Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Big Project Survival Kit

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you might be be aware that I’ve been made the project manager of the renovation we’re doing to our kids and students wing. It’s a big project on a tight deadline and budget. We’re combining rooms to make three large group meeting spaces (will full AVL) and dividing some other rooms to create smaller meeting spaces. We’ve got a demo crew, framers, drywall guys, HVAC, electrical, sprinkler, alarm, carpet, paint, door and of course, AVL contractors. 

We’re doing some of the work ourselves, though most of it is hired. As PM, I’m responsible for making sure all the trades are following the plan, coordinating with each other, and staying on time. And, we’re doing some of the largest weekend serves of the year this month for good measure (and I’m either moving or buying the house we’ve been renting just for a little extra excitement!). 

To survive this month, I am relying on a set of tools to keep me sane and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Here is my toolkit to keep this all happening. 

Evernote

Probably my biggest asset in this toolkit. I use Evernote for keeping track of ideas, lists of questions for the GC, subs or our leaders, making lists of stuff to order and tracking items we’re considering for the build. It’s great because it syncs between my MacBook Pro in my office, my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad. When I’m laying in bed at night unable to sleep (which happens a lot lately) and get a great idea, I grab my phone and jot it into Evernote, confident it will be captured for later recall. I can snip entire HTML pages, add photos or other attachments to keep all my ideas in one spot. Best of all, it’s free.

Numbers

I love spreadsheets, and Numbers is my favorite tool for making them. I have about four spreadsheets going right now for this project. One manages the budget, others track equipment lists, still another manages my timeline and I even set one up to calculate carpet cost options. Numbers makes it incredibly simple to develop formulas that will give you meaningful data. I love being able to run options and compare plans, and it makes it a lot easier to sell leadership on a course of action when I can show them the financial impact clearly. It even does cool charts. You can get it in the app store for about $20. Totally worth it. 

Google Sketchup

It’s not necessarily an easy program to learn, but spend some time to get comfortable with it, and you can accomplish a lot. I have modeled all three rooms we’re renovating, all to exact scale, so I can help our team visualize stage and tech booth locations, and even develop working drawings for both items. Today I used it to calculate the proper compound bevel angle for the cap to the tech booths. I spent almost an hour trying to do the math, then gave up and did it in Sketchup in about 15 minutes. Now when I build the booth, I’ll have accurate measurements. And if you’re looking for accurate models of common objects (like an iMac for example), you can find them in the model warehouse. That’s a huge timesaver. And again, it’s free!

Toodledo

I’ve tried a bunch of task managers, and this one is my favorite. There are others out there that are good, but I like this one. My favorite features are the ability to collaborate (I can add tasks to my ATD’s to do list), and synchronization. I have Toodledo on my iPhone, iPad and access it via browser on both Macs. It will do repeating tasks, sort by priority, you can create folders and set reminders. It’s free if you want to use it by yourself, and if you want to collaborate, it’s only $15/year per user. Totally worth it. 

Of course, I also rely heavily on e-mail (using Apple Mail) and the internet (Safari) and iCal to keep track of what day it is. But these four programs really help me keep things on track. I use all of them all the time, big project or not. But when the big projects hit, it’s good to be well versed in how this stuff works.

What are you project management survival tools?

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16 Comments

  1. jonlillie@gmail.com

    Couldn't agree more with sketch up and numbers, for task management I prefer . for note taking I tend to use plain text and dropbox more than evernote, though I do use evernote for some long term things like debriefs from events that occur once a year. ie the high school camp I'm at as I type this.

    My only gripe really, is with google sketch up as the paid version while awesome is a little too expensive for me, but gives the 2D layouts which I find myself wanting from time to time.

  2. jonlillie@gmail.com

    Couldn't agree more with sketch up and numbers, for task management I prefer . for note taking I tend to use plain text and dropbox more than evernote, though I do use evernote for some long term things like debriefs from events that occur once a year. ie the high school camp I'm at as I type this.

    My only gripe really, is with google sketch up as the paid version while awesome is a little too expensive for me, but gives the 2D layouts which I find myself wanting from time to time.

  3. pete@restorationchurch.cc

    Hey what depth and height are you using for that desk in your booth? and how much space do you have behind it? We're building a new booth soon and I'd love to know what other people have for dimensions.

  4. pete@restorationchurch.cc

    Hey what depth and height are you using for that desk in your booth? and how much space do you have behind it? We're building a new booth soon and I'd love to know what other people have for dimensions.

  5. Scott@reliancechurch.org

    I use Wunderlist for my to-do's and to give my ATD to-do's. Sync feature is great and it's free! I'm curious what other great applications TD's are using, we use Home Inventory (Mac App Store) for our tech inventory and it works brilliantly!

  6. Scott@reliancechurch.org

    I use Wunderlist for my to-do's and to give my ATD to-do's. Sync feature is great and it's free! I'm curious what other great applications TD's are using, we use Home Inventory (Mac App Store) for our tech inventory and it works brilliantly!

  7. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Pete,
    30" high; 2" of space behind.
    mike

  8. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Pete,
    30" high; 2" of space behind.
    mike

  9. justing.lakeland@gmail.com

    I keep calling it Google Sketchup too, but keep having to correct myself since some other company bought it. Trimble I think?

  10. justing.lakeland@gmail.com

    I keep calling it Google Sketchup too, but keep having to correct myself since some other company bought it. Trimble I think?

  11. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Justin,
    Yes, that's true. I see the new branding. I also keep finding features they are pulling out of the free version, which is kind of annoying…
    mike

  12. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Justin,
    Yes, that's true. I see the new branding. I also keep finding features they are pulling out of the free version, which is kind of annoying…
    mike

  13. media.calvary@gmail.com

    Mike,

    I'm wondering what you use in Numbers for the Gantt-style chart. I'd love to do a simple chart like that, with the understanding that it's probably not as powerful as regular charting software.

  14. media.calvary@gmail.com

    Mike,

    I'm wondering what you use in Numbers for the Gantt-style chart. I'd love to do a simple chart like that, with the understanding that it's probably not as powerful as regular charting software.

  15. mike@churchtecharts.org

    David,
    I just used cells. Each column represents a day, and I broke weeks up with colored columns. Then I simply used colored fills and text the lay out the work. It's not a true Gnatt chart, but it got the job done. And I already had the software.
    mike

  16. mike@churchtecharts.org

    David,
    I just used cells. Each column represents a day, and I broke weeks up with colored columns. Then I simply used colored fills and text the lay out the work. It's not a true Gnatt chart, but it got the job done. And I already had the software.
    mike

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