Some things are too complex to handle using notes on paper. Most project planning software is too complex for my needs. After hacking around with a few systems, I’ve started using Scrivener for project planning. It’s an odd choice, but I’ve found a way to make it work.
Obviously, this is outside of Scrivener’s intended use. It’s a writing program. The core functionality is build around word processing and outlining. Yet it also allows you to organize notes and documents. It’s a project management tool specifically tailored for writing projects, so it’s easy to expand it beyond that scope to encompass other types of projects.
I created a template that covers most of my standard operating procedure for writing and publishing a book. When I start a new project, I save a copy and rename it to the project name. On the left I have the Binder view open, and in the center I have the Document view. The top document in the Draft is my project Magna Carta, a brief description of the project, what I want to accomplish, and what I would like to avoid. I check in with this periodically to make sure I’m not drifting away from the premise or scope of the project. This, of course, is customized for each project.
The second document is a master list of all of the tasks that need to be accomplished. All of the tasks have deadlines assigned to them. This is my 50,000-foot overview of the project, and is just for my reference. The master list gets customized for each project, but having a template means the bulk of the heavy lifting is done.
The rest of the Binder column has one document for each major piece of the project. It’s labeled with the deadline date and a description of the task. So there are things like “13 October – Schedule Blog Post on Scrivener for Project Planning”. Within that document I can add sub-lists, notes, contact informations, or anything else I need in order to complete that task.
At the bottom of the Draft view is a folder labeled “Completed Tasks”. As things are finished, their corresponding document gets dragged into this folder. That way, the only things immediately visible are the tasks that remain to be done, but I can still access my notes on completed tasks if needed. When the project is complete, I can archive the whole thing to make room on my desktop for the next project.
Using Scrivener for project planning offers the benefit of being contained to my work laptop. It’s not on an app that I’ll be tempted to look at at any hour, in any place. This means that outside of office hours, I can’t be working. When I am at work, everything I need is in one program, with clear objectives, an organized and visible list, and notes. In being able to make a copy, I can carry over best practice from one project to the next by retaining my notes while still being able to adapt work flows to each project’s needs.