Project Management


Arumoy Shome


August 27, 2021

Notes on project management.

I think every project has 3 distinct components.

  1. Knowledge. Which may include notes, wikis, task lists, meeting notes, reviews, planning, etc.
  2. Product. Which for me tends to be software, data, visualizations, etc.
  3. Publish. Which for research can be a paper or for product driven projects can be blog posts, company announcements, etc.

There are several tools for project management. The one that worked best for me was Basecamp and I have stolen many of their philosophies to craft my own.

The principles of managing a project is fairly simple. First, identify who are involved in the project, what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and by when you are going to do it.

The Who

The who become the stakeholders or clients of the project and need to be kept up to date on the progress, potential problems, approached for input, etc. Effective and clear communication is of utmost importance here.

The What

The what is the goal of the project. Some of the questions that we may ask are: What are we trying to solve? What is our research question? What are we building? etc.

The How

The how is the task list. Try to visualise the entire lifecycle of the project (to the best of your abilities given your current knowledge and technical capabilities) and write down the distinct phases of the project. Next, for each phase write down a list of tasks (and sub tasks). Keep a fluid mindset, projects change, clients want different things, research is dynamic. The idea is to start with a set of tasks and revise as and when necessary.

The When

The when is the date of completion. Deadlines are important for proper goal and expectation setting. It’s important to have a final deadline for the entire project, but also to have intermediate deadlines for smaller batches/mini-projects. Divide and conquer is the name of the game here.

Some recommend a few weeks (4-6) for these batches/mini-projects. For research, I have found that taking things at a week-by-week basis works best and is the most flexible method of working given how dynamic research can be.

For each of these batches, I like to have a single focus of work. I then extract the relevant tasks that I should get done in order to accomplish the focus.

Determining focus is subjective and external factors such as other engagements play a role. The goal is to always plan sufficient work so as to not under deliver. I actively try not to plan too many things so as to feel overwhelmed or anxious.

UPDATE 2021-09-05

Some notes on attaining focus can be found here.

At the end of each batch/cycle/week I conduct a review. I think about what went well (so things I was able to finish), what did not go well (problems, challenges, etc.) and what can be improved (mostly for personal reflection). During the review I triage the task list, revise project scope, deliverables, etc.


You can find more about my reviewing process here.

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