How can I organize/plan a large upcoming project?
January 26, 2009 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to keep this project organized?

I'm looking for suggestions on how I can keep things organized with this new project I'm working on. For the sake of keeping things simple, let's just say that I'm doing a documentary on people across the country who collect Widgets. For the documentary, I expect to interview around 100 Widget collectors nationwide. This means I need to get in touch with them, travel to their homes, and interview them on video.

There are so many things to keep track of, I think I need some sort of system. Should it be all managed digitally? Should I use paper and manila folders? What would work best?

The basic steps I foresee are:

Information Gathering: I'm corresponding with dozens of Widget Collectors across the country who want to participate, mainly via email but occasionally on the phone. I'm currently keeping all the emails in a folder called "WidgetProject." But I'm afraid I'll lose track of someone this way and not get in touch with them when it comes time to arrange my travels. Making subfolders for each person seems excessive, though. And how do I cross-reference that with their location?

Travel: Eventually, I need to actually go to these people. It makes sense to interview several people in one city during one trip, so I need to plan my travel accordingly. As such, I've started a plain text file where I simply have people's names grouped by state. This seems like it would work, because then I can do a Mail search by name when I'm ready to go do the interview, and arrange details.

Production/Post-production: This I don't need help with. I can handle this part just fine. It's all the logistics leading up to it that I'm worried will get out of hand.

I can't help but think there's a better way than my "Mail Folder and Text File" method. Is there some project planning software I should use? Can I utilize something like Evernote or similar software that syncs across multiple computers? How would you recommend I set it up?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total)
For the travel part, I'd say you need a map. A real paper map, stuck to your wall, with pins. 100 pins isn't that many; tape each person's name to the pin on a tab of paper. Grouping by state is much less efficient, because obviously two people in NJ and PA can be closer to each other than two people both in PA.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2009

I've been thinking about this for a while, and my idea is the paper map already suggested, one spreadsheet, and several Word documents (one per person). Create one Word file for each person, containing copies of e-mails and whatever other information you want in it. The spreadsheet holds the usual columnar data (name, address, e-mail, etc.) plus whatever other columns you want. Add one more column named "File". In that column for each person, click Insert > Hyperlink (this is in Excel 2003) and locate the person's Word file. This puts a clickable link to that file in the cell. Now everyone's information is in one spreadsheet, and you can click the link in the File column to open the person's Word document. Cell highlighting works well to note special situations (red = past due, etc., is what we use at work). Sort it however you want.
posted by davcoo at 4:22 PM on January 26, 2009

I love Keynote, simple and intuitive information manager. Freeware.
posted by leigh1 at 4:57 PM on January 26, 2009

I was going to suggest basically what davcoo said, and I'm always being applauded for my organizational skills at work. For what it's worth from an internet stranger.
posted by tyrantkitty at 8:59 PM on January 26, 2009

Maybe Highrise would do the trick? It has several handy features I think might work well for you.

- You can forward emails to your Highrise dropbox from anyone you want. If that person isn't already in the system, it will make that person up. If they are in the system, it will associate the email with them (by email address).

- You can add all sorts of notes about people, including where they live, notes about things you want to ask them later, etc.

- It's also a task tracker, so you can make tasks for following up with people so you don't forget.

- I'm thinking to help organize all the people you want to visit in one go, you could put that kind of information in the "company" spot on their profile. I'm suggesting that because the company field has inline completion for existing company names (so you don't have to remember what you typed before) and if you go to that company's page it will list all the people along with all their emails and your notes. For example, you could put people in Alpharetta, GA and people in Atlanta, GA in the "Atlanta Metropolitan Area" company so they all get grouped together.

I'm pretty sure the free version will cover what you're doing, so no cost to check it out.
posted by systematic at 9:07 PM on January 26, 2009

You can make your own private Google map instead of using a paper map with pins.
posted by soelo at 3:26 PM on January 27, 2009

« Older A crusty dilemma.   |   YANMD....but please diagnose this Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.