How To Set Daily Goals to Manage Multiple Projects

Use a spreadsheet of daily goals to keep track of progress, especially when you’re working on multiple elearning projects.

Many instructional designers, elearning developers, and LXDs manage multiple projects simultaneously. We’re often working on several staggered projects, especially while waiting for stakeholders to review something. Especially when I’m swamped with work, I use daily goals to help me stay on top of all of my projects. This lets me know quickly if I’m slipping behind so I can adjust.

My daily goals spreadsheet

Daily Goals Spreadsheet showing 5 columns:
# slides written
Goal running total
Goal Date
Actual written
Actual running total

Let’s assume I have a project where I need to storyboard a module. This module will have an estimated 25 slides. I have 8 working days to finish. I add the goal dates and total slides as shown above.

Build slack into the timeline

I find it helpful to build some slack into the timeline. I leave the last day for revisions. In a larger project, I might leave 2-3 days at the end for revisions. That revision time also provides me a little slack in the timeline, or a way to catch up if I’ve gotten behind.

In the timeline above, 9/24 (in row 7) is a day for catching up. If I’m running on schedule, I’ll use this time to work on images, do revisions, or to just get ahead of schedule.

Track daily work

The same daily goals spreadsheet with 3 days of work completed. 10 slides are written, compared to the 13 slide goal.

As I draft the storyboard, I note how much I have completed. I can compare the actual running total in column E to the goal in column B. In the image above, I can see that I have completed 10 slides, but my goal was 13 slides. That means I need to use that catch-up day to get back on track.

See the formulas

Daily goals spreadsheet with formulas

If you want to create one yourself, the formulas are very basic. You can adjust this for your projects and workflow.

Not fancy or novel

This is, obviously, not a very fancy spreadsheet. I use this just for myself, so I didn’t make it pretty. I have more complex spreadsheets for time tracking and revision tracking. Some conditional formatting when I’m behind schedule might be nice here, but I typically find that the numbers are enough.

In addition, breaking down the work into smaller chunks isn’t exactly a novel idea. This is part of the agile and LLAMA approaches.

So, if it’s not fancy or novel, why does this matter?

Why this works

Years ago, I was part of a team with several other IDs. Two weeks before a scheduled launch, one of my teammates realized she was hopelessly behind the timeline. There was no way she could get everything ready in time, and we couldn’t push the launch date. We all pulled together for some long hours for those two weeks, but we fortunately got it done in time.

That frantic scramble at the end could have been avoided if she’d been using a schedule like this. If she had realized 3 months into the 6 month project that she was slipping behind, it would have been pretty easy to get back on track.

The thing was, she didn’t even realize she was behind. She’d been making incremental progress, chugging along for 5 months. She didn’t have the milestones and goals for herself to realize how far behind she was. We were a fairly new team at the time, and we were creating new processes without solid existing benchmarks.

Using daily goals and tracking daily progress helps you realize quickly when you have a problem. The sooner you realize you’re behind, the easier it is to get the project back on track.

What if you’re off track?

If I’m off track, my first choice is to use the built-in slack. If that isn’t enough, I try to do a little extra each day. Realistically, sometimes that means I’m working late in the evening or on a weekend to catch up. I’d rather do one late evening earlier in the project than a string of extra-long days all at the end of a project though.

Sometimes I need a larger adjustment. That might require getting additional help, pushing the timeline out, or revising the scope. All of those things are easier when you can identify the issue earlier in the process, rather than the last minute scramble.

What do you do?

How do you manage your own workload, especially when you’re juggling multiple projects? How do you keep track of it all and figure out when you’re slipping behind?

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