Transcript: Project-Planning Mastery: A Step-by-Step for How to Stay Organized

January 13, 2022

AMY PORTERFIELD: “Now, hopefully, you've caught on here that if you're doing something that happens, let's say, every single week, like a podcast, we're only creating this project plan once and then reusing it for every single episode. So yeah, this is a lot of work in the beginning, but imagine if you did one of these for an entire launch, and then the next time you launched, you're just updating your project plan. You're never having to start from scratch. So we value our project plan so much because we just reuse them and rework them and tweak them, but it's rare that we ever have to start a project plan from scratch.” 

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: Well, hey, there. Amy, here. Before we dive into the show today, we have some exciting news. As of this month, Online Marketing Made Easy is officially part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. Something we love about the HubSpot Podcast Network is all of the inspiring shows that are dedicated to helping professionals learn and grow, especially online entrepreneurs. If you love our show and want to check out other shows like us, we definitely recommend checking out the Gold Digger Podcast and My First Million. Check out all of these shows and more at 

Well, hey, there, friend. Can you believe we are wrapping up 2021? I mean, how the heck did that happen? I was just talking to Hobie the other day, and we were looking at each other like where did this entire year go? I know I kind of say that every year, but this year, which was not my most favorite year, so I'm really excited to ring in the new year, but this year flew by, like, in a flash. It just reminds me how important every single day is because life moves so quickly, right?  

Okay. So, getting back to this episode, which, may I say, is a perfect topic as we move into a new year? I'm so excited when I get to do episodes like this because I love all things organization that comes with being my own boss. Now, you might be listening to this in June or July, like, well past the time that it went live, and this episode will still be incredibly relevant for you. So no matter when you're listening, you're going to love this episode.  

Now, if you know me, you definitely know that I love to organize. But let's also be honest. It's not just the organization within my business; it's also in my day to day as well. I like my business organized. I like my house organized. I like my day to day organized. So you should see how Hobie looks at me when I'm in the kitchen, organizing all the drawers and making sure everything's in the right place. I find peace when I'm doing that. But he looks at me like, “Oh, no. Here she goes again.” When I get on it, I can't stop. I know; this sounds very weird, but I do really love to organize everything.  

But here's the thing. When I first met Hobie, he was so messy. He would just throw anything into a drawer. He'd leave everything out. He never folded his shirts in his drawers. He was messy. But thirteen years in—actually, it’s probably more than, like, fourteen now—he is very organized, and he likes to brag about it. Like, “Did you see how I did that?” So he just built a workshop up on the hill behind our house, and I went in there, and there were different containers and compartments and different things hung on the wall, like, super organized. So I was pretty impressed. So it's rubbing off on him, for sure.  

And if you're not super organized, hopefully this episode will rub off on you, and you'll think, “Well, maybe my business could be easier, more streamlined, maybe less stressful if I got a bit more organized.” So today I'm walking you through exactly how we set up project plans in my business, from the conceptualization of an idea of a project to the completion and even what we do to make it easy moving forward. So we've got a lot to cover, and no matter what stage of business you're in, you can take my plan and use it to make your life easier. And yes, that means you, even if you're a one-person show or if you have a team of twenty. Like, I'm talking to everyone here.  

And just to be clear, when I'm talking about a project plan, I'm talking about taking one project, like a live launch, and putting all of the details and the action items and every moving piece into a template so that you have everything in one place and you know who's working on what and when it's due. And if you’re a one-woman show, you’re working on it all, but it’s so nice to know that you’ve got a container for everything that’s going to go into this project. 

Now, because this is a meaty episode, I’ve created a free resource to support it. So grab that by heading to my show notes. And this resource will lay out all the steps for you, along with real-life examples from my business, so you can see how to put it into action. So sit back and enjoy this episode—no need to take notes—and then go to my show notes, grab the resource so that when you're ready to create your project plan, you'll know exactly how to do it. 

And really quick, before we dive in. Have you shared Online Marketing Made Easy with anyone else yet? You know, like your friends who are running a business or just starting one? I would be so grateful if you would just take a minute to share this episode with someone that you know would find it valuable. Again, I’d just be so grateful. All you have to do is head to the platform where you're listening—no matter where you listen—click the Share button or icon, and just send it on over. So thank you so very much for doing so.  

All right. Here we go. Let's dive in.  

Let's start at the top. What exactly is a project plan, and why is it important to use as an entrepreneur? A project plan is essentially a process to get you from an idea or concept to bringing it to life by planning and organization through categories, individual tasks, assignees, due dates, and providing any necessary SOPs, standard operating procedures or resources, that are needed to support the completion of a specific task. And don’t worry. I'm going to deep dive into all of that with you, so just hang tight.  

Whether you have a team of twenty, like me; or a team of two, maybe just you and a VA; or maybe you're flying solo, creating and sticking to a project plan will not only bring you a sense of ease knowing you won't miss any moving parts, but it will also make sure that you stay on task and avoid procrastination. So when it comes to deciding what platform is best to use for your business, let's just say you'll have no shortage of options.  

So to be honest, you can absolutely do this (create a project plan) in a Google spreadsheet. I personally don't love that approach. I think it limits the level of organization and ability to see the high-level overview of the project, but it's definitely an option. Now, if you're willing to learn a platform—and I'll say these platforms tend to be super intuitive, by the way—then I highly recommend you use that instead. You can look at Asana, Monday, Trello, Hive, and the list, honestly, goes on and on. The cool thing is that all of these have free options, so that's great if you're just starting out or if it's just you and a VA. But as you grow, this is one of those things I can't recommend enough investing in. And for the record, why wouldn't you use a project-management tool like Asana or Monday instead of a Google spreadsheet if you can start out for free, right? So do a little research, and don't go overboard. Just ask some entrepreneurial friends what they use and why. Look at two or three options, give yourself twenty-four hours, and then make the decision. Worst-case scenario, you don’t love the platform, and you can try something else for free. 

My team and I use Asana, so that's a-s-a-n-a. I've used that platform for years now. We love it, and I highly recommend checking it out. I use it every single day, multiple times a day, in my business. If there's a task that I need to do, it's in Asana.  

All right. So, let's get to the meat of this episode: how to actually put together your project plan.  

Step one, identify the main focus of the project plan. So, for example, we have a podcast project plan, and the focus and goal is to organize the processes involved with getting a podcast episode and really a podcast batch from the conceptualization of it, a.k.a. the pitch meeting, to bringing the episode to life, a.k.a. what you're listening to right now. And in fact, you'll hear me use our podcast project plan as an example throughout today's episode, just to give you an idea of how a real-life process that we use daily in my business actually functions. All right. Easy peasy. First step, check. You're going to identify the main focus of the project plan. What is the project?  

All right. So, moving on to step two, outline your project. So this is important because if you don't take the time to really outline and see the whole picture of your project, it's easy to miss things. So here's how we do it within our business, and it's worked really well for us. We start with the overarching categories. So, for example, in the podcast project plan, we have the following categories: episode production; show notes and newsletter; freebie, if there is one; social media and ads; and then going live.  

Next, you're going to break down all of the tasks that fall into each category, and I only want you to make a list of the tasks. Don’t include a due date, details, or any resources to support the completion of the task. Don’t say who’s going to do it. Just keep it to the bones because we’ll add all of that good stuff in a moment.  

Remember, I have a free resource that you can download and follow along. So just listen to it for the time, and then you can dive into it with the free resource. It’s in my show notes. 

So, my team and I literally zoom out and ask ourselves, “What are all the tasks that need to happen to make this category complete?” As you might imagine, the Episode Production category is definitely the biggest category. Within it, we include many of the early-stage planning needs, which is a lot of the content stuff, so stuff like a task for the pitch meeting, so we come up with all the ideas for the episodes, and we select all the topics; and then, writing and reviewing the outlines or the scripts; or recording details and tasks; audio editing and QCing the audio; tasks like that. So that section is pretty bulky.  

Then, going to show notes, we zoom out. Again, what needs to be included here? We'll need the newsletter and the show notes written. We’ll also need to QC those, and then create the newsletter templates in my email-service provider. We’ll also need to create any images that are going into either of those assets. Tracking links go here, as do transcripts and time stamps, because we include those in my show notes.  

Now, remember, I have a bigger team than I have had in the past. So as my team has grown, I've been able to add different tasks that we do for the podcast. My podcast did not have all these action items when I was just starting out in 2013, so we've grown into this. 

Okay. So, thinking about that project plan and the categories, the next category is around the freebie. So we clump this all together because it's kind of its own thing. So that includes the content creation, let's say, if it's a free resource, like the one we created for this show, and then someone needs to review it, and then someone needs to put it into a simple design. If we need any images, we're going to add those. And then setting up the delivery sequence, so when you opt in to get that free resource will automatically get delivered to you, that's something we would include in this category because we want to make sure we set it all up. 

And then, Social Media and Ads. This category includes writing the text for the ads, choosing the images, and scheduling all social media and ads within this specific batch. A batch for me is six episodes, so I try to do six episodes at once.  

And then the last category is Go Live, which is where all of this planning comes full circle, and we QC one week before each episode goes live, and then we QC it when it's actually live again, and that's the end of the project.  

Now, I just want to point out that the beauty of these categories is that you can really focus in on different tasks related to different things you're doing within that project. If you just did a mass brain dump, I think it's harder to remember everything. So first, you come up with the categories, and then you come up with all the things you think you need to do within each of those categories.  

So at this point, you've identified the specific focus for your project plan. You've identified the categories. You've zoomed out and broken down those categories. Now it's time to take a breath. Those are big accomplishments and will make the rest of the planning process smooth sailing. Which brings us to step number three, set dates.  

So for this part in your planning, I want you to identify the most-important dates within your plan. For your podcast plan, that includes the first date that this batch will go live, which will determine when we have the pitch meeting, which will determine when I review the scripts and outlines, which will determine when I record. And from there, everything else will fall into place. And the reason those are the biggie dates is that we need to get those on the calendar pretty far in advance. All the other dates within the project plan can have a little wiggle room, but those specific dates, like when an episode is going to air, can't really move around because they keep us on track for releasing our episodes two times a week without skipping a beat. So think about what are the dates that don't have a lot of wiggle room and start there. 

All right. So if you've got your main date set, this is the part where you'll start planning all the other dates. So, for example, we schedule my recording dates, honestly, months in advance. So I'm recording an episode right now. This recording session where I'm doing multiple episodes on one day, it's been in my calendar for months and months because if it wasn't, I would have just planned stuff over it. So that's a little secret for me getting this done. I put all the recording dates in my calendar. And then we know that about one week after I record and we submit our audio to our editors, my podcast manager is going to be QCing that audio. Once that audio is QC’d, it gets to be uploaded to our audio platform. So it’s really a domino effect once you get those main dates set and you know how long the other tasks take to complete. 

Oh, and one more thing we do on my team that I recommend you consider doing as well is to add a final due date for each task. Now, this is something we haven't always done, but holy cow, it’s been really valuable. So this essentially means that this task can be completed any time before this final due date. But after is going to cause some issues and will require other tasks to be pushed back and delayed. Not good at all. So it's always helpful to add that date as well, especially if you have a team or a VA that you're working with.  

So every task that gets put into Asana, let's say the task is for me to record this podcast episode. So when Kylee, who is my podcast project manager, when she put this into Asana, she gave this episode a drop-dead date to get recorded. And then my executive assistant and I worked together to find time to put this on the calendar months ago. But we knew that we had to get it done by a specific date. But if we could record it earlier? Great. So those drop-dead dates, or final due dates, are really, really valuable, especially if you have a bigger team and a lot of people are working on the project. 

Around this time of year, we start thinking about what matters most, and I ask this for my business as well. What truly matters? I often think about the impact I have on my community and my customers. If you find yourself feeling the same way, you also might find yourself asking how you can help strengthen those relationships between your customers and your community. With a suite of new purpose-built tools, a HubSpot CRM platform can help you build, maintain, and grow your customer relationships like never before. Custom surveys easily captures feedback unique to your business, shares insights with your teams, and helps you grow your understanding of how your customers really feel, meaning healthy conversations about what matters and less about what doesn't. And payment tools, like native payment links and recurring payments that directly embed in HubSpot's tools and emails, means seamless delivery and easy payment collection. Learn more about how a HubSpot CRM platform can help you build, maintain, and grow your customer relationships at 

All right. So, your turn. Now that you have your categories, you've broken those categories down into tasks, and you have your main dates and then you filled out the rest of the dates—you let those main dates guide you—now it's time for assigning the owner of each task. Now, hopefully, you've caught on here that if you're doing something that happens, let's say, every single week, like a podcast, we're only creating this project plan once and then reusing it for every single episode. So yeah, this is a lot of work in the beginning, but imagine if you did one of these for an entire launch, and then the next time you launched, you're just updating your project plan. You're never having to start from scratch. So we value our project plan so much because we just reuse them and rework them and tweak them, but it's rare that we ever have to start a project plan from scratch. Pretty cool, right? 

Okay. So, step number four, identify key players. Now, if you're riding solo here, you're the owner of all tasks. And trust me, I remember those days. It's a grind, for sure, but you've got this.  

Here's what I'll say. If you have a little extra money in your business, even if you're fairly new, invest in a little help. You can hire a VA for only a few hours a week, and trust me, it makes all the difference. If you want more information on hiring and working with a virtual assistant, check out episode 349, “The VA Solution: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring and Successfully Working with a VA, with my friend Shannon Miles.” I’ll link to that in the show notes.  

But if you have a team of one or more, you need to make sure that you're assigning the correct tasks to the correct team member or support role. This part is pretty straightforward. So for example, my podcast manager does the majority of the episode-production-type tasks. She also plans out the project plan. So that's Kylee, who I mentioned earlier. So these steps that we're taking you through right now, she manages all of these. But when it comes to show notes, newsletters, and images, she assigns those to our copywriter and our graphic designer. And of course, there are many tasks that she assigns to our wonderful virtual assistant, Daniel. So shout out to Daniel. We so appreciate you. So Daniel works on our podcast as a VA, and we love him. And then social goes to our social-media manager, Stacey. And ads go to our copywriter, and our ads manager, so Emmory and Michele, and so on and so forth. And so go ahead and assign these out.  

And you might be laughing right now, like, “Amy, I do not have that many people on my team.” Well, those people can be contractors. And here’s another thing. If you have a virtual assistant, she could manage the contractors to make sure that they know what their tasks are and what is needed. So again, these do not need to be all full-time employees or anything like that. And when you're small and lean, one person might be wearing five hats. You're using Canva to do your graphic design; and you're writing your own copy, so you are your copywriter; and social-media manager, oh, that's your VA. Like, I get it. I'm not trying to make this more complicated than it needs to be. I'm just showing you that if you do have a small team or some contractors, make sure that you're not trying to do it all.  

Okay. So, at this point, you're going to go ahead and assign these out. And take a moment to take this all in. It's coming together. So feeling organized is just a really good feeling.  

Now, moving right along, step five, finalize the outline and add any details, resources, or SOPs (standard operating principles) to each task. So I told you that we were going to fill in all the blanks a little later on, right? So your project plan is almost complete at this point. However, you'll want to go into each task and give a little description, if needed, which will include any resources that person should check into, any links that they might need, and maybe a link to an SOP that can support that person in terms of how to get the task done. So an SOP is basically how to do something.  

So, let's say that I was assigning somebody to put the show notes up on my website. I will absolutely have an SOP that says, “Hey, if you get stuck, reference this SOP,” so that they're not constantly asking me or someone else on my team, “I forget. How do I do this?” No, we just follow the SOP. If you are part of my program, Systems that Scale, you know all about SOPs because I teach you how to create them in that program. So if you want to know more about that program, it's  

Okay. So, trust me on this one. Adding some description to the tasks is a game changer, and it will save you loads of time in the long run. So, plus, your goal should always be to eventually hand off most of these tasks. And when that time comes, you want to make sure that it's as easy as possible for someone just to jump in and take over.  

Now, if you're thinking, “Amy, it's just me. I don't need to add a description into these tasks. I know what to do, and I'm going to be completing them,” I still want you to add a description. And trust me, even when I have a recurring task that requires me to edit something within a doc or enter data or whatever, if I have that link to that doc easily accessible in the description for that task, I'm not hunting and pecking all over Google Drive trying to find something. So it just makes it easier. Everything you need to complete that task, just put it in the description, even if it's just you doing all of it, because one day it won't be, my friend, and you've already done the heavy lifting to get it all organized.  

All right. So, let me give you an example. We have a task for every single episode I record. That task is assigned to me with a due date and a final due date. And then in the description, I have a link for where I'm going to record it, which is on a platform called Zencastr, and then a link to the outline or the script. So when I go in to record an episode, I click a link. It takes me directly to the Zencastr episode that I'm recording. And then all my notes that I want to look at, right in front of me because I'm clicking on the link to the Google Doc. So every single task of me recording an episode, I know that I'm going to find those two links.  

Another example is the task that we assign to our audio editors. This one is a bit more complex, more than my recording task, because it includes the Dropbox folders for where my editors can find all the audio, the raw audio, and it includes an SOP on how to edit, and it includes the title and number of the episode, along with timestamps for the clips that we want to pull, and so on.  

And then one final example is the task for writing the newsletter for each individual episode. That task gets assigned to our copywriter with a final due date, a link to the outline or the script, the audio, and the newsletter doc that she'll be writing it in. It also includes details about how that newsletter needs to nod to my Tuesday episode as well, and what that episode is called, and any other details my copywriter needs to know to complete this task efficiently and correctly, because we only do one newsletter a week and it's on Thursday, but now that I have two episodes, we’re kind of playing with the idea of how to get both of those episodes into one email. So we give her all the details she needs so that she’s not wasting her time asking questions, hunting and pecking all over Google or Google Drive in order to get her answers. So we are more efficient when we add details into each task.  

All right. Almost there. Moving on to step six, final review and check ins. At this point, I suggest you take a moment to review your project plan from top to bottom. Look at the tasks, the dates, the assignees, and just triple check to make sure everything is looking correct. Beyond that, what I like to do is check in on a daily basis to see what's on track, what's off track, what dates need to be changed or moved around. And to be honest, when it comes to my podcast, I'm not the one looking at daily tasks, but Kylee is because she owns the project. There always should be one owner of a project plan, and so in this case, it's Kylee. She's going to have a really good pulse on how it's going in terms of all the moving parts.  

Now, why this is important is that you can also see if somebody’s getting way too many tasks due at just the exact same time. So, for example, during my latest Digital Course Academy launch, my copywriter—bless her heart—she was going full steam ahead, and we ended up tasking her with a lot of off-the-cuff emails and projects. Now, because these were time sensitive—they had to do with the launch—we had to rearrange the due dates for the show notes and the newsletter for the podcast, which required us to adjust the dates of creating the email template in our email-service provider, the date my project manager would be QCing me, and so on and so forth.  

So that happens, for sure. This is not perfect by any means. And it's important to know that just because you have a project plan all laid out doesn't mean it won't change. But the beauty of having this is that you just have to adjust the dates and in comparison to having to do an overhaul because you don't have a plan laid out and so everything is confusing now, so it's way better to have the plan and adjust the dates. 

Now, I have one final step that I highly recommend you do. And this is step seven: make a copy if you're going to use this project plan again. Trust me on this one, please. We've learned this the hard way. You've done all this hard work. Why only use it once and have to repeat it down the line? Remember what I mentioned earlier? So whether it's a project plan for your weekly content or for a list-building blitz or for your digital course, either creation or launching or whatever, once you create the project plan, before you start using it, make a copy, and let that be your master template so that you can duplicate that any time you want to use it again. The beautiful thing is that within many project-management platforms, you can simply save what you've created as a template and copy it within that platform. Asana absolutely allows you to do this.  

You also have the option of exporting the project plan or template, which is also a nice option to save in your Google Drive so that you have it if anything were to happen within your platform. That means when the time comes, you simply create a copy of the template, adjust the dates or any updated resources, and you're on your way. I can’t stress enough how much time and energy this will save you. I'm all about not reinventing the wheel, not starting from scratch. And creating a project plan and using that template over and over again? Mm, it's just perfect. It's exactly what I want you to do. 

Whew. I know that was a lot, but I want to make it super easy for you. So like I mentioned, I have a free resource that you can reference as you put together your plan. And you can grab that by visiting the show notes for this episode, just,, and you can also find that link in the description of whatever platform you're listening on. So, in the free resource, I've laid out the steps I just took you through, along with real-life examples of my plan, so you can duplicate it and make this whole project-planning thing as easy as possible.  

If you love today's episode, please share it with a friend. Project planning can be overwhelming for any entrepreneur, new or someone who's been doing it for a while, so share away. All you have to do is head to the platform that you're listening on, click the Share button or the icon, and send it to a friend. I so appreciate you taking the time to do so, and it really helps me to support other entrepreneurs on their journey.  

Also, be sure that you're joining me for my Tuesday Shorty episodes as well. So I've got a new episode every Tuesday, around ten to fifteen minutes, and then a longer one every Thursday that's more step by step, like today's episode. 

Thanks for joining me. I’ll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now. 

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