On Planning for Project Planning

I’ve been talking to Mike, the founder and President of my company, Innovative-e, about my recent PM dry spell and my nervousness about approaching Microsoft Project.

It certainly isn’t that I think Microsoft Project is a bad piece of software (I’ve only used it once; I wouldn’t know). It’s that, despite what I have previously penned in these very “pages” about the apparent usefulness of Project, I am still intimidated what is a very, very powerful piece of software. And despite the entire premise of this blog, I am still intimidated the concept of being a Project Manager. No matter how many times in my daily life I do the same things that a PM does – planning, budgeting and allocating resources, projecting a timeline, and so forth – to give what I’m doing so lofty a name as “Project Management” changes it and makes it seem so much more A Thing.

I suppose these two particular stumbling blocks are the result of a very basic inferiority complex. I am good at what I do, but let’s face it, what I do at work is not, in the grand scheme of things, tremendously important. I mean, yes, it’s helpful to the company, but I’m not a Big Dog like a PM is. I’m just a peon. One of the little people. To ascribe PM-level importance to me is vastly overstating what I do and my importance to the company. Too, though I’m a reasonably intelligent person with a pretty strong tech background, Microsoft Project is so powerful and big that I’m afraid I won’t be able to use it properly. I don’t even know where to start once I launch it.

It’s always easier to play with software if you have a few test cases, and I’ve found that, with only a couple of items to put on a task list, this blogging project alone isn’t a robust enough test case to use Microsoft Project effectively. And I was floundering, trying to figure out what I could use as a test case that would let me face my fears and dive into Microsoft Project.

So when I was telling this to Mike, he recommended that I fire up Microsoft Project and try plotting out a project I have already completed, in order to see how the engine(s) of Microsoft Project does its thing. Further discussion of the topic with Dux had him recommending that I take something really simple, but not yet completed, to try out Project. My mindset has been that you can only use Project for something as complex as the software itself; that something you could make a checklist for on a Post-It note isn’t really worthy of Microsoft Project.

I am trying to rearrange my thinking on this, or else the next umpteen posts here are going to be about my lack of inspiration and my fears of software designed to help me manage these things, and I am trying to get out of stasis here.

So I’m going to think about “projects” past and future that have required a level of planning and resource allocation, even very simple planning with very minimalist resource allocations. I have a vacation coming up that I am going to plug into Microsoft Project. That should be simple enough to manage, shouldn’t it? I am in the middle of documenting the process that we, as a company, use when we present webinars to the public. That should be something I can use Project for, right? (Plus, as an ongoing process, it should actually have some useful application.) Since both of these are relatively small things, and since practice supposedly makes perfect, I’m going to try to think of a few more things, in both my personal and professional lives, which I can plug into Project so that I can overcome my nerves about it lathering, rinsing, and repeating repeating repeating.

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