Present something,         Change something, Test something

I also try to use clear descriptions for your tasks, so they standalone on the Calendar view of Microsoft Project.

I recommend that you make your tasks imperative, specific, and measurable. (e.g. Do Something, Visit Someone, Go Somewhere)