Project Manage your life: 6 on-the-job lessons from project management that can be applied in “real” life

As a Project Manager (PM), my job is to ensure that an effort with a set beginning and a forecasted end, a project, comes to fruition. My job is to make it happen. Some take a “whatever it takes” attitude, but in the end a project manager lives and dies by their ability to communicate with stakeholders (those interested parties with a stake in the success of the project), mitigate risk, manage tasks and deliver to a schedule. As PMs, we follow a procedural approach to completing projects, and refer to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) as our reference book/bible on what, when and how to accomplish these. The PM proves their mettle on how well they manage all the complexities and curve-balls that any project brings during its life-cycle.

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It is in following the phases of Definition, Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing that a PM can effectively manage any project. In the same manner, by applying these phases to a personal project/effort/dream/goal, there is a better guarantee of a successful outcome.

  1. Definition: What is it that you are trying to accomplish?
  2. Initiating: Have a big dream/goal? Determine its scope, and then write it down. Something like “I will  purchase a new car in the upcoming year”. Make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal (more info on SMART goals http://bit.ly/1fwZ516) . Notice that I did not add “and fix my old car so that my teenage  daughter can drive that”- that would be considered “out of scope”. By setting a scope you can easily decide and define those things that you will need to do to reach your goal. Anything else would be considered extraneous, since it may delay or prohibit your ability to reach your goal. In this phase, also work to identify your stakeholders. Identify those that have a vested interest in your success, your daughter may be a great stakeholder as she will inherit your current clunker. Your high-level tasking, or work needed to accomplish your goal, should be captured here i.e., You will need to get a new car loan.
  3. Planning:  Now that you have your scope and stakeholders identified, ensure you refine the tasking to get you to your goal. You know that you will need a new car loan, now flesh out the subtasks and work packages required to complete that task. Subtask example for the car loan task, is to apply for a loan, and another one is ensure your credit is still in good standing. A work package of applying for a loan is getting the loan application. Unless this hierarchy of Work package -> Subtask -> Task  is completed, your overall goal may be out of reach. You will also schedule these events and that will enable you to build a schedule that you can follow to reach your goal. It is here that you will make some decisions on whether the Time/Schedule (next year), Cost (I may be only ready to currently qualify for a 15K loan at this tiem, but I want a Cadillac) or Scope (I want the car with the most safety and technical advances in the market today) but how will that affect my goals and which of these takes priority over the other? Decision, decisions, but at least you have a plan!
  4. Execution: Start the work it will take to get to your goal! Brand new car here I come! Execute to your schedule, involve your stakeholders, and ensure they are performing to the tasking in your plan, i.e., You have a task for your daughter canvas the neighborhood dealerships and find the best deal on the car of your dreams, make sure she has completed this in the time you have allotted for this task
  5. Monitor and Control: How is it going? Do I need to course correct? Financing through your bank is at a standstill, what if I apply directly with the dealership? Will that save me precious time
  6. Close: You have your new car! Now this goal is done, time to get your jalopy ready for your daughter to drive. New project, here you come!
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