Defining Projects

Tasks are not projects, which are not initiatives. Having distinctions like this in work can be really helpful in planning your week and making progress on things. Of course, I realize that the way I classify things may be artificial and unique to me, but it has helped me bring clarity to my work. So here goes:

  • Tasks: These are “small” actions. Tasks are the little things which must be day-to-day and make up larger projects.
  • Projects: The key way of defining a project is that it is TIME BOUND. There is a deadline.
  • Initiatives: Initiatives are a larger ideas or dreams that you want to accomplish. An initiative usually will span a year or more. Sometimes there’s no real deadline. An initiative may be wanting “to change the culture of the organization.”

Projects are the most important part of this three-tiered system because they are the hardest to define, manage, and move forward. Tasks are relatively easy to manage. Slap ’em on a list and you’re good. Initiatives are also fairly easy to manage. I mean, all you need to do is dream up some stuff and you’re good! But projects are often ambiguous yet extremely important if you actually want to get stuff done.

What I’ve found is that the key to knowing if something is a project or not is whether it is TIME BOUND. Does it have a (reasonable) deadline? If it does, it’s a project. Of course, sometimes projects will be so large that they encompass even smaller projects. But each one of the those smaller projects should also have a deadline. By giving something a deadline, you are forcing yourself to define your work and get it concrete.

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