Project Management is Learned, Not Given

Nobody is just automatically born a great project manager, nor does becoming one happen overnight. Instead, like anything else of value in work or in life, being a great project manager is a skill – or, to be precise, a series of skills – that you have to master over time before those skills become habitual. But many people never quite acquire these skills, because after all change takes time and very few of us have time to spare these days. I understand all this, which is why I’ve done the work for you by assembling the six basic strategies and five simple steps you’ll need to, as the subtitle of this book suggests, “complete projects on time.”

The knowledge is out there; it’s simply a matter of distilling it all down and putting it to use. The challenge isn’t just how, but when? Case in point: there are many books about project management, but who has time to read 400-page books when there is barely any time to finish the things you need to do right now, today?

And even when the project manager is knowledgeable about how to manage projects, usually the team of developers, testers, managers and clients have no knowledge in project management methodologies and that creates miscommunication between the different project stakeholders, leading to frustration and project failure.

Let me give you an example: Tracking the time that team members spend on tasks is very important. It enables the project managers and the team to see how the project is progressing, if there are any delays that need to be addressed, or any changes that need to be made in order to keep the project on track.

The project manager knows that, but the team, who might be a group of excellent programmers who have no knowledge in project management and are not aware of the importance of time tracking, might feel like “big brother” is watching them when team members are asked to report the time they work on assignments.

As a result of not knowing the true reason behind this request, they often object and even refuse to report their time. While it’s human nature to see requests like this as “interference,” this type of basic miscommunication between the project manager and the team leads to arguments, frustration and project delays. In short, project mismanagement.

This is why it is so important for everyone on the team, including developers, testers, managers, and even clients themselves, to be familiar with all the stages that are involved in the project development cycle. And who’s responsible for making them familiar with those stages? That’s right, you; the project manager.

Don’t Just Manage Your Time; Master It!

When it comes to project management, regardless of your position in the company, the size of company or even what industry you’ve been in, time is a mission critical factor that often makes completing projects a challenge.

We’ve all been there: not enough time, no solid schedule, poorly defined goals and objectives, no formal plan, out of control scope creep, miscommunication between people that are involved in the project, etc.

As a result, projects are delayed, time is wasted, clients are angry, your company’s reputation is damaged and you lose customers, people are frustrated and stressed out, team members have to work extra hours to catch up, morale goes down, and employees lose confidence in the company.

If you’ve invested time and money in trick after trick – such as using different project tools, begging and threatening, shouting, motivating team members, holding group discussions, adding more people to the team, and working more hours – but nothing has worked, I would ask you to give this book, and The Project Management Formula it contains, a chance.

Here’s why: You’ve been investing in a host of project management tools and services because you want a better income, a better life for your family, more freedom and independence. But tools alone are useless without solid foundations.

You need strategies for using tools. You’ve been focusing on tools and solving problems instead of focusing on creating strength and power that can be leveraged to avoid problems in the first place. That’s a mindset I hope to change with the Formula I’ll be showing you in this book.

It might help you to think about it this way: let’s say you have the fastest car in the world in your garage. But you don’t know how to drive. The car will be useless to you because you don’t know how to move it, let alone master all the strength, vitality and speed that’s being wasted under the hood. But if you are an excellent driver, even a slow car will be able to get you from one place to another.

In this book I am going to show you how to take charge of your projects and run them in a simple, step-by-step way that will enable you to complete them on time, starting today. This can boost income now and bring you the high-caliber clients that you want to attract. It can also make your company more efficient and competitive and begin refining and spotlighting your brand starting on this very page.

The best part is you don’t need any special background, education, or skills to use this Formula. That said, you do need one special super power to put it into use: action. And not just any action, but aggressive action. Process without action will never produce change. Process without action is simply doing the same things you did yesterday – and the day before – and expecting change.

 Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Something is missing from that equation; something vital. That something vital is aggressive action.

If you don’t take aggressive action once you’ve seen the path I’ve laid out for you in this book, then I can’t help you. Real Success is for people who take action. Mediocre people follow the herd and wait passively for things to “maybe” change in the future.

You are not like that. How do I know? Because you’re here, with me, reading these words and hoping, ready, for change. I am going to show you how to drive your projects and you’ll be able to use this knowledge with any tool that you currently have.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging has become common in our daily routine. So we have decided to offer it as part of Elementool to help you improve your communication with your team members. Especially if they are located someplace else.

To start a new conversation using the Instant Messenger, please follow these steps:

• Click on the ‘number of users’ online link at the top of the page to display who is currently logged in to the account.
• Click on the name of the user to start an Instant Message session.
• The Messenger window will be displayed on your screen.
• Type your message and click on the keyboard Enter button to send it.

When someone starts a new conversation with you, you will see a red flag next to the ‘number of users’ link.
Follow these steps to join an instant message session:

• Click on the ‘number of users’ online link at the top of the page.
• The person who sent you the message will be marked on the user list.
• Click on the user’s name to open the messenger window.
• Type your reply in the text box and click on the keyboard Enter button to send it.

As you can see, Instant Messaging is easy and can make the communication with your team faster and more efficient.

How to Edit Your Customer List

In this clip I’d like to introduce a new feature in our Help Desk software called ‘Customer List’.
As you are probably guessing, the Customer List enables you to define your customer contact details in your Help Desk account.

This way you can store and display on the Help Desk ticket form the customer name, email address, phone number and other contact details. So you can easily contact the client about the specific Help Desk ticket if needed.

The first step is setting up the client list.
To setup the client list, please follow these steps:
1. Login as an administrator.
2. Click on Control Panel.
3. Click on Edit Customer List.
4. Use the Add New section to add a new customer to the list.
5. You can also edit existing customers by clicking on the Edit button on the right.

The next step is to choose the customer name on your Help Desk ticket form.
On the ticket form, the customer name field displays a dropdown list of the customers. When choosing a name from the list, the customer details are automatically updated.

Very simple.

We plan to add additional options to the customer list feature in the upcoming weeks. Stayed tool.

If you already have an Issue Tracking account, you can add Help Desk to your account for only $29.99/month by going to “Control Panel”, clicking on “Edit Accounts”, then clicking on “Manage Account List”, changing the Help Desk package to Premium and clicking on the Update button.
If you still don’t have an Elementool account, click on the ‘Sign Up Now’ button below to open a free trial account.

How to Create Agile Project Schedule

In this clip I’m going to show you how to create an agile project schedule.
As you know, in agile development we take the project and divide it into mini projects called Sprints.

There are many advantages to using the agile method of sprints. A few major ones are:

• Agile development gives you better control over the project – when you run a project, there can be many factors that you need to control. Such as resources, tasks, clients, etc. The more variables there are, the greater the changes are that something will go wrong. Dividing the projects into sprints, gives you better control over the project process since the sprints are shorter and require you to worry about a limited number of factors.
• It makes it easy to keep the project on schedule – if your project is a few months, or a year long, it makes it harder to estimate the project’s schedule. Who can predict what might happen 6 months from now? When you divide the project into short sprints, you only need to schedule one or two sprints at a time. This means that the estimation period is much shorter and more accurate.
• Agile development also helps keeping your clients happy – this is something many people are unaware of. While you work on the project, your clients wait to see results. If the project is long and the clients don’t see results for a period of several months, they start to worry whether things go according to plan. They also sometimes forget why they ordered the project in the first place and might change their mind about it.
When you develop the project in sprints. Each sprint is a mini project. At the end of the sprint, you release it to the clients. This shows them that the project moves forward and keeps them in the loop. They are likely to get less nervous about the schedule and be more committed to it.

OK, now let me show you how you build an agile project schedule.

The first step is to divide the project into workable tasks and submit them to your Issue Tracking account as separate issues.

Then go to Scheduling and click on Edit Schedule to build the project schedule.
The first step is defining a project.
• Click on the Add button and choose the Project option.
• Type the project name.
• The project’s description and start and end date are optional. The system will automatically update the start and end date based on the schedule.
• Click Save.

Now that we have a project, the next step is to define the sprints.
The sprint length is determined based on the project’s length. For example, if the project is 12 months long, the sprints should be between 1-3 months each. On the other hand, the sprints should not be too short. They should be long enough to be considered as a small project.

Click on the + button next to the project’s name.
Choose the option Sprint.
Type the Sprint’s name.
The third step is to add the tasks that should be completed as part of the sprint.
These are the actual work that will be done as part of the sprint.
Click on the + button next to the sprint name and choose the option Issue to add an issue from the Issue Tracking account.
Select the account name and type the issue number. When done click on Save.

Repeat this until all the issues are added to the project.
The final step of building the agile project schedule is to define the estimated time for each issue in the sprint.
Use the Start and End date fields to define the schedule.

As you can see, the schedule of the first sprint is set.
You can repeat these steps to add additional projects and sprints to your project plan.

That’s all for now.

If you already have an Issue Tracking account, you can add Scheduling to your account for only $29.99/month by going to “Control Panel”, clicking on “Edit Accounts”, then clicking on “Manage Account List”, changing the Scheduling package to Premium and clicking on the Update button.

If you still don’t have an Elementool account, click on the ‘Sign Up Now’ button below to open a free trial account.

Do You Have an ETA?

Visibility is one of the main reasons why projects fail. It means that the project manager doesn’t have a full picture of the project’s progress at any given moment.




When you have full visibility, you’re able to stop bottle necks in your project’s progress. This allows you to make changes to the project plan and find ways to solve these bottle necks before it is too late.

I would like to introduce a new feature, The ‘Task Completion Date’ that will allow you to know at any given moment what the status of your project is, and when tasks are going to be completed, by integrating Elementool’s Issue Tracking and Scheduling.

As you remember from our previous clips, you can use Elementool’s Scheduling to define the project’s schedule and the start and end date of each issue that is assigned to the team members.

You can watch the clips called ‘How to Create Project Schedule’ on our blog for more details on how to build the project schedule.

The team members can submit the time that they spend on the tasks in Elementool’s scheduling and this enables you to see the development progress of each task.

I explained how to do that in a recent clip called ‘Track Time Spent on Tasks’.

Now I’m getting to the new feature that we just added:

When a user works on an issue, they can define the estimated completion date on the issue itself, by submitting the completion date in the Priority List section.
The Completion Date is also being displayed on the Scheduling Gantt chart.
When you look at the chart, you can see the issues that are part of the project, their start and end date, and the dark blue bar shows you the actual development progress of each issue. The border of the progress bar represents the estimated completion date of each issue.

By looking at Gantt chart, you can tell within seconds the development progress and the estimated completion date of each issue.
That gives you full visibility of your project development progress and allows you to know if things start to get off track, and make changes to the project to keep it on schedule.

Isn’t that cool?

If you already have an Issue Tracking account, you can add Scheduling to your account for only $29.99/month by going to “Control Panel”, clicking on “Edit Accounts”, then clicking on “Manage Account List”, changing the Scheduling package to Premium and clicking on the Update button.
If you still don’t have an Elementool account, click on the ‘Sign Up Now’ button below to open a free trial account.



Track Time Spent on Tasks

In this clip I’ll show you how you can use Elementool to track the time that team members spend on issues.
Tracking time enables you to view the progress of the project and make changes to the project plan if needed.
It is also useful for billing in case clients pay you by the hours you spent developing their projects.

To start using this feature, you should have the Issue Tracking and Scheduling services, because time tracking is done using the integration between Issue Tracking and Scheduling.

The first step is to submit the issues to the Issue Tracking account and assigned them to your team members.
I’m guessing you already know how to do that. If not, please see the Issue Tracking User Manual clip for instructions.

The next step is to assign the issues to a project or projects in the Scheduling service.
To do that, please follow these steps:
• Switch to Scheduling.
• Click on Edit Schedule
• Click on the Add button to add a project. You can assign issues to one or more projects.
• Now that the project is defined, click on the Add button to add the issues to the project.

After the issues have been added to the project, the team members can use the Scheduling section on the Issue form to submit the time that they spend on the issues.

To submit the time spent on an issue, please follow these steps:
• Open the issue
• Scroll down to the Scheduling section
• Submit the date and time that you spent working on the issue.
• Click on the Update

If we go back to Scheduling and look at the Gantt chart, we can see the project plan displayed in light blue and the actual time that the team spent on the issues in dark blue. This gives us a quick view of the project progress.

If you still don’t have an Elementool account, click on the ‘Sign Up Now’ button below to open a free trial account.

How to Send Daily Reports

Hi, it’s Allison again.
Today I would like to present two new features that we added to the reporting section:

• The option to define the view type of the Quick Reports.
• The option to automatically send a daily report by email.

The reports offer 5 view types:
• Normal – this is the standard report type that is display on your browser.
• Dynamic – The Dynamic view type enables you to make changes to the issues directly on the report. This allows you to update multiple issues in a single update instead of opening each issue separately.
• Print View – this is a printer friendly view of the report, that is useful in case you wish to print the report.
• Excel CSV and Excel HTML – these two view types enable you to export the report to an Excel file. Each offers a different Excel formatting option and you can choose the one that suits you the most.

We added an option to define the view type of each Quick Report. It saves you the trouble of defining how you would like the report to look like when running it.

Please follow these steps to change the view type of an existing report:
• Select the report from the Quick Report list.
• Click on Edit Selected Report.
• The Quick Report setup window will open.
• Click on the Step 3 button and the on the Step 4 button to go to the Step 4 page.
• On this page define the View Type and click on Save.

The Send Daily Report option enables you to send reports on a daily basis to other Elementool users or to external people who don’t use Elementool.
It is an easy way to send updates about tasks and issues that you have in your account.

For example: every morning you can send a report of all the open issues in your account, to inform people of the tasks that need to be taken care of.

To setup an automatic daily report, please follow these simple steps:
1. Go to the report page by clicking on Issue Report.
2. Select a report from the Quick Report list.
3. Click on Send Selected Report.
4. Define the recipients by selecting Elementool users or by typing email addresses of external people.
5. Check off the ‘Send report automatically daily’ check box.
6. Select the time when you would like to report to be sent daily.
7. Click on Send.

Very easy.

We plan to release more new features in the near future.
Stay tuned!

How to Submit Issues Faster

Hi, I’m Allison, and I’d like to tell you about new options that we added to the Field Dependency feature. This is a very helpful feature that allows you to quickly locate and select relevant information when filling out a form.

The Field Dependency feature enables the creation of relationships between fields in such a way that a dependant field’s value list is determined based on a value selected in the source list.

For instance, let’s say that you have two fields on a form: State and City. The State field lists all 50 states in the U.S., and the City field lists the 10 largest cities in each of those states. Currently, without using Field Dependency, the State field list shows all 50 states and the City field displays a long list of 500 cities in those states. So if a user wants to choose their city from that list, they need to scan through all 500 to find the one they want.

However, by using the Field Dependency feature, the process becomes much easier. It allows the person to first select their state in the State field. At that point, the Dependency rule automatically filters the city list so that the City field only displays the 10 cities from the selected state. This means that the user can simply select the appropriate city from the list of 10 rather than poring through a long list of 500.

To access the Field Dependency feature, you should go to Control Panel, click on Edit Issue Form and then click on ‘Edit Dependencies’.

Click on Add New Rule to add a new rule.

In Step 1, select the source field that triggers the Dependency rule.
In our example it was the State field.

In Step 2, select the target field that is being changed based on the rule.
In our example it was the City field.

In Step 3, define the rules.
For example:
Select State = New York.
Select cities in New York State.

Click on the Add button to save the rule.

You can repeat these steps to create additional rules for these fields.
When you’re done, click on the Save button to save the rule.

We added two new options to the Field Dependency feature:
• The ability to make a field required based on the value of a certain field.
• The ability to hide fields based on the value of a certain field.

Let me explain how these new options work:

The first option enables you to make fields required based on a value of another field.
For example:
I would like to make the City field required when selecting a State value to make sure that when a person fills out the form and selects a State, they also select the city.

To define the city as a required field, move it to the Required Fields list on the Dependency setup form.

The second option is to hide fields based on a Dependency rule.

For example:

I have a field on the form called Country with a list of country names.
When a person selects a State, they should not select Country. To prevent the person from selecting the Country, I hide the Country field when a state is selected.

To define this rule drag the Country field to the Hidden Fields list.

As you can see, the Field Dependency feature makes filling out and submitting forms much easier and far less time-consuming.

Effective Time Management and Priority Settings

We want to talk to you about personal time management. This subject is a little bit of a detour from our more specific project management program. But we believe that time management is an issue that affects everyone, and it’s important that you know how to deal with it.

Your ability to maximize your team and your own productivity by maximizing your time and how you use it will greatly influence the results you get. That’s why we’re going to help you improve your time management by sharing some simple strategies that you can implement immediately. They’re easy, and you’re going to start seeing amazing results right away.
The best methods for upping productivity are based on two key objectives: The first objective is to capture all the things that need to be done – now, later, someday, big, little, or in between – into a logical and trusted system that’s outside of your head and off your mind. The second objective is to discipline yourself to make front-end decisions about all the inputs that you let into your life, so that you’ll always have a plan for next actions that can be implemented at any moment.
Most people these days will tell you that they have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. We’ve enhanced our quality of life in so many ways, yet, ironically, we nearly kill ourselves with stress by taking on more work than we have the resources to deal with.
That’s why time management is so important, because it’s really a kind of stress management. Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to shut down your brain at night when you’re trying to fall asleep? Why are so many thoughts running through your mind all the time? That’s stress. Now let me explain how stress is created. It’s not just the big problems that create stress. All of the little unresolved tasks that we have to deal with sit at the back of our heads, subconsciously creating tension. As soon as you attach a “should” or “need to” to a task, it becomes incomplete. Decisions that you still need to make about whether or not you’re going to do something are already incomplete. If you put your mind’s attention on something that needs to be done, and then don’t complete it because it’s low on the priority list, your mind will have already created an open process that keeps running in the back of your mind, and is going to keep bothering you to complete the task. Worse of all, it takes up your energy and prevents you from having a clear focus on your more important tasks.
It’s kind of like your Windows Task Manager. When you open Task Manager, you see that there are a lot of processes running in the background – processes that you didn’t even know existed. Many of them don’t do anything for days, but there they are consuming your computer memory and causing it to run slowly. But if you shut down the processes that you don’t use, then it frees up the memory and your computer will run faster.
All these open processes create stress. So how do we handle all these processes and how do we minimize stress? The key is to clear the open processes from our mind by having something else managing them.

Usually the reason something is on your mind is because you want the situation to be different than what it currently is. The problem is, you haven’t yet worked out exactly what the intended outcome is, you haven’t decided what the next physical step is, and you haven’t put reminders of the outcome and the action required into a system you trust.
And until you do all that, your brain will refuse to put the matter to rest. You can try to fool the people around you by acting like everything’s okay, but you can’t fool your mind. Only it knows whether or not you’ve come to the conclusions you need. Until you clarify your thoughts, make the decisions, and store the data in a system you can trust, your brain will keep nagging you about the next step and adding to your stress.
You should start by clearing your schedule of all the most urgent projects. Try writing down the project or task that is weighing most heavily on your mind right at this moment. What’s bothering you most, or causing the most distraction? Maybe it’s something that truly interests you or that you’re really passionate about. The point is to identify whatever is consuming you most.
Once you have figured that out, describe your intended successful outcome for this situation in a single, written sentence. What would need to happen for you to be able to check this project off your list? That sentence might be “Handle the situation with Client X” or “Implement a new investment strategy,” or any number of other things. Next, write down the first physical action required to move the situation forward. If you had nothing to do, where would you go right now? What visible action would you take? Does it give you a sense of control and motivation to act? It should. And it’s through this kind of organization and decisive action that you will pursue and reach your goals.

That brings us to the question of how you process this information. First of all, you need to determine what the item is and what you’re going to do about it. For example, maybe you have letters from the bank or the government. Or maybe you received an email from a supervisor about a new company policy.
Ask yourself: Is this item actionable, yes or no? If no action is needed, then you have three options. One, it’s trash – so throw it away. Two, no action is necessary now, but you might need to do something later on, so you mark this item for later reassessment. Three, the item is potentially useful information that you might need later on, so you can classify it as a reference item and file it away.
If it is actionable, then something has to be done. So, ask yourself: What project or outcome have I committed to? And also, what’s the next action required? Determining the next action is a critical step for anything you’ve collected. The next action is the next physical activity that has to be done in order to move the current situation to completion.
Once you’ve decided on the next action, you have three options. Option One: Do it. If that action will take under two minutes, you should do it then and there. Option Two: Delegate it. If you aren’t the right person to do the job, assign it to the appropriate person or entity. Option Three: Defer it. If the action is going to take more than two minutes, and you are in fact the right person to do it, then you can track it for later on a Next Actions list.