January's Get Organized Month. I'm sure that makes a lot of folks think about supplies like desk organizers and stuff, but the best organizational tool I have is a spreadsheet.

I wrote an extensive report on the Agile methodology last year and in the process picked up some great ideas for managing a large workflow and multiple concurrent projects. One of the most useful was the backlog, a giant list of deliverables and their current status. I break each assignment down to its key elements (Agile-ites call this atomicity), like brief/approval, query, interview/research, content review, draft, revise, edit, ship--all with due dates included. Team members have scheduled check-ins so I can chart their progress and know the status of any project at any time.

The backlog provides a macro view of all work to be completed and enables us to see at a glance where it is in the process, so I can assess the work in progress (WIP). WIP is not your friend, so keeping tabs on it is critical to moving quickly and efficiently--and keeping clients happy.

With this process, few things get off schedule (and none badly) because project increments are checked off frequently. If we need to make an adjustment, it's usually small and easy to manage. Because I know what we're doing and where it is, I can quickly rejigger schedules and assignments. And when new opportunities arise, it's very easy to  judge whether or not we can take them on because I have a real-time view of our current workload.

This communicative and transparent process has made a huge difference in my ability to increase our productivity without sacrificing quality or sanity.

Ready to give it a try for your content operation? How can I help?