Setting Reminders Everywhere
Jeff Meyer, PMI Houston Contributor
Have you ever missed a deadline or event despite your best planning and preparation? We all have, it’s part of being human, we all make mistakes, but mistakes can be limited. Misses can be detrimental for a project manager with a critical schedule. Most people use common proactive steps, like marking calendars, using sticky notes, and setting electronic reminders, but they can still experience the occasional miss. Some less conventional reminders might assist you in meeting goals and preventing critical errors. Before you start tying a string around your finger, look at the examples below to get some ideas about what works best for you.
Arranging to have people remind you about upcoming milestones is a great way to stay sharp and is easy to incorporate into your current processes. Set up meetings to verify progress, or have people get back to you with information on details that may or may not be critical to the project; details that can help remind you to follow up on the activities associated with that piece of the project. If you cannot find a particular reason for a person to follow up with you, just ask them to get back with you and remind you. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to help you if you just ask.
For short reminders, while you are away from your desk, you can send yourself an email. This can help you gather your ideas quickly without losing focus on your current task, and allows you to return to it at a more convenient time. It also provides you with a running history of your work for future reference.
Checklists and notes are pretty conventional, but uncommon placement can be key. If you just keep notes in the “notes drawer” you will only look at them when you feel the need and they won’t serve as timely reminders. This leads to complacency eventual forgetfulness. Alternatively, if you place your notes somewhere where they can serve as a barrier requiring moving before you can proceed, this will help keep you on track. Place notes on the top of your briefcase, lunch bag, door handle, mirrors, monitors, anywhere that you cannot move on to the next step of your life before removing the note. You can also do this electronically by keeping windows or emails open until you have dealt with the issue or set up the next reminder.
Another good way to set a reminder is by association or mnemonics. Make up a rhyme or a song to help remember someone’s name, you can also use this technique to keep your projects on track. Although these pictures, words, acronyms, etc., may not really be related to the project directly, they can help you remember important milestones and triggers. For example, try naming each project phase after a different band you commonly hear on the radio and your subconscious will make a connection to help you remember later.
In summary, even a small item can seem trivial until it’s forgotten. By then, it has become a real issue and difficult to keep on top of. Different memory devices work for different people, situations, and environments. You need to figure out what works best for you. Explore your options continually and utilize as many reminders as you can. You should never stop trying to improve your processes. No project manager wants to be the one who dropped the ball and forgot to order the pizza for the pizza party.