Project Management in Real Life: Simple Workflows to Achieve Your Goals | Nikki Henderson | Skillshare

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Project Management in Real Life: Simple Workflows to Achieve Your Goals

teacher avatar Nikki Henderson, Marketing Copywriter at Asana

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Increase Productivity


    • 3.

      Set Effective Goals


    • 4.

      Create a Project Plan


    • 5.

      Stick to a Schedule


    • 6.

      Keep Everything On-Track


    • 7.

      Reflect and Improve


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


    • 9.

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About This Class

In today's world, we're all project managers. From social media campaigns to managing freelance clients, understanding how to plan and execute a successful project is more crucial than ever! 

Join Asana's Nikki Henderson for a bite-sized introduction to key ideas, frameworks, and best practices for any workflow, no matter the size or type. In just 20 minutes, you'll learn the basics of an intentional, thoughtful approach to help you improve productivity, smooth team dynamics, and achieve any goal with confidence and ease. Learn how to:

  • Set actionable goals
  • Create a detailed project plan
  • Communicate with key stakeholders
  • Capture learnings for next time

Whether you're looking to simplify your workflow, learn new strategies for project success, or aim for bigger and better goals, this simple, straightforward class is the perfect primer to help you get started!


Begin your 60-day free trial of Asana. Visit and use the code "skillshare".

Asana is the software that will help you and your team coordinate and manage projects, and move faster by making sure everyone knows the team’s plan, process, and who is doing what by when. Learn more about Asana and how it can help your team.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Nikki Henderson

Marketing Copywriter at Asana


I'm Nikki, a colorful content marketer at Asana, where I’m responsible for tons of user education content. Prior to Asana, I worked in customer, digital, and content marketing for a fintech company that used Asana. I came to work for Asana because I saw how it transformed our team and wanted to help more teams achieve their goals, and have a good time with their colleagues while doing it. I'd love to help yours do the same! 

If I have more than 16 seconds of free time, you'll find me pulling out a book (rather than my phone.) I also love to write poetry and make collages from photos I've taken around the world. Me encanta viajar a América Latina, porque hablo español. But I can also be found running and making bouquets in my neighbor... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: I'm Nikki and I'm a content marketer here at Asana. I also co-leader at women's group. In today's course, we'll take a look at how you can turn your ideas into project plans that lead to action, so you can hit your goals. Whether you're an individual freelancer, all the way up to teammate on a huge team, you'll be learning about how to take your ideas into action with a project plan. So, first, we'll look at the state of project management and productivity, and kind of take a look at how it got there. Next, we'll take you through taking your ideas into a project plan and all the steps you need to map it out, manage it, and get your team on board. Throughout each chapter, you'll see a few Asana tips peppered in, so you can see what it might look like to manage your project in a tool like ours. But, you can feel free to use your own favorite project management tool or whatever methods you're already used to. Finally, at the end of most chapters, we'll have a practice exercise for you, so you can reinforce what you just learned. After taking this course, you'll have everything you need to turn your ideas into a plan and your plans into action. Thanks for joining us. Now let's get started. 2. Increase Productivity: So, for me personally, productivity in project management are so important because for my professional life, I want to come in to work and know that what I'm working on matters not just to me but to my team. I want to have clear plan, so I'm not just fumbling and bumbling around because that doesn't really help you feel like you're getting your work done. In my personal life, I am a poet and a collage artist, so if I'm not organized and I don't have clear goals, then that actually really makes writer's block and this creativity block so much more prevalent, whereas if I know what I'm doing and how I'm going to get it done, I can do it. A lot of times when we talk about productivity, we're referring to our individual task list or managing our calendar or getting to inbox zero. But in today's course, we're going to focus on how running a project effectively and efficiently can actually translate into productivity gains for you and your entire team. Project management entails all the steps to plan, manage, execute, and, hopefully, achieve a goal. Setting goals and achieving them is one of the most important things you can do for your personal life, your professional life, and even your community. When I talk about project management, I might be referring to traditional projects that you think of like a product launch, a marketing campaign, an event, but I can also be referring to a process like onboarding a new teammate or running a recurring meeting. Also related to project management is task and work management, collaboration, productivity, prioritization. These are all concepts we'll explore with project management. Traditionally, project management was a lot of training, very specific tools, and you had to be a certified project manager, but now, we're seeing a shift. This is because we're seeing a huge increase in the number of productivity and collaborative tools. A lot of organizations are moving to use them, which is totally changing the way teams work. We're seeing that a lot more people are actually able to manage projects, and so, they can be responsible for more things or they can actually formalize processes that they're already running, but they might not be a "project manager". That's not to say that there aren't still official project managers and they play a super important role, but we're also seeing that collaboration and productivity tools are pushing the state of project management forward. Whether or not you identify as a project manager, I'm pretty sure that you're at least in charge of a few processes and projects yourself. So, let's walk through some of the things that you're already working on. Then, throughout the course, we can work on that to see how you can make your full project plan. So, for someone like me, I'm a content marketer. So, a process that I'm involved with every single day is writing a blog. So, whether I'm drafting it to getting it revised to staging it, that's a process I follow. So, that could be one example. Another example might be video production. So, we make how to Asana tutorials, and so, whether I'm writing the script for it, scheduling filming, or working on the revisions and edits for it, that's also another process. Think about your processes. If you're totally stuck, think about what's on your plate right now, what are you working on, what do you need to get done today, what are your meetings that you frequently have. These can be ways to help you reframe how you might think of yourself and what your role is. Even if you're not leading the campaign, maybe you're writing the ad copy, doing the designs. You can add those projects to the list. It's okay if your list only has one project, we really want you to focus on a process that you're used to running or that you want to improve. In this course, we'll be talking a lot about project management as it pertains to professional skills, but if you run things in your creative life that you want to test out, that's totally okay, too. Once you pick your project, we'll be using this throughout the rest of the course to help you learn the skills that we're going to teach. Now that you've got your list of projects, in the next chapter, we'll look at how you can start setting goals for those projects. 3. Set Effective Goals: Before you actually start mapping out the steps in your plan, the most important thing to start with is setting your goal and purpose for the project. To help you set your goal, you can think of what will be the impact. Who is this for? What do you want the ultimate outcome to be? Then think about how that goal might fit into the larger picture. So, if you're on a team or working in a company, that might be around revenue or new hires, solving customer problems. If you're working by yourself or freelancing, that might be around the client goals. To help you create an effective goal, you can be SMART. SMART goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time bound. As you think about your goal, you can go through each letter in the acronym. So, if you're planning an event, it's not really helpful to say, "I want to have a great event." That's not really able to be measured, and you're not really going to know if you did or didn't. So, instead, first, you have to be specific. So, having a great event isn't super specific. So, maybe, let's say, I want to have an event around project managers. So, it's specifically for them. Measurable. I want to get 1000 attendees versus a lot. So, I want to get 1000 attendees to my project management events. I want it to be actionable. So, I want this to happen in the next months, and I want them to come to this event, so they can learn skills. Then realistic. It's probably not going ti be realistic if I want to get 10,000 attendees or planned in the next week. So, just make sure you're thinking, "Isn't something that I can realistically do?" Then time-bound. I know that I want to have the events on October 31st. Having clarity around what your goals are and why really helps give your team a Northstar when they're planning and going through the project. When you can always align on what you're doing this for, it makes things go smoothly because people know that what they're doing is contributing to the ultimate goal, and they have that clearly in their minds. Once you know what your goals are, you can establish your major stakeholders who can advise and approved the project. It doesn't mean you involve everyone who might be working on it, but those who have feedback that can really drive it forward. On a team, this may be a manager, or director, or the project manager. If you're working with a client, it's likely your main contact with them. Doing so ensures that they're also on board with the ways that you're trying to achieve the goal, and ultimately, you'll land on the same page. We've walked you through how to set a goal, establish stakeholders, and now you can do that on your project. So, in the first step, we made a list of projects, and now you'll pick one from that list, so you can start planning what your goals could be. To help you pick a project, I recommend starting with one that you're already familiar with or something you're looking to improve. For this course, I'll be using the example of planning an event. Once you've got your project in mind, you're ready to set your goals. Remember to be SMART and make a list of stakeholders that will be involved in setting the goals. Once you've articulated these things, you're ready to move on to the next step, where you'll actually start to plan your projects. To help you map out your goals, I've created a worksheet that walks you through some of the key questions that help you answer and get at the heart of what your goal should entail. 4. Create a Project Plan: Now we've mapped out our goals and our stakeholders, so we're ready to take this project proposal and turn it into action. In this lesson, we'll take you through the steps to make a detailed project plan. The first thing you'll do is start to list all of the things you know you'll need to do in order to achieve your goal. So, start writing all of those down. If you're feeling a little stumped, don't worry. You can turn to the internet for templates, tips, and ideas on what else you might need to populate your plan with. Think about your steps as actionable chunks of work. So, you don't want to have something too high-level like plan event because that's just one task and doesn't really give you clarity on all of the things that need to happen to do that. But at the same time, don't worry if you don't have every single step planned out because when you assign them out to other people, they'll be able to get a little more detailed on what exactly needs to happen. But you might think of some steps like, you know you need to get your budget approved, where your event will be held, if you need to hire caterers, how you'll promote the event. So, start listing tasks along those lines. If you're working as a freelancer or by yourself, one of the tasks you might want to include in there is getting approval on the plan or working with someone else on the client side to make sure that you've got all the steps that they need. Once you've started to list your steps, you might notice that they fall into certain categories. It might be by time frame, by task type. You can kind of start to organize these in your list. Categorizing your task is important because it helps make things clear and easy to find. So, as you go through the project, everyone knows what they need to work on and can find it again. Now I'll show you my project plan in Asana, but you can use whatever tool you're comfortable with. Here you can see my event plan in Asana. I've broken tasks into different categories and listed them all out. So, you can have a clear idea of what steps need to go where. Even though I've listed out most of my to-do's, this still isn't an actionable plan. We need to figure out who can help us with these tasks and when they need to occur. So, let me walk you through an example of what you might need to get started by making your project plans actionable. First, you'll want to think about who could do this task. There might be an obvious person that you're working with but you can already assign it to. Next, you want to think about a realistic time frame but don't worry in the next chapter, we'll tell you how to do that. Then you'll want to think about priority. Is this something that's absolutely critical? So, for this example, I'm finalizing the event budget which is pretty critical for the rest of the steps to follow. So, I'll mark this as high. Next, you want to add any instructions or details. So, that way, the person who's working on the task knows exactly what they need to do or any instructions to follow. Or finalizing the event budget, I'll leave it to Kat to figure out exactly what that is but maybe I've already heard from my accounting team that I can't exceed $10,000. So, I'll let Kat know. Next, you can attach any relevant documents to help them really get the context they need or where they should be working. In Asana, you can use files from your computer, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or OneDrive. If you're planning this in an Excel spreadsheet, you might have all of these categories as different columns and then you fill those in as you go through your project plan. But, keep in mind that if you're using a spreadsheet, it's not as collaborative or easy to keep up to date whereas project management tools like Asana can help you see who's doing what by when. You saw that I just assign this task to my teammate and she has all the information she needs to get started and as she works on the task that will get updated in Asana unlike in a spreadsheet. Once you've got your list of tasks mapped out, you can start thinking about who can help you complete them and who needs to be involved. Then you can add any instructions that they might need to get started. In the next chapter, we'll take a look at how you can turn your plans into action and get your team on board. 5. Stick to a Schedule: In the last chapter, we made a list of to-dos for the projects. In this chapter, we're going to take a look at how you can turn those to-dos into a project schedule. At this stage, you're ready for an official project kickoff with your team or with your client. You want to make sure that everyone's bought into the steps and that you've listed everything you need to do and that your final deadline seems realistic. It's important to note that every team or client might want to kick things off a little differently. The important part is making sure that you've gotten everyone's buy-in and that they've agreed to the plan as you've laid it out, before you start scheduling all of the tasks. Now, we're ready to start translating our project plans into a schedule. So, first, we might want to take a look at tasks that we know don't have flexible deadlines or that need to happen before other tasks happen. So, for an event plan, we know that probably getting the budget finalized and maybe the event location taken care of are the first things that need to happen. So, we'll think of a realistic timeframe for those to happen. Let's say we need to have that finalized by a Friday and they take about five days to complete. So, if you're doing this in a project management tool like Asana, you actually have a really great feature called Timeline, we can slot it directly into your calendar. Or there are other ways you can do it. You can do this in a spreadsheet, on a calendar or other Gantt chart style tools. Another way you can help yourself prioritize tasks is also by looking at the priority. So, you want to make sure that you get all of your high priority tasks scheduled and that they're on the calendar. Something that's also important to consider when you're scheduling tasks for your project is to make sure you're giving people clear deadlines, but also giving them enough time to actually work on the task. So, if something is due on Friday, they might want to be starting at on Monday versus waiting until they get into the office on Friday and seeing "No, this is due today and I don't actually have enough time." So making sure you're thinking about start dates and deadlines can help you ensure that you hit your actual goals. Another thing you can think about when scheduling your project are dependencies. For example, when you're planning an event, a lot of things rest on having the budget approved like where your event will be, what caters you're going to hire. So, making sure that you've actually mapped those out and making it clear to the people working on them when they should get started is really important. That also helps you, as a project manager, so you don't have to constantly check in with everyone to see, "Did you start this?", "Wait. Don't start on this yet until this is approved." So, at this stage, we've listed out all of our to-dos, we've assigned those to the appropriate teammates, we've given them realistic deadlines, and shown dependencies so everyone knows when their work needs to start, and now you want to make sure to give a final pass that all the tasks have all the information they need, whether it's instructions, documentation, or just additional context for people to get started so they have a perfectly clear idea of what's expected of them when. Now that you've got your beautiful project plan baked out, you might want to add in some critical milestones to ensure that as you go along, you're hitting some critical deadlines and key responsibilities that need to be taken care of. Milestones help you ensure that your project is progressing according to pace and that you're doing the critical things to move it forward. So, for our event projects, we might want to have a milestone around booking all of the travel to get to the event. That way we know that everyone on the team will arrive and they know where to go and that we've already booked that we might not hit additional costs. If we're doing last minute travel. Milestones also help you check in to make sure that your project is pacing accordingly. If you miss a milestone that might mean that task later on need to get shifted. So, if you notice that you don't hit a milestone now, you can shift your plans accordingly. Milestones also help your team stay motivated, especially in projects with deadlines that are farther out. These help you ensure that you're keeping the pace and that everyone's working towards your goals piece by piece. Let's see what this looks like in practice. So, in Asana, I've got my project plan all mapped out. I've assigned all the tasks at various stakeholders on my team, I've given them realistic deadlines, I'm showing the dependencies so they know what work to start when, and I've also given them clear priorities so we know if something needs to get moved around, we can always shift to high priorities. We've also mapped out our milestones to keep everyone motivated and ensure that our project is going according to plan. At this point, you've got a beautiful project plan and everyone should feel clear on what they need to do to get started. In the last chapter, you mapped out all of your to-dos for your project plan. Now, you're ready to slot all of your tasks into a schedule to make sure that you can hate your final deadline. You'll also want to make sure to add any milestones to help keep your team motivated and that your project plan is on track. In the next chapter, I'll show you how to manage your projects now that it's in progress. 6. Keep Everything On-Track: With your project in motion, now one of the most important things to keep in mind is how you keep communication flowing. This is really important with your team or if you're working with a client. It's not enough to just know that tasks are getting done. If something is at risk, that needs to be communicated, and if you're progressing, that also needs to be communicated. Without a project management tool, you're probably used to this communication happening in Docs, Spreadsheets, emails, meetings, and chat. It can feel a little bit scattered. But with a project management tool, you have one place to go for all of these updates and see it happening in real time. Having an understanding of how each task is going helps you as the project manager understand the health of the project overall. Even though you might have the most perfect project plan, the most important thing now is to communicate around work that's happening. It's not enough to just have a task list and hope that everyone will go out and complete it and have no questions along the way. Communicating about the work that's happening and progress that's being made helps everyone know that their questions are getting answered and that you as the project manager can convey these updates whether it's to other stakeholders, or other people in your company, or to your client. One thing you want to make sure you're checking in on is individual task statuses. In a tool like Asana, this is really easy. You just go to the task. You can make comments and documents and check in with the person the task is assigned to to make sure that they have everything they need. Then when they're done with the task, they can make a comment letting you know, "Hey, I'm done with this," and they can attach the final files. So, you have it all in one place. The point of this communication isn't to micromanage your team. The point is to know where they're blocked, where they're progressing, and when things are done. Having a clear sense of your project status overall and the tasks within it makes it easier to convey these updates at a higher level. So, maybe you're reporting to a manager or a department head or your key stakeholders, your client. When you have all of these pieces, you don't have to cobble things together to give them just a status update on what's going on with the projects. If you're getting updates that everything is going according to plan and things are running smoothly, then you as the project manager know that you can convey, "Hey, we're on track." So, if you're noticing that a lot of tasks are getting off track or people are blocked, that can help you make better decisions to shift your plan. So, that way, you're not waiting till the last minute before you notice these problems. But this is why having such a clear project plan can really be helpful. Instead of panicking that something isn't going right or getting flustered and throwing all your resources onto one thing, you can use your project plan to help you evaluate. If it's a lower priority however, you might just be able to move the deadline. Having a well thought out plan can help you get through even the most stressful moments because you know that you have the resources and the expertise to shift things and be flexible, because, let's be real, most projects require that flexibility. In this stage of the project, keeping up communication and staying flexible is critical until you reach your project's deadline. Next, we'll talk about, when you wrap up your project, what are some things you can keep in mind to improve for next time. 7. Reflect and Improve: Hooray. You've completed your project. That's awesome, but the work isn't quite done yet. Now is an important time to reflect on your projects and talk about what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved, and what you'd like to try for next time. If you're familiar with the Agile, Scrum methodology, this would be considered a retrospective. Some specific questions you can ask are: was our goal clear? Did we hit our goal? If not, why? Do we have realistic deadlines? Did people have clear instructions? Do they have enough time to work on the task? Do we assign it to the right people? These are questions that can help you see what went well and what was maybe a little stickier. Even if you hit your goals and had a spectacular outcome, there still steps along the way that could be improved for next time. So, it's also important to talk about not just the end result, but all the little steps you took to get there, and if they were effective. Now you've had the retrospective with your teams to talk about what went well and what could be improved for next time, you're ready to make a template for that next projects. This helps save you time, so you're not reinventing the wheel every time you complete this project, and it also takes into consideration what can be done better. So that way, you're never making the same mistakes twice. Project management tools like Asana can make it really easy to templatized your projects and processes or if you're working in a dock, you can copy it and save it as a template. To create your template, you want to make sure that you get rid of all the details that won't be relevant for next time. So, that might be something like budget lines or dates. Last but not least, take some time to celebrate with your team. You've just done a lot of work, you've accomplished your goal, and you've talked about things that maybe could be improved for next time, but it's also important to focus on things that went well, calling out individuals for their hard work and just taking time as a team to celebrate achieving your goals. 8. Final Thoughts: So we've seen the magic that can happen when you start to plan your projects with more intention, more purpose, and more clarity. You'll probably find that you can manage things more efficiently and effectively, but your team has better communication and that you hit your deadlines. This is what productivity is all about, removing friction, and utilizing processes that just make your life easier. We've packed the Resources Section full of links so you can explore more tips on productivity, project management, and Asana. Make sure to check them out. Now, that you've completed the course, we'd also love you to share your tips, questions, comments, project templates in the discussion section. Thank you so much for taking this class. I'm looking forward to hearing how it's helped you manage your projects more effectively. 9. Explore More Classes on Skillshare: