Getting on top of a project whilst working remotely.

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Mayo dong a mind map of her project before she’s due to commit it to a Gantt chart.

Making a Gantt chart.

Any project, particularly one that covers an extensive period of time i.e. months and involves remote communications needs something equivalent to a Gantt chart.

A Gantt chart so named after its inventor Henry Gantt at the turn of the 1900s is one of the most important scheduling tools for project management.

What makes is appealing is you can visually map a project, so information surrounding its completion can be absorbed swiftly.

Newer social platforms such as Monday.com and Trello perform their own cognitive workflows, but for projects where ease of use, simplicity, and visual mapping is concerned, the Gantt chart is a winner.

Here’s how it works.

This is an example of a Gantt chart by a former Masters student, Sofija.

Things you might observe immediately are:

  1. The columns on the left are the tasks she assembled that she must do to complete her project. So for instance she’s clustered a number of features in the Literature review phase to cover two weeks.
  2. On the right of the column are the number of weeks ahead to complete her project. Each bar represents a week.

Sofija then set about making calculated assumptions about how long each task will take and provided a coloured band. The chart also allows her to build in meetings with her supervisor — everything then becomes transparent.

After she’s completed a task, she ticks it off, and when her scheduled meeting with her supervisor happens she can discuss what she’s done and what’s ahead.

This is excellent project planning in which a third party involved can easily figure out what’s she’s done, like you’re doing now.

All Sofija’s preparation and planning would lead to a series of videos (publishing the second story) like this one and a detailed dissertation-like text on the project.

What next?

Because Sofija’s project was an online, she’s using terms like ideation, which you won’t have to depending on your project. The thing to realise is the Gantt chart is your visual linear map of the tasks needed to complete your project.

The more detailed it is the better. Don’t worry too much about filling all aspects at first. The idea is to share with your executive or supervisor, so they can discuss and recommend inputs and be made aware of what you’re doing.

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Ziyi Wang brain storming ideas on postits and paper which she can then transfer to a Gantt chart

A suggestion for this semester could be to create you chart so it includes your “Journalistic Approach” and “Production “— tasks that align with your dissertation. Sit down and map out on on paper or postit notes the things you think you’ll need to do.

Cluster these, so there’s a theme.

let’s take “Journalistic Approach” for instance, they’ll be tasks like “determining structure’ and “ethics form” you may want to consider.

In “Production”, there are several variables to consider, such as : “acquiring camera gear”, “setting up interviews”, “creating a pre-shoot script*” etc.

The Gantt chart is that singular codified doc that should be shared. Do not produce multiple versions, so yours differs to the one you’re sharing with your supervisor. There should be one doc that drives your routine and is shared with others. Any updates should occur on that one singular doc. Ideally, once you’ve drafted then finessed the doc, it shouldn’t change.

So what do you do?

Imagine your project and when you intend it will be completed. By working backwards on the submission date visualise what you need to complete then compose your chart to share with your supervisor or exec producer.

Visualising sets you up for what could be called “thick planning”. The use of the term “thick” derives from Geertz in describing context in descriptions.

This detailed contextual planning provides both a probable time scale, and what’s needed to complete the project. By breaking the big task into a series of mini tasks we arrive at a swift and easy way to project manage.

Let’s take a dissertation/ project like an investigation into why the UK government pursued a policy of herd immunity for the Corona Virus.

  1. The first thing I might do is to brain storm around the subject. I might do that with friends.
  2. Next, I’ll set myself an end date. I should be able to find that out from looking at the Uni’s term deadlines online, otherwise just for this example I’ll say three months. But do check the main deadline.
  3. Then I’ll consider from my brainstorm the things I need to do to reach the end of the project. I’ll put these in themes to make it easier for me and my supervisor to understand.
  4. I’ll create a word doc and go to Table> Draw a table, or Table> Insert a table and make a grid. Alternatively here’s a site for Gantt charts and this one here free templates that can be modified from Xls templates. Please don’t spend too much time here worrying to find the most suitable.
  5. I’ll place my brain storming ideas in order of which ones need completing before moving onto the next task, down the side of the page. Not all the brainstorming ideas need go on the doc.
  6. I’ll then assign them times within the weeks and re-adjust timings accordingly.
  7. I’ll then assign them a colour. The colours provide a visual references to differentiate tasks. You can create your own colour scheme.
  8. I’ll then share this with my supervisor awaiting feedback when I’m likely to have supervision.
  9. I’ll request where would be a good folder or place so we can both reference.
  10. And away I go.

NB: I’ll write about pre-shoot scripts in coming posts

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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