Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done. Read full profile

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

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Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

If you are a knowledge worker and read Lifehack then we can safely say that you are in a group savvy individuals who are looking for better and more productive ways to get life done. And with this “savvyness”, comes intelligence and a constant yearning to better yourself.

I have delved into the productivity and lifehack realm for a number of years now, and even after reading and writing post after post about how to do ‘X’ and why you should do ‘Y’, all of the lifehacking and productivity tips come back to one base theme: Simplicity.

In a nutshell, we have to simplify our lives (including the ways that we are productive) to make sure that we are getting the right things done on a continual basis. Here is the why and how of simplifying your productivity.

If it isn’t simple…

If your productivity system and tools aren’t simple, then you probably aren’t getting things done, and more importantly, you aren’t getting the right things done. We can spend all day tweaking our systems and making sure that we have set up the right GTD contexts in our “trusted system”, but until we sit down and start getting the work done, our system isn’t worth anything at all.

So, if your systems aren’t simple, then your ability to get more and better work done will be diminished.

Complex jobs need simple instructions

There is nothing easy about being a knowledge worker. We have a bunch of round pegs that need put into square holes that we have to deal with on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s up to us to define and breakdown our work. We all have to know how to take complex projects and break them down into actionable units to ensure that we are making progress on them.

We have to simplify the complex.

Sometimes, simplifying your life can take some complex tools, especially if you are in certain fields, but remember, the first step to completing any project is identifying the next physical thing that you have to accomplish. Without that simple step, the most complex job can end up being impossible. It doesn’t take complex productivity tools and systems to figure out what your next step is of a project; the next physical thing you have to do to reach a desired outcome. This next steps is the beginning of your simple set of instructions to complete your complex job.

When you know you are thinking too much

If you are anything like me, then you are a productivity system “tweak-aholic”. That is someone who can’t get enough of tweaking their systems until they are just right so they can get more done. This state of just right doesn’t truly exist. Even if you could reach this state of just right if wouldn’t help you get more things done (unless we had some sort of artificial intelligence backed productivity system that forced us to always do the next right action not matter what).

If you are trying a ton of different systems and always switching between them, then you are thinking way too hard about “being productive” and not actually being productive. If you are in the viscous cycle of checking out “productivity porn”, then you can be sure that you are thinking and trying too hard.

Back to simplicity

So, now that you know you are over-complicating your productivity systems and destroying any form of getting things done, what can you do about it?

I’m not talking about shaving your head, joining a monastery, and retreating from the “real world”. You can still lead a complicated life and work life while utilizing effective and simple productivity tools and systems. Rather than complicate the already complicated, use tools that simplify your complex life.

We have suggested using paper in the past to clarify your projects and next actions on those projects, but if you work digitally most of the time, it’s probably better to have a few simple digital tools that will do the trick. We have a few great posts on selecting the right tools as well as some suggested tools for different platforms.

It isn’t about the tool that you choose, as long as it is something that you can use and aren’t repelled by. It’s all about you actually interacting and utilizing the tools that you have chosen create a make good, simple decisions on what to do next.

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

As a project manager, it’s important to realize when you and your team aren’t working as effectively as you could be. Between rapidly changing technology and busy production schedules, it’s easy to fall back on old practices that kill team efficiency.

In the spirit of purging bad habits, here’s a list of the most common mistakes, with tips on how to overcome them.

Unrealistic Deadlines

There’s no denying that deadlines are important. However, the most important part of deadlines is setting them. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Know how many people will be working on a project. This information helps you give the most realistic time estimate. Make sure that you and your employees know exactly who will be working on each project, and for how long. This way, vacation time and other interferences won’t mess up your schedule.
  • Have a good estimate of how long the project should take in hours/days/months. And then, add contingency time. If this is a project you’ve done many times over, 5% extra could be enough. If it’s a new project, you might have to add up to 50% over your initial estimate. Unanticipated surprises always happen. Give yourself and your team some extra time when unexpected bugs or issues come up.

Don’t forget that unrealistic deadlines also include giving your project too much time. If you have a deadline that is so far out there, you may end up putting it off for too long. Have you ever noticed that when you have plenty of time to get somewhere, you often end up arriving late?

Reinventing the Wheel

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Image via Flickr by georigami

If you’re new to project management, or just new to your team, don’t feel like you have to swoop in and change how things are done. Redoing everything that the team is already used to will just slow them down. Instead, observe and learn. Find out the pace of the office, get to know how the team is used to working, and change what you feel is an absolutely necessity to start with. And go from there.

Incorrect Information

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Image via Flickr by dbrekke

Do not, under any circumstances, tell your boss, client, or anyone else that your team can do something they can’t. If you aren’t sure about the timing of a specific project, ask your team before committing them. It’s better to turn down a project than to accept something that you simply can’t do.

Ignoring Problems

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Image via Flickr by Gamma Man

There are bound to be problems on any project. It happens. What’s important is how you deal with the problems. Don’t put these issues off until the end of the project. Instead, work through the problems as they come up. This will keep the team moving ahead and keep you sane near your deadline. You’re likely to learn something valuable for the next project, too.


Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Image via Flickr by gaborcselle

It’s crucial to keep miscommunications from happening — whether the miscommunication happens between you and a boss, between you and your team, or among team members. Just as you want to know exactly what is expected of you, so does your team. Make sure to discuss all aspects of the project from the initial planning, and throughout its progress.

Understanding these common mistakes and doing everything you can to both anticipate project management speed bumps, and to avoid them is important.

When you keep your project on track, you keep everyone happy, and sane.

With countless distractions in our modern, overly digitalized world, productivity can be a difficult skill to master. Whether you find yourself browsing social media when you should be typing, or texting during important discussions, you’re killing your productivity. Here are six habits that kill your productivity and what you should be doing instead to stay on track.

1. Browsing Social Media

Social media could easily be crowned “The Bane of Productivity,” as it can literally keep you distracted for hours on end if you let it. Let’s be honest, we all love to scroll on Instagram or Facebook, keeping up with the latest gossip, news, memes, and what our friends are having for dinner.

While social media keeps us connected with everyone in our lives (and even those who aren’t), if you’re spending a lot of time on it when you should be working, you’re only causing harm to yourself and the task at hand. Projects are delivered late, your quality slips, and you can become frustrated with your own bad habits.

Instead of opening social media on another tab, don’t open it at all when you’re working. If you find yourself longing to scroll the endless feeds, delegate certain times of the day where you’re allowed to check your accounts. Put a time limit on these occurrences to further limit the amount of time you spend on social media.

Another great way to reduce social media time is to uninstall the apps from your phone. Having the apps at your fingertips can be all the temptation that’s needed to stall your work to check the feed. Limiting the way you access these apps can help get your mind back on track and your work back to its full potential.

2. Texting/Messaging Frequently

Texting has become one of the most widely used means of communication. In fact, there is a percentage of the population that would rather text or use a digital messaging service than hold an actual conversation. The problem with texting is that people tend to do it during meetings, important conversations, and other events where it’s not only distracting for everyone but also quite rude.

Important meetings are important because they contain valuable information that you’ll likely need at some point in the future. If you’re the one person texting through the entire meeting, you’ll be that one person asking countless questions (that were probably already answered) at the end of the meeting.

Texting while someone is speaking or giving a presentation is also incredibly rude and unprofessional. Turn your phone on silent so as not to be notified of incoming messages, or simply leave your phone at your desk/in your locker until after the meeting has concluded.

3. You Say “Yes” to Every Project/Request

If you’re the type of person that says yes to whatever projects are offered to you, you’re killing your focus and your productivity. Taking on too many projects at once is a surefire way to reduce the quality and focus of your work.

Not only does taking on too many projects at once cause stress and anxiety, but it can also affect how you manage your time and therefore, your productivity. If you’re already loaded with work, don’t say yes to a new project until your current commitments are addressed. Your superiors and clients will appreciate quality over quantity every time.

4. You Don’t Manage Your Time

Time management is a simple concept; you manage blocks of time, delegating specific tasks to individual time blocks and, set a time limit for each project or task. If you’re not managing your time and delegating tasks, your days will seem unorganized and chaotic.

Time management is what sets the truly productive apart from the chaotic. There are many time tracking apps available that can help you identify what tasks take up the most time, and how to better delegate time slots for everything you do during the day. Take advantage of this technology for better planning and better time management skills.

5. Your Toolset is Outdated or Ineffective

Using the right tools for the job is half the battle. You can be the best at what you do personally, but without the right tools available to help you meet your potential, you’ll find yourself constantly falling behind in productivity and quality alike.

Whether you’re a writer, a construction worker, or a banker, the right tools make all the difference in your work. You can’t build a house with a rusted, broken hammer, just as you can’t write an article with an outdated, slow computer or tablet. Be sure your tools are updated and are exactly what you need to complete your job and remain focused. Having the wrong tools can cause disengagement, usually from frustration, and therefore kill your productivity.

6. You Don’t Track Your Results

Let’s say you’re constantly missing deadlines or not completing projects in the correct way. Are you keeping track of your results? Are you analyzing them to identify where the problem areas are, and what caused your lack of punctuality or quality of work? Without analyzing our mistakes, it becomes impossible for us to improve.

When you make a mistake, don’t view that mistake as a failure. Failure only occurs when you give up altogether and learn nothing from your mistakes. Identify, analyze, and improve next time. Analyzing where you’ve fallen short is the best way to encourage growth in yourself and your work.


Focus begins with disciplining your mind and removing distractions. If you want to increase your productivity, remove the distractions from your work area, update your toolset, and analyze results when you fall short. Self-reflection is one of the most valuable skills you can bring to the table.

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing youGetting Thing Done has changed the lives of many people around the world. Maybe you’re a proud member of that group or maybe you’re not (yet). No matter what your situation is, getting to know this methodology is surely worth the time because it might be exactly what you need to improve your productivity.

(Just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about … Getting Things Done is a personal productivity methodology created by David Allen that’s taking world by storm.)

That being said, GTD is not something you’re not using one day, and then using to the max the next day. The process of getting into GTD needs to be planned, and requires a set of initial steps. One of which is getting familiar with the methodology itself – i.e. reading the book .

GTD is not just a set of loose tips and guidelines. It’s a complete system that has been developed over a number of years in many different environments, for many different people. And as a result, it can work for almost anybody, but it has a bit of a learning curve.

Do you really need GTD?

At first, many people tend to think that their life is not nearly as complicated that it requires a fancy system to manage it.

Maybe you’re one of these people. Maybe you have your online business or a 9-5 job and some simple personal tasks like learning Spanish, for example, or some hobby activities, house chores, etc., and using a system for all of that seems like an overkill to you. You’re afraid that you might spend more time playing with the system than getting the actual things done.

A valid concern, I agree, but not necessarily correct. You see, the main goal of GTD is to get things out of your head. It’s to learn how to use your head to think about things not to remember about things.

One of the benefits of GTD is that once you implement it into your life you will never again fear of forgetting something important because you’ll know that the information is stored somewhere in the system, and will be presented to you when the time for action comes.

If you can see the value of the system by now (or if not) I invite you to take a look at my Getting Things Done guide (series) at

The series is called Productivity Made Simple and it’s a crash course Getting Things Done guide. I’ve tried to cover all the important elements of the methodology – ones that are essential if you want to get started.

The series consists of 5 parts, each taking you through one element of GTD. After completing this guide you will be able to start organizing your work GTD style.

We all need some approach at productivity. Especially if we’re running an online business of any kind. Whenever there’s no boss standing above us we have a tendency to procrastinate on important tasks or simply be a little lazy.

Of course, I’m not saying that you absolutely have to use GTD to help you remain productive. You can develop a different way that’s more natural or comfortable to you. But the fact remains that you need to do something.

Which leaves me with only one question I have for you: What are you doing to improve your everyday productivity?

For many of us, overcommitting ourselves seems to be as natural of an instinct as blinking.

…and that’s because it is.

According to PsychologyToday, the excessive urge to please everyone and always say yes comes from our innate (and sometimes unconscious) fear of the conflict, disappointment, or hurt that could result from declining to help others.

So, while playing the superhero role of stretching yourself too thin just to keep others happy may seem like a saving grace, it’s doing a number on your productivity.

If you’re having a hard time believing that, here are a few others who echo this fact:

  • Overworking significantly reduces productivity ( Grammarly )
  • Saying yes to unreasonably urgent, unimportant, or any extra work is a productivity killer ( Lifehack )
  • One of the most common productivity mistakes is saying yes to requests that you have no room in your schedule for ( Productivity Flourishing )

The first and most important step in the process of unlearning ‘yes’ is acknowledging the culprits or the reasons why you’re inclined to say ‘yes’ to the point of exhaustion, over-commitment, and ultimately unproductiveness.

Here are three of those reasons:

  1. You’re afraid of disappointing, hurting, or ending up in conflict with others: We’d argue that this is the most common reason why many of us find it so difficult to say no. Think about it, the last thing you’d want to happen is for someone to hold that ‘no’ against you and for it to ruin the relationship between you and them. forever. So, to appease any discomfort that may result from saying no, you agree to take on the new workload.
  2. You don’t understand the true cost of saying yes : More often than not, the biggest factor we consider prior to agreeing to take on a new commitment is time. While that’s a significant part of the equation, it’s not the full picture. Sure, there’ll always be a way to make time for new work: stay up a little later, get up a little earlier, half-ass a few other projects, and so on. But, the truth of the matter is that it costs a lot more than time to say ‘yes.’ Along with that time, you’re expending energy, attention, and sanity—things that can’t always be easily replenished when you’re stretched too thin.
  3. You undervalue your current workload : Another factor driving your desire to over-promise yourself may be an inability to appraise your current to-do list accurately. Despite all the signs that your workload is far too full, another innate tendency kicks in: optimism. You see, as humans, we struggle with this little thing called optimism bias , which is the belief that we are at a lesser risk of experiencing a negative outcome than others. So, in this case, when optimism bias kicks in, we are led to believe that adding just one more thing to our nearly-unmanageable workload won’t necessarily lead to us falling behind in our work or becoming overwhelmed—both of which are wrong.

Now that we know some of the main reasons we always say “yes,” let’s explore one of the most effective ways to protect your productivity: saying no.

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Believe it or not, there is an art to saying no.

Since we’re clearly suckers for wanting to help others—especially when the request is coming from someone close to us, like family, friends, and coworkers—being able to decline takes skill, a little intention, and a lot of mindfulness.

This process is a form of rewiring your brain, so to speak, but it’s possible.

That said, here are a few tips to get you well on your way of becoming a No-Master (yes, we made that up):

  1. Focus is about saying no ” – The next time you’re itching to say yes, think about this simple quote from the late, great and super successful Steve Jobs. What this quote means is that in order to focus and be highly productive, you have to say no—and there’s no way around it. According to Jobs, it’s about knowing “what makes sense and what doesn’t.”
  2. High priority, high-impact – If the extra tasks you’re thinking about taking on don’t meet these two criteria, it’s probably best you say no to them.
  3. Weigh your existing obligations – Instead of trying to determine how much time you can shave off completing a different task just to be able to add another to your to-do list, try outlining a realistic timeline for finishing what’s already on your list. Then, use that data to determine if and when you should say no.
  4. There’s freedom in ‘no’ – Literally. And with that freedom comes confidence in what you’re doing, which is always a good thing.

If you’re still nervous about exercising your right to say no, we’ll end by saying that not all no’s are created equal.

In some cases, for instance, ‘no’ may simply mean not right now or maybe after I finish x and y . There’s no reason to feel bad about having this type of approach because, after all, the consequences that come from missing a deadline or falling behind in your schedule affect you, not others.

Honestly, what it all boils down to is balance. And the only way to balance your time, energy, attention, and sanity is to carefully assess all your priorities and make better decisions regarding what to add to your workload.

For starters, try adopting certain practices that enable you to say no so and stay focused. Doing things like setting personal project thresholds to keep you from overcommitting and using the Notification Muting feature in your Shift can create small wins.

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

So, what are you waiting for? Say no, crank up a killer productivity playlist , and be your best productive self.

1-Sentence-Summary: Getting Things Done is a manual for stress-free productivity, which helps you set up a system of lists, reminders and weekly reviews, in order to free your mind from having to remember tasks and to-dos and instead let it work at full focus on the task at hand.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Getting Things Done hardly needs an introduction, it is the bible of productivity. David Allen has sold over 1.5 million copies of his simple, yet effective productivity system. The book has been revised and updated in 2015 to reflect the changes in technology, since it was originally published in 2001 – over a decade ago.

The GTD system has always been timeless, though. You could do it on paper, online, or now on your smartphone, the second you put down the book.

I won’t be able to portray the system in full detail here, but since that’s been done all over the internet, I’ll happily take my top 3 lessons:

  1. Use a “collection bucket” to store things outside your mind and stay focused.
  2. Create a “next actions” list for all your projects to avoid thinking in the moment.
  3. Do a weekly review of everything, or else!

Ready for productivity made simple? Let’s go!

Lesson 1: Use a “collection bucket” to store things outside your mind and stay focused.

This one’s been a major game changer for me in 2015. There’s a reason it made #1 on this list.

You know that horrible feeling you have once you remember you have to buy milk?

You can’t seem to un-remember it and it keeps nagging you, while all you’re trying to do is work.

“Buy milk, buy milk, buy milk, buy milk, buy milk, buy milk, buy milk, …”

“Dammit brain, shut up!”

With a collection bucket, it will.

Your collection bucket can be a simple piece of paper, a notebook or note inside Evernote, a note on your phone, or even a physical bucket in your office.

It serves as a means to collect all interruptions, whether they come in the form of thoughts in your mind or to-do’s handed over to you by coworkers.

Whatever lands in your brain or lap while you’re busy working (for example during a Pomodoro time block), goes in there.

This lets you deflect interruptions as they occur and keeps your mind from derailing, while you’re on a productivity roll.

Of course this system is only good if you empty your collection bucket or buckets regularly, Allen suggests weekly.

Your brain will only get a feeling of relief from putting something in your collection bucket when it knows that whatever lands in there will be taken care of sooner rather than later.

Lesson 2: Create a “next actions” list for all your projects to avoid thinking in the moment.

Here’s the major problem with to-do lists: They trick you into thinking you can know in advance how much you’ll be able to achieve.

The bad news is, you can’t.

Sure, you can make a list with 17 items, but none of that accounts for interruptions, crises, delays, other people or, and this too happens, a simple lack of energy where you’re just not able to do as much.

David Allen suggest you do this instead: Create a “next actions” list, where you list out all the specific tasks (= takes less than 30 minutes) of your current projects.

That way you always know what to work on next, when you have the time and energy to work, meaning you just pull out the list, pick a task and go.

You can even have multiple “next actions” lists and sort them by project or location of where you’re able to do the tasks on it.

For example you could make these lists: laptop with wifi, laptop without wifi, phone, notebook.

Now, when you’re at the airport and your flight’s been delayed, but there’s no wifi and your phone is dead, you can still pull out your notebook list and do something on paper.

Lesson 3: Do a weekly review of everything, or else!

These are just two of several lists in the GTD system and the thing with all lists is this:

They’re only as good as they’re up to date.

Therefore, a weekly review is crucial to making the whole GTD system work.

Empty your collection buckets on Friday afternoon, for example, and then update all your lists. You’ll get a bird’s eye view and make sure everything is complete.

This is the part that makes the whole system stress-free and if you slack on it, you’ll pay the mental price.

For example I always plan to empty my collection bucket on Fridays, but Friday is also publishing day on my blog, which means I often don’t get around to it.

Then I end up doing the most recent tasks in it over the weekend, but will leave older and less pressing ones in there (for example cleaning out my Dropbox), which makes me wary of putting more to-dos in, as I’m not sure when I’ll actually do them.

Obviously, this is something I need to improve, in order to reap the full benefits of the system.

Getting Things Done Review

I share the opinion most people hold about Getting Things Done: it works great – but only if you rigorously stick to its rules. It just might be the best productivity system there is, but it’s also demanding and thus very easy to fall off the wagon.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever use the system in full, but I want to give it a go. For now I’m happy with using parts of it and adapting it to my own needs.

Other productivity systems, like The ONE Thing or The Power of Less appear to be a little more forgiving, but then again they’re probably also not as powerful.

I do love GTD, otherwise I wouldn’t have written about it so much, and I highly recommend you check it out. The summary on Blinkist is more than enough to get you up and running – I’d then get the book once you start seeing results and really want to nail the details.

Who would I recommend the Getting Things Done summary to?

The 28 year old grad student, about to start her first day at the new job, the 45 year old executive, who needs a change in workplace organization, and anyone who’s ever felt behind on their to-do list.

This book has an average rating of 5 based on 7 votes.

Take your time to enjoy your products and put the proven strategies to work for you in your life and business.

If for any reason or no reason at all you are not completely satisfied with your product, just return it within 365 days and you’ll receive a full 100% product refund.

That’s a full year to put us to the test, use the information, put it to work, and make your dreams come true—all the risk is on us!

No weasel clauses or hidden meanings here. If you’re not happy then neither are we. My friendly staff will cheerfully return your money and we’ll still be friends. That’s it.

Sound good?

Yes Brian!

Send me my copy of “Time Management Made Simple.”

I’m ready to learn your proven and practical ideas, strategies and techniques for mastering time management so I can get more done, in less time, and spend more time doing what I enjoy!

I understand that for just $177 I get:

  • 12 audio CDs, totaling 12 hours of instruction based on your 1000 hours of reading and research and 4000 hours of university work at the masters level, containing practical, proven ideas, strategies and techniques I can use immediately to increase sales, boost profits and achieve my goals
  • A 100-page workbook so I can tailor this course to my own situation, career, needs, goals and desires

PLUS, I understand I’m protected by your 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Within 1-year of receiving this product, I can return it for a full refund if I’m not completely satisfied. No questions asked.

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

I’ve been there: overwhelmed, exhausted and feeling like I had WAY more to do than anyone else. But the fact is, mastering your time is a learnable skill — and I’ve learned it. Take it from me: when you get this tool under your belt, you become unstoppable — and you have more time to enjoy the things you love.

Here’s to your Time Management, Made Simple,

Brian Tracy

P.S. Wouldn’t it feel good to check the items off your to-do list, one after another, knowing you’re getting the most important things done, every day? Get your copy of “Time Management Made Simple” today.

P.P.S. Remember, you make this investment at no risk — you’re covered by my 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. You can try out the ideas and strategies in this product for 1 whole year. If it doesn’t meet your expectations you can return it for a full refund.

Questions? Email or
call 1-858-436-7300

Ready to write a proposal but need a project proposal template to get you started? Look no further.

How to Write a Project Proposal

Now – there’s a list of actionable tips below. But to get started, there’s one concrete rule to writing a great project proposal: keep it simple. Your boss doesn’t want a 10 page PDF, or a detailed explanation of the micro-steps in your project. He or she needs to know:

  1. The logic – why the project is a priority
  2. The intended results – ideally, hard numbers.
  3. The supporting evidence – what’s behind your conclusion

This can all be summed up in one – two sentences – see more in the simple project proposal template below.

Simple Project Proposal Template

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you


The introduction of your project proposal should be brief. Imagine it like an elevator pitch; you only have 15 seconds to get your message across. Try structuring it as if you were back in grade school, using IF, THEN, BECAUSE terminology.

For example, let’s imagine I want to convince my boss to rename our product.

Example Introduction:

IF we rename our product from Priority Matrix to “Best Project Management Desktop App” THEN we will receive more organic visibility BECAUSE this is a search term frequently used by people who intend to buy project management software.


Make sure the goals of this project align with your current company goals.

Even if you work in marketing, like me, if your company’s current #1 goal is to drive sales, you better formulate your project in such a way that it’s bringing in well-qualified leads.

I recommend including just ONE Goal in order to keep your project scope focused. Treat any sub-goals as milestones.


This is where you can estimate your budget, timeline, and more. Get the technical details from the appropriate in-house experts, or from your own past experience with similar projects. You don’t have to be exactly right, but you should be able to explain why you chose your numbers, and how you arrived at that conclusion.


Milestones are the marks you need to hit to measure success on the way to project completion. Think of milestones as metrics, rather than tasks. Show them off to stakeholders to prove that you’re making progress.

If your overall goal is to increase sales by 25%, a great milestone to aim for is a 10% increase. This tells you you’re on the right track.

Project Proposal – Project Management

Project managers make project proposals all the time – one of the best ways to streamline this process is to integrate your proposal with your project management tool. This way, as soon as you get the go-ahead, you can start delegating right away.

Using your project management tool to estimate timelines and resources is a great way to produce visuals for the proposal. Bonus points if your PM software has a gantt chart that you can print out to include in the proposal.

Here is what a product re-brand proposal might look like in a typical project management tool.

Productivity made simple how to keep your projects from killing you

Get Your Project Proposal Approved

  1. Make an Estimation – estimate the best-and-worse-case scenario outcome of your project. If the worst-case scenario outcome of your project is still better than the status-quo, you shot at approval skyrockets.
  2. Use Emotive Language – now, don’t overdo it. But, most project proposals are dry and boring. If you can invoke a feeling of excitement in your stakeholder, you’re on your way to getting the stamp of approval.
  3. Support Your Decision – nobody trusts an idea that comes out of thin air. If you can support your logic with a case study that achieved great results, especially a competitor in your area, you’ll leave your decision-maker hungry to see your project succeed.

Check out these resources for more:

How to get Approval from Harvard Business Review

Project Proposal Tips

  1. Keep it Simple/Estimate – ain’t nobody got time for a proposal that’s 3+ pages long.
  2. Make a Hypothesis – don’t just talk about your plan. Provide an estimated outcome. And it better be positive.
  3. Include an Appendix – extra information belongs in an appendix.
  4. Outline the Budget – this will not only help your decision-maker come to a conclusion, but it will help keep you on track.
  5. Include Deadlines and set realistic expectations about when stakeholders should expect to see results.
  6. Tailor it to who you’re writing for – CEOs need different information than CFOs who need different information than CMOs. Keep this in mind while drafting a proposal.

Project Proposal Template Examples

Project Proposal Basics

The purpose of your project proposal is to present your idea to a client/stakeholder/decision-maker in order to explain the logical reasoning that is driving your project. The goal is to gain approval from the decision-maker. Therefore, keeping the proposal both informative and interesting is key.

When writing a proposal, don’t include the nitty-gritty details. Buckle down on these in the planning and execution phase. Don’t spend too much time on the small details, in the case that your proposal is rejected, that time is effectively wasted.

Certain organizations require that proposals meet specifications; depending on who will give the final approval of your project, make sure that you adhere to the rules and regulations laid out by that organization, group, or company.


Writing an effective project proposal is the first step toward earning project approval! Choose a project proposal template from above and get started – the sky is the limit.

Watch a video about the Project Proposal Template

View, edit and import the Project Proposal Template for Priority Matrix.

Manage More Effectively


Priority Matrix uses 4-quadrants to help you focus on top priorities and projects. When you use Priority Matrix, you become more accountable to yourself, and ensure that you are spending time where it matters most. Learn more about Priority Matrix.


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Priority Matrix is lightweight project management solution that increases visibility and accountability within teams. Manage more effectively with Priority Matrix.

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