organization toolspartnershipsproject stepstask forcesvolunteerswork plansother toolsfor more informationRivers and Trails Home Page  
Doing work plans can be tedious. It may feel like an exercise in futility projecting what work needs to get done and when. The fact is, writing a work plan does not waste time; it saves time. By documenting clearly defined tasks, we know where we are at any moment, what needs to happen next. We can show a work plan to others and gain their understanding and support. We can also celebrate milestones along the way, which can be very motivating especially on long projects.

Work plans organize tasks. A task is a job, a single unit of work that is easily identifiable and measurable: either it is done or it is not done. Tasks are listed sequentially with other tasks, which is called scheduling; some tasks may also occur simultaneously with other tasks.

Milestones are the end-points reached after completing several related tasks. For example, host a river festival might be a milestone within a work plan. To accomplish it, there are major tasks, subtasks, and minor tasks. "Advertise" is a major task; "Distribute Posters" is a subtask; and "Design Poster" and "Print Posters" are two separate minor tasks, and they may have many steps within them.

After breaking down the work, the amount of time (hours or workdays) needed to complete each task is estimated and deadlines are set. The final task list is then used for identifying needed resources: people, equipment and materials, and funding.

To learn more about work plans, refer to books on project management. There are also several different software programs that simplify the mechanics of creating work plans. The programs range in functions and features, and cost, so it is worth looking at several different ones.


1. Identify the tasks

Using the defined purpose of the project, ask the question, "What needs to be done in order to complete this project?" Make your answers the milestones of the project. After looking at the big picture, begin to breakdown each milestone into tasks. This first step can be done by the project leader alone, with a group like a task force, or by the leader and then reviewed with a group including key stakeholders. It is important to note that identifying tasks is not the same as developing a vision or goals. In fact, if the project has strong public involvement, each of those would probably be a task: define vision with task force, hold public meeting to brainstorm goals, etc.

2. Make a schedule

When the tasks are identified, begin to assign relationships among them. What needs to happen first? What can happen simultaneously?

3. Print it to share

A diagram like a "flow chart" or "time line" indicating milestones and associated tasks is great information to share with others. Consider printing a brochure to include it, background information, pictures of the resource, and how people can get involved. Write a press release highlighting the work that will be done. Hold an informational meeting to give community members a chance to raise questions and learn more about the project.

4. Use it to manage

Depending upon the complexity of the project, the work plan may need to go through several revisions. With each new modification, clearly indicate the date and version number both in the electronic file name and on the printed document. This keeps a history, makes it easy to trace changes, and helps everyone to stay working on the same page. As work progresses, make sure deadlines are being met, or if not, determine why. Also make sure that time and efforts are being expended just on those activit ies that directly relate to achieving each of the milestones and thus completing the project.

Wednesday 6/05/02 2:00.00
A list of tasks necessary to complete a project.

You are ready to launch a new project.

You are projecting what resources are needed, both human and financial, to complete the project by deadline.

You will be managing and coordinating other people and want a guide that keeps everyone on the same page.

You want to generate enthusiasm in the community and be able to show a realistic timeline.


You have only one or two tasks, not a large project.

The project is not clearly defined. If you do not know what ultimately needs to be accomplished, you cannot identify tasks to get there.


  Put together a work plan in the beginning project.