Time is pie — is your project slice big enough?

One of the biggest problems I see with projects is time – people make the mistake of not giving each step enough time to be done well. Often there is a set date, such an event, for which a publication has to be produced. Imagine there’s a trade show you need a brochure for, a sales cycle for your book or a symposium where you need a report to show your work.

I’ll cover the publication/production process in another post, but generally the steps are: planning, research, writing, editing, review and revisions, design and layout, proofreading, printing and distribution. Working back from that event date is a good way to establish a schedule, but since everyone is busy, usually projects are only vague concepts until the deadline is imminent. Then it becomes a priority – and a rush.

Time is like pie. If one person takes more than their share, say by not getting started promptly, or by taking too long to submit their work or complete a task, they’re leaving less for the people who come after them. Running out of time inevitably affects the people at the end of the process more, which affects their ability to do a good job, which in turn reflects on the whole project. Your audience won’t know or be able to appreciate all the work that went into your product if the end result is rushed.

When I coordinate a project I like to show everyone involved the entire plan and walk them through the full schedule. Everyone needs to know how they fit and what happens if their slice takes away from someone else’s. That way they’re invested in more than just their part and they can see the bigger picture. Of course, life happens and there should be some flexibility built in for possible delays, but sometimes that’s not possible so it should never be taken for granted.

To make sure everyone gets the slice they need, plan ahead for a big-enough pie. Understand what’s involved – all the steps to the recipe – so you can give everyone on your team some breathing room to do their job well. The pressure of a deadline is a great inspiration to be sure, but it’s the end result that’s important and it shouldn’t suffer from something that could be easily avoided.

No one can do their best work if they’re starved for time – or pie.