There are a few key aspects to effective project management. Underlying all of them is the fact that you need to be organised - with your time, with your team and with how you are tracking the tasks involved in the project.
If you are new to managing projects, there are a number of great digital tools out there that allow you not only to manage your project but to collaborate with those involved directly in the tools. But let's first focus on the principles of effective project management.
Know where you're going. The project needs to have a clear goal, ideally attached to a due date. This will give you a timeline to work with which will help keep things moving.
Have clear leadership. If there is no one person actually "in charge" of the project, there will not only be issues with communication and direction but also in delegation of tasks. So, make sure you know who is spearheading the effort and who will be making the main decisions.
Understand the process. The people involved may not need to know all of the details of what's required, but everyone (especially the leader) needs to at least understand the steps of the process.
Identify what needs to be done. Within the broad steps of the process, you need to know what tasks are required to complete the step.
Keep everyone in the loop. Once the project begins, the leader needs to clearly communicate what is left to be done and when it needs to happen.
Then we get into details about how you manage all of these things. The best way is to use a project management tool because it will not only allow you to set a timeline but you can see the steps and tasks as well as communicate with your team. Here are a few (free) options for digital tools.
Asana. This is my go-to project and task management tool. The basic premise is that it's a checklist which you can order and re-order in priority sequence. Each task can include files and images as well as a discussion section for the team to ask questions or clarify details. The idea is to keep all information about each task together rather than searching though email after email to pull together what you need. They also support kanban board-style projects if you are more visual. There are lots of integrations with related tools like time tracking and there's even a cool one called Instagantt that creates a gantt chart based on a project you have set up (as long as each of the tasks have a due date set!)
Trello. This tool is definitely aimed at users who are more visual and each project exists as a "board" where you can outline the tasks required in columns that are associated with phases of a project (i.e. to do, in progress, done - at the most basic level). You can still communicate with others within a card (which would be a specific task) and attach files and set due dates too. The functionality is very similar to Asana and it's really just the layout and interface that differentiate them from each other - Asana didn't used to support kanban board layout so it was very interesting when they added it because that used to separate these two tools completely.
Basecamp. This is another popular tool for managing projects. Again, it pulls together tasks, files and conversations around the project into one place. And again, the functions are quite similar but the layout and interface are what make these tools different. Basecamp may be a little more communication focused (they have an automatic check-in setting where you can ask your team what they worked on each day, each week, each month - whatever your preference). They also have chat/instant messaging available where Asana and Trello rely on the comments within the task/card for communication.
Really, my main recommendation is that you are using a tool to simplify your project management (spreadsheets just don't cut it anymore but if you really are stuck on them, at least make sure it's a Google Sheets file so that others can update it and you always know it's the most current information). Using a tool is the most effective way to ensure that you are managing your project efficiently and effectively.
If you have any questions about these tools or other organisation tips, get in touch with me.