A project is any outcome “that require[s] more than one action step“, according to David Allen. Allen created the widely respected personal productivity system known as Getting Things Done (often referred to by fans as simply “GTD“).

Most of us have more projects than we recognize. For example, “Switch to Google Apps” is a project that involves multiple steps taken by multiple people over several days or weeks. “Create next year’s budget”? That’s definitely a project. Any on-going committee work should be viewed as a project, since committees involve multiple people and multiple action steps.

Getting things done

GTD-ers, as they’re sometimes called, manage projects with two essentials tools: lists and reference materials. Lists identify actions necessary for a successful outcome. Calendars are lists in the GTD world: they’re just lists of things that happen on a specific date and/or time. Reference materials are items needed during the course of the project, such as instructions, reports, analysis or articles.

Projects move forward in GTD when “next action” steps are extremely clear. Projects stall when the next action isn’t clearly defined. A clearly defined action consists of a single task that can be completed with available materials, information, and equipment: “Email Larry”, for example.

(Try this: the next time you’re in a meeting that lacks focus, ask “So, what’s the next action?” Keep asking the question until you understand exactly who is to do what and when.)

Google Sites

You can use Google Apps to track and manage your “next action” lists and reference material in various forms:

  • Manage task list and budgets with Sheets,
  • Manage timelines with Calendars, and
  • Track meeting minutes and decisions with Docs.

A Google Site lets you add context to your lists and reference materials at a dedicated project website. Your Site can give an overview of the project, including the timeline, budget and people involved. And you can even discuss all of these items on a Site discussion forum.

Most importantly, you can share access to the project Site with other people. Your project site can be public for the world to see, or restricted to specific people. Be sure to allow time in your workflow to configure the site, and make sure your collaborators can access the Site.

Here’s how to create a basic Google Site for a project using a template:

1. Login to Google Apps, and then click “Sites” in the black menu bar at the top of the screen.

2. Click the “Create” button. (The “Create” button is in nearly the same location on the screen as the “Compose” button within Gmail.)

3. You can either customize your own site format, or use a template. I suggest you use a template (Figure A) for your first site.

Figure A

Initial setup of a Google Site is straightforward

4. Click on “Browse the gallery for more templates”. Click on the “Business Collaboration” in the displayed options, then enter “Project Wiki” in the search box and click the search button. Click on the “Project Wiki” entry (Figure B), then click “Select” to choose this template.

Figure B

Search for templates with the word ‘project’

5. Click the “Create” button to make your Site. The next page you see will be your newly created Site, waiting to be edited.

If you used the “Project Wiki” template, you’ll see the menu items from the template displayed (Figure C). The default pages include a project definition page, to-dos, time tracker, files and benchmark dates. The template also includes an example of an embedded Sheet on the Site home page.

Figure C

The Project Wiki menu items include many essential project management items

6. Edit your Site as needed. The key editing controls (Figure D) for the Site – and pages within the site – are found in the upper right corner.

Figure D

Site and Page options are found in the upper right

7. Create new pages for your Site, as needed. The five page types (Figure E) serve distinct project management purposes: web page, announcements, file cabinet, list, and start page. (See Googles help pages to learn more about each of these page types.)

Figure E

Sites offers five distinct page types

8. Share your site. Click the “Share” button to share your site with others. Note that you can manage site-wide and page-level access permissions. (Learn more about Site sharing options from Googles help pages.)

Make sure your Google Site clearly conveys the “next actions” needed for your project. Project reference material should be easy to find, but your Site should emphasize action. The Google Site for your project should help your team deliver successful, completed projects as painlessly as possible. As David Allen puts it, your Site should help you “get things done.”

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