When to use To Do Lists and Project Plans [video blog]

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Welcome to our whiteboard session today on using to-do lists versus project plans. Have you ever wondered the difference and when to use which? It’s one of the most common questions, and we wanted to address that today.

If we look at the two, the to-do list versus the project plans, let’s look at the difference. The difference is a to-do list is literally just a list. It’s a list on a piece of paper, in a document, on a software application, it’s list. What it does is it provides what tasks are to be completed, versus a project plan is a literal, approved document. It’s been approved. It’s been reviewed and approved by the Change Control Board and the stakeholders and approved to use for the project. It’s an approved document that defines how the project is to be executed, monitored, and controlled. You can see the project plan is a little more in-depth, and it has more components to it.

If we look at the two again, the to-do list includes tasks that may or may not be related to the project plan. What do I mean by that? What tasks would not be related to a project plan? If you are the project manager using a to-do list or your team members, sometimes on a to-do list it could be administrative-type tasks that are non-project related, that maybe you have to do for your organization. Maybe it’s time for year-end reviews, maybe it’s something to do with HR, maybe something to do with training, or it may actually be personal items that you need to take care of during the day. Those are non-project related. The project plan includes management plans, like subsidiary management plans to the project management plan, and other planning documents that could include estimates, requirements, work break-down structures, scope, schedule, budget, and many other documents outlined in a project plan.

You can see the difference between the two and how they can relate or they may not relate. The to-do list may not be prioritized. I like to prioritize mine. I like to associate it to which project if I’m working multiple projects. I like to indicate if it’s a personal item. Then I take these tasks and actually associate them with a time slot that I’ve built in on my own personal schedule so I can build those in and actually get them completed, and if they are project-related have them scheduled on my calendar so that they’re done and completed according to the project plan.

We actually recommend that you use both at the same time, because they are different things, as you can see, and they both may or may not be related. We highly recommend you use both at the same time.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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