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Project Planning with Post-It Notes

written by: Tricia Goss • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 7/7/2014

If you have a whiteboard, a stack of sticky notes and some markers, you have the basis for an abundance of project planning tools. Learn how these humble squares of paper can help your project be a success.

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    Project Planning with Sticky Notes Do you really need elaborate software to plan a project effectively and efficiently? Of course, access to one or two professional tools and methods can definitely help, but sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go.

    In fact, you might have a few rudimentary implements within reach that you can use to start –and even complete—the planning you need to successfully begin and accomplish your project. That little pad of sticky notes on your desk could be just the visualization tool you need.

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    Brainstorm as a Group

    Before you begin the planning process, brainstorming with your team provides numerous benefits. Your team feels more involved in decision-making and takes ownership for their respective roles, it can be a quick way to garner the best ideas and you can do it without much preparation, especially using sticky notes.

    Large Post-Its work best. Hand out a pad and a marker to each person present. Ask everyone to write their ideas on individual sticky notes and collect them all after a set period. Post them on a wall or whiteboard where everyone can see and then organize similar notes in groups. Discuss the ideas, discarding or adding new ones as necessary. Use voting or other methods to decide on the best options.

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    Make Flow Charts

    Flow charts can be significant tools throughout the project planning process. For instance, you might create a decision tree flow chart to use during your brainstorming meeting. You can also create flow charts to display procedures and the project life cycle.

    You can use Post-Its to create any flow chart by writing each item, idea or procedure on an individual note. Stick the notes to a whiteboard or poster board, rearranging them as needed until you have the flow just right. This method also allows for changes as you go along; you can add, remove or reorder items whenever necessary.

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    Create a Work Breakdown Structure

    A Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, dissects the phases, deliverables and work packages into a hierarchy. The WBS is beneficial during the planning process as it assists with determining the budget and time you will require to complete the project successfully.

    Start with a whiteboard, poster board or easel pad, markers and sticky notes. Distribute Post-Its and markers to the team and ask them to write one deliverable per note, sticking them to the board in no particular order as they finish.

    When you cannot think of any more deliverables, stack or discard similar sticky notes and group others in the same category. Once you have grouped all of the deliverables, create category names and write them on sticky notes placed at the top of each grouping.

    Check for any deliverables you may have forgotten and add them as needed. Clarify items with the team and create new notes that are more concise. Remember to include Project Management as a category.

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    Post a Timeline

    Planning the time you will spend on the project is essential, and Post-Its can come into play here, as well. Write important dates across the top of your whiteboard or poster board. Write each task or milestone that you want to track throughout the project on an individual sticky note. Place the notes on the board beneath the corresponding date. Check for any scheduling issues, such as a team member or group with multiple tasks due to be completed within a brief period and make adjustments as necessary.

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    Assign Action Items and Responsibilities

    To carry out a successful project, team members must be clear on the tasks for which they are responsible or accountable. Start by writing each person’s name across the top of a whiteboard. Jot each action item on a sticky note and place it under the appropriate name.

    Consider using different colors of sticky notes to denote varying levels of responsibility, creating a mock responsibility matrix. For instance, you might use yellow notes to show responsibility, pink to display accountability and green for anyone who should be consulted or informed.

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    Design a Gantt Chart

    The horizontal lines in a Gantt chart compares the amount of work completed in relation to the planned timeline. If you find the idea of making one intimidating, you can create a basic Gantt chart with Post-Its.

    Start with an easel board with graph paper or gridlines drawn on your white board. Consider each task you want to add to the chart and cut a sticky note to an appropriate size to denote the amount of time required to complete the work. Some tasks may need only one-quarter of a sticky note while others could necessitate two or more.

    Add dates or week numbers to the top of the page and place each item on an individual horizontal line on the chart under the corresponding period or date.

    Once you have completed any or all of these project planning tools, you can enter them into your favorite software, if desired. And be sure to add sticky notes to your office supplies request list!

    How do you use sticky notes in your office? Share your ideas in the comments.