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When it comes to project planning, one of the most common problems is that we get caught in the weeds. When many of us plan a project, we usually start with we perceive as a brilliant idea.
Then we plan out some broad ideas, but we don’t flesh them out enough and jump quickly into creation. There’s nothing wrong with creation – it’s my favorite part of the process. In fact, sometimes it’s better to jump into action when you’ve got the momentum, but most often we forget to step back and look at the big picture to make sure we’re on course.
How a flight in an airplane can help you plan a project
Imagine you’re in an airplane and as you take off, you’re watching everything below you get tinier and tinier until all you can see are little squares of land. The same thing happens when you land, just in reverse.
Your perspective changes as you change elevation. Sometimes you see the big picture, sometimes you see the tiny details like little ants on the ground.
This relates to the amount of detail that we need to view in our projects. When you’re starting a project, start at the 30,000 foot level. This is the highest view from your airplane. You can’t really see the detail right now, but you can see and plan the master plan.
Then as your plane begins to land, things starts to come more into focus around 15,000 feet. This is the Altitude of Integration™. This is where you’ll start to assemble the requirements to make the project actually happen. But you’re still very connected to your vision and your overall strategy for the project.
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Once you’re clear on the makeup of the Altitude of Integration™, it’s time to land the plane. You’ll start to look out the window around 1,000 feet, see most of the detail and brace yourself for what is hopefully a smooth landing.
My favorite time to watch out the window during a flight is when we near the ground and can start seeing everything come together. This is where the implementation takes shape. You’ll dive into the tech, graphic design, copywriting and all of the technical pieces.
However, we can’t stay focused on the ground too long, or we’ll miss the magic of the entire flight. The trick is being able to quickly and easily jump back up and down these altitudes. That’s a muscle that gets developed over time.
When you have the ability to flow between the altitudes easily is when you know you won’t leave any stones unturned. And as long as you fight overwhelm and keep moving, you’ll end up with a successful project.
This process gives us a common place to communicate with others about your project. Your technical team members will likely be speaking at a 1000 foot level. They’re concerned with the mechanics and the fine details of how the project needs to be done.
A project manager or a virtual assistant is going to view things at a 15,000-foot level – occasionally looking down to a 1000 foot level and sometimes up to a 30,000-foot level.
You can use the process of changing your perspectives as a way to calibrate your team and make sure you’re not missing any important steps in your project.
It helps to have this mapped out in a document so you can see all the views at once. The easiest way to do this is just to grab a piece of paper and make three columns, 30,000, 15,000 and 1000. Start in the 30,000-foot column and make bullets of your vision for your overall strategy. Now break down that vision into smaller chunks.
What pieces do you need to make that vision a reality? Put those in the 15,000 feet column, and now break down all those pieces into technical detail. Are there specific settings you need to use, specific graphics you need to order, copy you can write? This is now a task list for you and your team.
Put those small details in the 1000 foot column. As you’re creating this, if you find yourself jumping up and down in altitudes, don’t hesitate to move over to other columns and fill them in. It’s better to get those ideas out of your head and on paper, and then go back through each column to be sure you covered everything.
Make sure everyone on the team has access to this document, so everyone knows what goal they’re after. That’s how you can make sure your project isn’t running in silos and your implementation matches your big picture plan.
If you want a copy of my elevation project planner, enter your name and email below and I’ll send it to you.