Lately, I have taken on large tasks that are primarily my own responsibility. I have a little help but I alone comprise the bulk of the team. These tasks include moving a home-grown company intranet to an open source content management system and relandscaping my whole yard.
Fortunately, the view from my office window has provided me with more than just a place to daydream. High-rise condos are being constructed next to my workplace, and although they will block my view of downtown Portland, they have inspired my approach to managing large tasks.
A large construction site is an amazing thing to watch from up high. From my comfortable viewpoint, I have taken away some insight that has guided my own approach to managing large tasks—create a staging area before starting any work.
In the case of the intranet, I didn’t have the luxury of an actual staging server and was initially overwhelmed at the thought of getting all the static pages (over 500) into the CMS, not to mention redesigning the template, incorporating legacy applications, and the issues of installing everything on a Windows server. I previously only had experience installing Drupal on a remote host, which mainly required creating and naming a database.
I decided to download all the components I would need and set it up on my own machine before moving to the server. My computer became the staging area. Once I had everything downloaded, I waited for a day when I had an open block of several hours to do the install. The files on my desktop were a reminder of the next action I needed to take.
Once I had created my own staging area, I was able to get past my “wall” and got the motivation to start. I installed Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Drupal and got it all working within thirty minutes. One of the big hurdles for me was the fear that I’d run into problems with the install and be stuck, but I ended up having plenty of time for tinkering and installing extra modules.
So the next time you’re facing a large task, take a tip from the construction industry and create a staging area.
- Create a safe space where you can put all the resources you’ll need for the task.
- Keep this area in your view whenever possible.
- Pull items from your staging area only when they are needed.
- Keep your staging area organized. Break it into sections that make sense to you.
Author Bio: Britt Parrott is the communications manager for an engineering firm in Portland, Oregon, by day and a screenwriter by night. He posts most of his nonsense at Perhapses.