Student Guide to Project Management

Project management is an important skill to have both as a Student and as a Professional. It’s useful for keeping track of tasks for projects before they come due and managing team members. This, in turn, can ensure that everyone is doing their part, making group projects seem less daunting overall. 

Table of Contents

Why Choose a Project Management Strategy?

For most projects that you will do at Canisius, a simple assignment or outline of tasks may be all that you need. This is particularly true if you are working by yourself or in pairs. However, for more complex projects or projects with more than one additional member, sometimes just assigning tasks does not work. Sometimes due dates are forgotten, meeting notes lost, or the tasks seem a lot more daunting than they really are. A project management strategy helps manage all of this by providing a simple workflow. This allows you to manage and assign tasks and ensure that they are done before the due date, link or create meeting notes, and break down tasks into smaller, easier-to-manage components. And, if you find yourself struggling with a project, having all of this visually laid out may help you tackle them more easily. There are many strategies out there and tons of tools. We will only go into detail on some of the easiest strategies and then point out some tools available to you. We will end by providing some project management tips.

Key Takeaways

If you take nothing else away with you from reading this page, take the following:

  1. Use a Calendar to help keep track of Due Dates
  2. Break larger/more daunting tasks into smaller, more manageable components (and provide new due dates for those components)
  3. Give yourself time to review and re-read your finished product. Try to finish your assignment 24 hours before the due date
  4. Review all project requirements before handing in your assignment
  5. When working with a group, there MUST be a designated group leader/coordinator

Project Management Strategies

These strategies are presented in no particular order. Additionally, we are just outlining strategies here and providing some quick examples. You may find that you need to customize these strategies or that using several of these strategies at once will be what you need. You may even find that the project strategies that we present here do not work for you. In that case, a quick Google search of "project management techniques" will provide you with many more.

Waterfall Method

The Waterfall method assumes that certain tasks need to be completed before other tasks can be completed. It is an all-purpose method, great for outlining tasks but not so great at seeing what tasks have not been started, are in progress, or finished.

You can also make the Waterfall method more granular by providing tasks needed to finish the overall task.

Simple Waterfall method (made using Google Jamboard):

Advanced Waterfall Method:

*should go without saying: The very last task for these breakdowns in yellow should be "hand in before the due date"


*Scrum workflow/methodology, made using Google Drawings. The assumption is that articles from JSTOR/Academic OneFile are a project requirement

Based on the Agile framework, typically used for programming projects, but can be modified for other projects. The Scrum method has all of the tasks laid out and assumes that certain tasks can be completed along with other tasks. Tasks are also broken down into smaller components. Teams tackle smaller tasks/components individually but come together to tackle larger tasks and break into smaller teams again to accomplish smaller tasks/components and continue doing so until the project is finished. Tasks are assigned in short sprints (typically several days or several weeks) after which teams come together to discuss any issues or challenges preventing the task from being completed or to be assigned a new task.

Kanban/Charting Method

Another Agile-based strategy, this method identifies tasks, breaks them into smaller components, and puts them into different columns and is best for keeping track of tasks. Often these columns are titled Not Started, In Progress, and Finished. Other columns can be added as needed, such as a Review column. A simpler method could be done by simply adding a checkbox to the end of each task.

You can assign people to these tasks very quickly.

*Google Docs was used here

Scrumban Method

*Google Doc's was used for this

This method combines both the Scrum and Kanban project management strategies. It takes from the Scrum method the idea of sprinting and meeting on a consistent basis while taking from the Kanban method the idea of charting and breaking tasks into smaller components. So, this method takes the positives of Scrum and Kanban. However, it can be more complicated and more difficult to implement without knowing how to do Scrum or Kanban first. Read more about this method from this link here and additional information linked here.


This project management strategy allows you to quickly define what you need in your project and lends itself well to projects that need to be visually impactful or needs to have an overall framework (ex, Poster Boards, slideshows, web pages, or even an outline for an essay, etc.). Your group can often be working on other components of the project while you or other members can work on the prototype. Keep in mind that Prototyping does not do a good job of figuring out project due dates nor assigning tasks to members and should be used with one of the above strategies.

While there are plenty of Prototyping Methods, one of the most common is wireframing. Wireframing is an easy method and requires minimal drawing skills, allowing for quick variations.

Another good prototyping method is Mind Mapping, which is often used to show relationships between topics. While the focus of the article we linked is on note-taking, the general idea stands. Start with the Project Title in the middle and branch out to sub-topics/tasks.

*Wireframe using Google Drawings

*Mindmap using Microsoft Whiteboard

Project Management Tools

While we used a lot of Google Products in our examples, there are plenty of other tools, including tools we do not list here. Some are dedicated solely to a specific strategy while others can be used for more strategies. Additionally, you may find that you have to use several tools to get the type of project management strategy that you want.

Google Docs

Google Docs allows you to do project management following the Kanban method. However, instead of using charts as in our example above, you can actually access more project management tools by simply typing in '@' in the Doc and scrolling down on the menu until you find the Building Blocks section. Click on the arrow pointing to the right for more tools.

Google Jamboard & Microsoft Whiteboard

These are included together because they are basically the same product by different companies. Google Jamboard has a lot less tools (mostly sticky notes and drawing tools) whereas Microsoft Whiteboard has a lot of functions and allows you to connect to different items (ex, links, other Microsoft365 documents, videos, etc.). Realistically, it is all dependent on whether or not you want more options when creating your board.

Microsoft Visio

Very similar to Jamboard and Whiteboard, but less drawing tools. This is meant for simple workflow visualization and graphics rather than as a replacement for a physical blackboard/whiteboard. 

Google Drawings

A very basic image manipulation program provided by Google. You can use it to quickly create different prototyping methods like wireframing or mind mapping. You can also use Google Drawings to actually create the final product as well. Here is our Tutorial on that. 

Project Management Tips

Even the best project management strategy can go awry without careful consideration and diligence. Here are some tips to help.

For Individual Projects/General Tips

  1. When the project is assigned, reread the project description and rewrite it in your own words (particularly if you are not sure what the project is asking).
    1. This may help you think through what the project wants and/or pinpoint where the confusion is so you can ask the instructor later.
  2. Figure out what tasks need to be completed and/or which project management strategy to use.
  3. Add all due dates to your Google Calendar.
    1. In cases where only the final deadline is provided, try to assign yourself some deadlines. For example, let's say you are doing a research essay project that is assigned at the beginning of the month and due by the end of the third week. By the end of week one, have all of your research materials collected. By the end of week two, have your rough draft finished. Several days before the essay is due, have the final draft (i.e., your rough draft is closer to the final product) finished and look over the project requirements to see if there is anything that was missed. If you did miss something, get those things added to your project. The day before the essay is due, re-read your final draft for any grammatical issues and submit your essay.
    2. Treat due dates as hard due dates (especially the ones you assign yourself).
      1. Without some sort of consequence (ex, if I do not complete X, I cannot do Y), you are less likely to follow through.
  4. Be diligent. Do not put off doing tasks until the last minute.
  5. If you have a question, ask!
    1. The worst thing to do is spend several weeks completing a project only to be handed your grade back and see that something was missing or not exactly what the instructor was looking for.

For Group Projects

  1. Meet with your Group early and often (the below, with some modification, is also true if you are working on a project by yourself)
    1. Try to meet as a full group at least 3 times: Once to get the project started, again halfway before the due date, and again about several days before the due date.
      1. At the first meeting:
        1. Identify a group leader. Make sure that they are up to the responsibilities!
          1.  Click here to see some of the Group Leader Responsibilities...
            1. Choose a Project Management Strategy or Strategies (and stick with it!)
            2. Assign tasks to members
              1. Make sure that members agree to the task(s) before assigning it to them. A group member that agrees to do a task will likely do better than a member that is volun-told
              2. Write down/record who is in charge of what task(s)
            3. Schedule additional meetings to help everyone keep up-to-date and coordinate the project
              1. This may mean sometimes meeting with members individually since it may be difficult to align everyone's schedule to meet as a full group
              2. Try to schedule the second and third meetings as early as possible. This way, there is less of a time conflict when they come up
            4. Keep or assign someone to keep good meeting notes and share them with the group later on
              1. The easiest way to do this will probably be to record any and all video meetings and/or use a Google Doc.
            5. Communicate often with the group
              1. This can be through email, but keep in mind that there is a lot of email coming in, so it may be beneficial to use a group text message, Slack, Discord, Google Chat, or Microsoft Teams
                1. If you use these chat services, make sure you install the app for these on your phone to get prompt notification
                2. Some of these services will also let you quickly assign tasks to group members and do other project management things
            6. Be prepared to help where needed and help group members stay on task
        2. Identify the major tasks and break them down into smaller components
          1. Be as granular or vague as you need
          2. Make sure that everyone understands the purpose of each task
            1. This could be done verbally, but it is probably best to have a brief description of each task.
      2. The second meeting should be a check-in
        1. Use this meeting to catch up with members and see where they are at
        2. Also, use this time to clear up any misunderstandings with assigned tasks and/or project requirements
        3. Identify if anyone needs help or if tasks need to be re-assigned/re-evaluated
      3. The third meeting is the final check-in/review
        1. All tasks should be completed/near completion at this point
        2. Identify if anyone needs any last-minute help
        3. Review the final product and be prepared to submit any required materials
    2. These meetings can be in-person or video chat or a mix of in-person and video chat as needed
      1. If you do an in-person meeting, try to reserve a study room at the library. Most come with a TV and/or Whiteboard, this way everyone can see what's going on, and important information is not missed.
  2. Use a Shared Google Drive for group projects
    1. The biggest difference between a regular drive and a Shared Drive is a Shared Drive gives everyone equal ownership over the items in the shared drive. This way, if a member leaves or has an emergency and becomes unavailable, other members of the group can continue working on and accessing the project. 
  3. Create and use a Calendar in Google Calendar specifically created for the group to help keep track of due dates
    1. Make sure that EVERYONE knows that you are doing this and acknowledges that they will check it
    2. Add due dates and check-in dates

Additional Resources

Top 10 tips for project management (using Google Drive): These are tips that Google provides in managing projects using various tools in Google Drive (Sheets, Docs, Calendar, Chat/Groups, Meets, etc.). There are also links for other project management tips and techniques.

Five Structures For Helping Students Learn Project Management: A quick read with some tips and tools on project management.