Designing a Project Management Planner for freelancers
I have started a part-time job and independent projects since last year, but I have been having trouble managing multiple projects by my own. If I focused one project, I forgot other projects to do. When I had an idea to do sometime later but couldn’t made progress. After some weeks I felt terrible because of many tasks left even though I’ve worked hard. I have used a daily checklist, which I liked a lot, but it wasn’t enough to see the overall progress of the projects.
I tried multiple digital apps, but they were
- not easy to see a different time scale in one view,
- hard to access anywhere,
- not good to plan vague future tasks.
- And I basically don’t prefer typing keypad than writing on paper. Writing helps me better to organize my thoughts.
So, I decided to make my own physical planner.
The goals of the new planner are:
- It should be compact and light to bring with me anywhere
- It should show both a daily checklist and project progress at the same time.
- It should be able to show both daily schedule and tasks to manage my time actively.
- It should help to plan ahead and review the past.
Concept of the new planner
Its fundamental concept is a two-row structure. The upper zone is for the progress of the projects, and the lower area is for the daily checklist and schedule. I thought it would be good to describe the progress like a horizontal bar graph with task blocks. I didn’t fix the timeline for the bars because each project might have different speed and type of tasks. (Sometimes flexibility works better.)
- Write down the tasks per projects. One block means one task in figure 1. Each task block will be added to the right side of the bar.
- I use the concept of Input and Output for the upper part. The input means all elements that help me to grow, such as taking an online class or reading a news article. The output means all the performances that I make using my skills. It’s because I wanted to value my time for learning. (I wrote Project A, B, and C as the output in the figure above.)
- Rewrite the tasks in the upper part to the bottom to make them the actual to-dos. Put the same work in multiple days if necessary.
- Also write schedules, such as meetings, in the lower part but be mindful of the time.
Reviewing the plan
- Use symbols for daily to-do.
- Use colors for weekly review. Check how much time you spent on each project in the past week.
How to use
Making a DIY planner
Based on the structure, I finally chose the B5-size(25.2x17.9cm) note from Muji. (It’s only $1.5!) Here are the steps:
After 4 months…
So, this is my current planner.
- It was not convenient to carry many color pens, so I basically have used a black pen, and colored only at home with crayons. I underlined the tasks in the bottom instead of boxes.
- It was effective to compare the amount of my goal and completion.
- It was good to see the progress of each project and the days I worked on the projects.
- It was easy to see the amount of time I spent on each project.
In the middle of using it, I needed long-term milestones. So I made a yearly planning section on the last page. In this case, I put two months on one page. It would be better to make this yearly part in the beginning. But overall, I am very satisfied with my planner.