Project planning and I go waaaaay back…

Before Demir and I started Lifehack Method together, I was a brand manager in the CPG industry!

At any given time, my team could be working on upwards of 60 new products.

Needless to say, I have maaany thoughts on what it takes to plan and execute projects like a champ 💪

So today I want to share one of my favorite project planning hacks of all time! It’s an acronym:

E.N.D. D.A.T.E.

Think of it as your secret code to unlocking your project planning super powers 😉

I break down what the acronym means, how to use it, and SO much more in today’s video ⬇️

>> Click here to watch  “How To Project Plan Like A BOSS Using E.N.D. D.A.T.E. (8 min) <<

And hey, I’m feeling generous today, so head over to lifehackmethod.com/enddate and grab a PDF cheat sheet with this awesome acronym. It’s like a secret handshake for successful project planning!

In fact, the very first thing you need to remember about your project is to set an end date. Every good project needs a start date and end date when it can be called “done.”

If your project is ongoing, it’s not actually a project, it’s a SYSTEM.

Okay, so what does the acronym stand for?

  • Establish final project specifications
  • Note key milestones
  • Define tasks within each milestone
  • Determine task order
  • Assign and flesh out tasks
  • Timeline setting
  • Ensure success

Let’s go through this point by point.

E is for Establish final project specifications.

This is where you visualize the grand finale of the project. Detail out what the end result of this project should look like to be considered a smashing success, like a hit party where everyone leaves at 2am with confetti in their hair.

I’ll use the example of a recent project my team executed for Lifehack Method.

We decided to launch Masterminds for our Lifehack Tribe community. These Masterminds are niche interest groups where members of similar interests can meet and solve problems pertaining to them together.

The final project specifications were:

  • Launch 5 Mastermind calls in March 2023 for Lifehack Tribe members.
  • Promote these calls ahead of time to the community.
  • Provide opportunities for member feedback on these calls.
  • Host notes and replays in the Tribe library.
  • Create opportunities for buddy matching within the call.
  • Generate positive feedback and achieve certain attendance metrics.

Depending on the complexity of your project, you could have just one final outcome or you could have a laundry list. I usually write this in the Summary section of your project management software, like Asana, so that you can refer back to it whenever you want.

Next comes:

Note key milestones

Identify interim results on the way to completion. Think of them as the shiny gold coins in your favorite video game that lead you to the final boss. Google and Chat GPT are useful here. Ask yourself, if I hit all these key milestones, would project success be guaranteed? If not, you need more milestones.

Using the launch of the Tribe Masterminds, the key milestones included:

  • Identify the topics of each Mastermind
  • Create Agenda Template for how the calls would run
  • Train coaches in group facilitation and the specifics of how to lead the calls (this became an evergreen training document with screencasts and SOPs)
  • Create assets needed for the calls
  • Schedule March 2023 Masterminds
  • Promote March 2023 Masterminds
  • And the big one: Execute that first month of calls.

Each of these milestones became a SECTION inside my Asana Project.

Next is:

Define tasks within each milestone

For each milestone, break down the tasks that need to be completed. Picture this as the secret recipe for your mouth watering project. It’s all the ingredients you need.

Using Google and Chat GPT is useful here if it’s a project you’ve never done before.

For the masterminds, inside the “create assets” milestone we had: Write template script, design slides, create feedback forms, and create Library pages for notes and replays

Now you’re halfway there. You’ve done the E.N.D. of “end.” Now for the “Date” part.

Determine task order

You gotta put those tasks in the right order, just like adding ingredients at the perfect moment. Order the tasks by what needs to come first, second, third, and so on. Some tasks might depend on others, so it’s important to get the sequence right.

For example, before we could design the slides, we needed to have the script done. So “create script” was placed visually higher than “create slides” inside our Asana project.

Next is:

Assign tasks

For each task, assign an owner, determine a budget, and define the desired result. The owner could be you, or someone else on your team if you work with a team.

This is really helpful as you start thinking about how much time, energy, and money you’re going to need to make this a success. You might trim back on your milestones here if you can see that already you don’t have enough resources to complete the project as specified!

Inside the tasks, include relevant links and create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) where necessary. Links could be to important documents, websites, or resources. SOPs are detailed instructions on how to perform a task, super useful for tasks that will be repeated.

Next is where the rubber meets the road:

Timeline setting

Timeline setting involves establishing a realistic and achievable schedule for each task and overall project completion.

Assign due dates to each milestones and task, but remember, flexibility is key. You might need to tweak and adjust as you go, just like a GPS rerouting you around traffic. These due dates will almost certainly need to be adjusted.

Notice how this is one of the LAST steps. Often people try to go for this as a first step and the problem with that is you don’t yet know enough about the project to be able to do this right off the bat. You need to do those previous steps first!

And it should be a lot easier to “guestimate” these now that you’ve gotten the whole project planned out. My advice? Add at least 50% buffer time to tasks you haven’t done before or need to rely on someone else to do. This is key to avoid the stress of being behind schedule.

Now you’re ready to start executing your project! The final step is E –

Ensure success

Continuously monitor and adjust your project plan as necessary, to make sure it’s pointing in the right direction.

You’ll find the due dates especially get adjusted and that you’ll keep adding tasks you didn’t think of before.

And voilà! You’ve conquered the world of project planning with the incredible power of END DATE!

And hey, don’t forget to grab your PDF cheat sheet at lifehackmethod.com/enddate for a handy reminder of these steps.

Demir & Carey Bentley

Demir and Carey Bentley are the founders of Lifehack Method, WSJ & USA Today bestselling authors, and executive productivity coaches. They've helped thousands of people avoid burnout and soar to their highest level of productivity. Read more about them here.