Tame your Inbox!

How much project time do you spend going through your emails box and reading or replying to the messages that don’t really deserve your attention. You can reduce this waste without missing that important message that your customer wants you to act on today! It’s the simple art of doing, deleting, deferring or delegating.

Once you set up your mail system, you are ready to begin managing incoming e-mail. By making your Inbox the central place for receiving important e-mail, you can go through it with the confidence that each item is something you need to deal with. For every message in your Inbox:

  • If it isn’t important, delete it immediately.
  • If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it (reply, file, call, etc.).
  • If it isn’t for you or if you can, delegate (forward) it.
  • If you need to do it, but it takes longer than two minutes (including reading),defer (hold off on) it.
  • If you need it as reference (even if you have decided to defer it), move it into your reference folder. The goal is to reduce the number of times you touch each e-mail message.

Delete it

Delete messages that you don’t need to read. If it is junk, delete it.

Do it: In 2-minute or less

It is amazing what can be done in two minutes. But if a message takes longer than two minutes to deal with, defer it. To get a sense of what two minutes feels like, try timing yourself. Once you have dealt with the message, do one of the following:

  • Delete it if it is something of little consequence.
  • File it in one of your reference folders (for example, 1-Reference).

Delegate it

Sometimes you receive a message that is really meant for someone else to deal with. In these cases, reply and include the person to whom you are delegating the message on the To line. If you want to follow up later, flag it for yourself before sending. In your To-Do Bar, mark the task with the “@Waiting” category.

Defer it

Deferring a message means that you will come back to it later, when you have time. Reasons to defer a message:

  • It cannot be dealt with in less than two minutes.
  • It will take a while to read.
  • It will require a carefully crafted response.
  • It requires additional action in another program (for example, “Need to add to document”).

Read the full article by Melissa MacBeth here: http://tinyurl.com/26v5e7b

Shyam Verma,
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

Creating Excel WBS

So you are small team working on projects and don’t have MS Project or similar automated tools to plan your project WBS? Don’t despair your very own MS excel can do the trick for you. Here is how!

Decompose Your Project

Before you begin to create your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in Microsoft Excel, you should first decompose your project. Decomposing your project means identifying deliverables, and breaking each deliverable down into its component tasks. You will keep doing this until you get to the smallest work packages possible. You then should assign an ID to each work package based upon the relationships between the task items. These work packages will then make up the items of your WBS. For information on decomposing projects, you will want to check out my series on decomposition, especially How to Decompose your Projects.

Setting up Excel

Once you have properly decomposed your project, you should set up Microsoft Excel to receive your data. Open a new worksheet. Across the top, create at least the following columns:

  • Task ID
  • Task Description
  • Predecessor
  • Owner
  • Role
  • % Complete
  • Start Date
  • Finish Date
  • Deliver To

After creating the columns, you will format the cells. The first cell to format is the Task ID cell. To do this, highlight the column you have designated for the task ID numbers by clicking on the letter at the top of the column. If you do not format the cells, when you type “1.0”, the computer will automatically reformat it to “1.” Right click on the selected column and choose “format cells” from the drop-down menu. Then, in the “Format Cells” menu, choose “Number” and set “Decimal Places” to “1.” The next cell you will need to format in the same way is the “predecessor” cell. This cell will track task dependencies, so you will need to be able to have accurate decimal points here. Set this cell up the same way you set the task ID cell up. Set the duration cell up to accept numbers and the start and finish date columns to accept dates entered.

Enter Your Data

Once you have your Excel Worksheet set up, you can enter your data. Enter in everything you have from your papers where you decomposed your project. Once you have entered your data into the Excel Worksheet, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

Using Conditional Formatting

Once all of your data has been entered into the Excel worksheet, you can play around with the conditional formatting feature. Say you wish to create a report of all the tasks due within a given time range. Highlight your start and finish date columns by click-and-dragging over the two letters representing those columns. Next, select “Conditional Formatting” from the Excel toolbar. Once you have done this, select “Highlight Cell Rules” and then “A Date occurring….” From the drop-down menu that appears, you will select “next week” and instantly all of your tasks due next week will be highlighted.

You can use conditional formatting to highlight tasks that have been assigned to a specific person, tasks that are on the lowest end of completion, and tasks associated with a specific milestone or deliverable. One more useful feature is “data bar.” This bar will graphically represent percent complete column. Access it in conditional formatting menu. Read more:http://www. Brighthub.com/office/project-management

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11