Effective project planning is often difficult for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. It can result in the following workplace difficulties: not knowing how to get started on an assignment, becoming stuck midway through a project, vastly underestimating how long something will take, discovering too late that important items have been omitted, or losing sight of the original goal.
There are four basic steps to effective planning:
1. Establish a clear goal.
2. Create specific, manageable steps to reach the goal.
3. Organize the time needed to complete the steps.
4. Assemble required materials.
The following planning template has been used by several of my coaching clients for both long-term projects and daily tasks. To show you how it works, I have included an example from one of my clients who used the template to plan the writing of a process manual.
1. Describe the goal or task: Produce an internal process manual
2. Due date: One month
3. Steps and estimated time to complete
Step 1: Outline steps required to produce new product
Estimated time: 2 hours
Step 2: Identify team(s) responsible for each step
Estimated time: 1 hour
Step 3: Write draft of process for review
Estimated time: 8 hours
Step 4: Send draft to team leaders, marketing director and supervisor for review Estimated time: 30 minutes to send/ 1 week for comments
Step 5: Incorporate feedback into final document
Estimated time: 2 hours
Total estimated time: 13 ½ hours
4. What do I need to complete the task (materials, information, equipment, etc.): Sample process documents from other departments, organizational chart, list of colleagues who will review document, time with supervisor to review initial outline
5. I will work on this project from: 2:00 – 4:00pm on Mondays and 9:00 – 11:30am on Thursdays
6. At the half-way point, my goal is to have the following amount of work completed: 60% of the first draft written
7. Actual time to complete:
Step 1: 2 ½ hours
Step 2: 45 minutes
Step 3: 10 hours
Step 4: 15 minutes/ 2 weeks for all comments
Step 5: 3 ½ hours
Total actual time: 17 hours and 1 extra week for comments
7. If the actual time to complete a step/task took longer than the estimated time, then:
a) What obstacles, if any, were not anticipated? Draft took longer due to unfamiliarity with part of the product development process; team leaders had more changes than I expected; two managers could not get feedback to me within a week due to travel schedules
b) How can the task be handled differently next time? Allow 20% more time to write the document than I expect; check managers’ travel schedules in advance; make sure that I am familiar with all aspects of the development process before beginning project
The planning template can be used for a variety of situations, and individual action steps can be as detailed as needed. Save your work sheets and review your progress over time. Pay particular attention to how close your estimated times are to your actual times because accurate estimating is an important part of meeting deadlines.