Bloggers need to accomplish projects from time to time. The problem is most of us just dive in with little thought to the process and an unclear understanding of what we’ll be doing. A project is a series of tasks that has a start date, an end date, and which produces a unique output. I’ve taught project management for several years, now. Although much of project management is overkill for a small blog, we can borrow quite a bit from it to help us tackle some of the bigger objectives we need to accomplish. Writing posts and responding to comments isn’t a project, it’s everyday work on a blog. But starting a new blog or designing a new WordPress theme is a project. Switching from Blogger to WordPress is a project.
The Stages of a Project
Projects are generally divided into four phases or stages:
Let’s describe each stage briefly and what happens in it.
Stage One: Initiation
The initiation stage is the conceptual stage. This is where we figure out the most basic, important aspects of our project, such as its purpose and objectives. For a blogger wanting to start a blog or take an existing blog to the next level, the initiation phase might consist of the following:
- Defining the problem the project will solve
- Defining the purpose of the project
- Defining the major objectives that need to be accomplished for the project to complete
- Setting a finish date and time frame for completing the project planning and work
- Defining the scope of the project (what will be included and not included to help you stay on track)
For a blogger, it’s usually enough to just sit down and write these things out in a word processor or Google Docs.
Stage Two: Planning
Planning your project consists of figuring out:
- What has to be done (tasks)
- How much money has to be spent (budget)
- What people and tools you have to accomplish your work (resources)
In large projects involving hundreds of people and tasks over several months, we use fancy-schmancy project management software that uses Gantt charts and which tracks task dependencies and the critical path. But for blog projects, we need to operate at a smaller scale. Personally, I use Remember the Milk. It has just enough features without being bloated for managing task lists. One thing I like about it in particular is that it works with Google Calendar. There are plenty of similar task management tools on the web or in desktop software.
For tracking costs and spending, if necessary (usually it’s not), I use Google Docs and make a spreadsheet to list costs. I make a list of my resources in Google Docs, dividing them between what I have and what I need to get. I need to make sure I acquire the correct resources before they’re needed during the project. For blog projects, resources can be anything from a designer you’re hiring to software and plugins or domains and hosting.
Stage Three: Implementation
Once our plan has been made, then we execute on it. We complete the tasks and check them off the list. For blog projects, we don’t need to keep track of much, but some things you want to note are:
- Where you under- or overestimated dates, times, and costs
- Whether you thought of everything and if not, what you missed
- What you have accomplished, and what you still have yet to do
- Any problems that crop up and seem to throw off your plan
If other people are involved in your blog project, you need to keep communications open, frequent, transparent, and non-accusatory (tempers can rise under stress so stay cool).
Stage Four: Close-Out
The fourth stage is about wrapping everything up and making sure you haven’t forgotten anything. For blog projects, this often involves testing things to make sure they’re going to work. It could also include getting involved with other people in a pre-launch marketing effort. Other blog project close-out possibilities might include:
- Testing plugins
- Testing every possible type of content in a theme or template
- Subscribing to feeds to make sure they work correctly
- Testing the search functionality
- Testing 404 pages
- Testing comments when you’re not logged in
- Combing through the archives to make sure imported blog posts are there
- Combing through posts to make sure image links still work after a migration or permalink change
- Making sure all blog authors can access the blog and perform their duties
- Testing any other software integrated into the blog, such as forums or AdSense revenue-sharing plugins
- Pizza and beer! You have to celebrate!
One thing you want to do after every project is jot down some notes for yourself about lessons learned so you can do better next time you’re trying to accomplish something similar.