It is not just the business of business school graduates to use project management as a way of being more organized and effective than those who “wing it”. The freestyling method of achieving goals can also work, but it works especially well if it fits into a project management style of prioritizing tasks, setting workable goals, and then giving a free rein to the imagination. When an intentional approach becomes part of project management, both professional and other aspects of life become streamlined in the meaning and success they offer. For humans, these are indelible offerings of value all through life.
Project management is a process and set of tools using which all the goals of a project can be scoped and achieved. The very first step is defining the problem and the constraints under which the solution must be developed and achieved. In addition to domain-related conditions, there are constraints of time, resources, and budgets that project management strives to meet.
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Paring back the complexity of life through project management
Project management is versatile – it can be applied at the beginning of a new project or to change the course of a project already in progress. It can be tailored towards specific goals, or the spotlight can be trained on the process itself. This latter way can be used to tailor the end results to specific requirements, especially if different results than what were obtained previously are required. Project management is specifically useful where several iterations have to be compared and contrasted across a panoply of factors and degrees of comparison.
Some aspects of project management that translate easily into life skills:
1) Goal setting: As in project management, goals in life have to be measurable for time and ideally at least one other quantity. A writer can aim to finish a certain number of pages while a designer hopes to finish mock-ups or prototypes. Goal setting has to be inherently plotted against the short term or long term, with levels of difficulty or challenge incorporated in a tantamount into the subsequent ones. This way, a relatable amount of progress in life can be felt.
2) Documenting increments: The simplest form of doing this is maintaining a journal. While project management calls for a more quantitative approach, even a simple tabular form can keep track of one’s efforts and wins or learning points if maintained faithfully. One only has to look through a consistent entry of efforts over a year to be convinced of the effectiveness of journal-keeping.
3) Self-assessment and self-improvement: Course-correction is an important project management skill. Small milestones blended into more lofty ones can show quickly if one is on an unprofitable course.
4) Inventory management: Borrowed from the domain of Operations Management, inventory management need not essentially be about raw materials. Any resource – time, money, relationships with important stakeholders, and quality control – can be managed effectively. The immovable parts have to be identified and pitched against the arbitrary ones to get a realistic idea about the constraints of the project mentioned earlier.
The analogy of project management against life cannot be missed. In life, it always helps to have awareness of pros and cons, and document it even. Something as simple as the SWOT analysis delineating the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a proposal can take it from being a mere idea to a plan whose success can be estimated reasonably well.
For those who are convinced of the effectiveness of project management techniques to streamline life and efforts, slightly more elaborate tools such as the BCG matrix or the Eisenhower matrix can help to group tasks. The former helps to categorize the demands on one’s time while the former can help one prioritize.
Assessing the models of project management that are best suited to one’s life or category of efforts is a job in itself. It helps to be more forgiving of errors in life to reach the desired ends. In an increasingly digitized world of work where professionals need to be organized and intentional about keeping a work-life balance, project management techniques can come in handy.
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