It occurred to me this week that, despite being called ‘The Everyday Project Manager’ I have yet to write explicitly about some of the applications of project management in everyday life. So, for this blog, I thought I would highlight three different activities you might encounter in everyday life and how applying a project management mindset can help you navigate – and de-stress – those activities.
- Organising a Christmas (or other festive) lunch
- PM tool: Scheduling
Planning a big lunch with all the trimmings can be a complex affair. Especially if it’s on a day where you might like to have time to focus on your family and friends. So don’t busk it! Work out in advance what the activities are that you need to do and then place them into a schedule.
We actually did this for Christmas 2019 where we had both sides of the family over for dinner. And whilst we might have looked like absolute nerds with our minute-by-minute playbook stuck to the cupboards while we both ran around the kitchen, the day went off like clockwork. Which meant we actually got to relax and enjoy the day without fretting that we’d forgotten to do something. We just referred to the list and ticked off tasks as we went.
This little bit of advance preparation meant that (a.) we were able to focus just on the task at hand at any given point without worrying about the other things we might need to do and (b.) we could relax in the knowledge that if we just worked our way from the top of the plan to the bottom of the plan, everything should come together. And it did – a true Christmas miracle!
- Planning a travelling sabbatical
- PM tool: Risk management
Whether you are planning on taking that six-month trip of a lifetime, or thinking about the infamous gap year between school and University, the last thing you want is for something to go wrong. Some people use up huge amounts of their savings (often acquired over decades) on such trips and naturally, the planning of them is exciting wish-fulfilment, where you don’t necessarily want to think about how it might all fall apart.
But the principle of risk management is that by actively thinking about what could go wrong, you can put some mitigation in place and potentially prevent it happening in the first place. This doesn’t need to be a lengthy, admin-heavy exercise. You don’t necessarily even need to write anything down. Just think about each stage of your trip and consider three things:
- “What could go wrong?”
- “What could I do now to prevent that from happening, or reduce the impact if it did happen?”
- “What would I do if it did happen? (i.e. what would be my Plan B?)
If you imagine you might spend upwards of 20 evenings and weekends planning and booking your trip – wouldn’t just one evening considering the risks be worthwhile? Even just 20 minutes spent thinking about these things will leave you feeling much better prepared and far more in control of all the unknown things that life might throw at you.
- Decorating a room in your home
- PM tool: Scope (and budget) management
Hands up everyone who’s done some decorating at home and found that the job ended up being far more involved – and costing far more – than they originally thought? Yep. Thought so.
Very often when we get the idea to do something, all we want to do is just get on and do it. Totally understandable – human nature, right? But it’s also where we trip ourselves up right at the outset. Next time you’re doing a decorating job, grab a sheet of paper (or open a blank Excel document -whatever works for you) and write down all the things you will need to do in order to complete the job – and the materials you will need for each activity.
It doesn’t need to be hugely detailed (though, obviously, it can be if you want). Just step through the activities from start to finish. A first pass might look something like this:
- Measure walls to calculate amount of wallpaper needed (WALLPAPER)
- Remove furniture from the room
- Put down dust sheets (DUST SHEETS)
- Remove existing fixtures and fittings and make safe
- Strip existing wallpaper (WALLPAPER STEAMER/STRIPPER)
- Prepare walls (SANDPAPER)
- Put up new wallpaper (PASTE, BRUSH, PAPERING TABLE)
- Paint skirting (GLOSS PAINT)
- Remove all rubbish (BLACK SACKS)
- Install new fixtures and fittings (LIGHT FITTINGS, NEW DESK)
- Put down new rug (RUG)
- Replace existing furniture
- Ribbon-cutting ceremony (RIBBON, SCISSORS)
That last one is optional depending on how grand you are feeling. As a bonus you could now put a finger-in-the-air cost against any of the materials (in CAPITALS) that you need, should you need to buy them, and you’ve got an idea of the total cost of your project too (excluding your time, of course). That total cost may surprise you, but at least it’s a surprise now and not when you’re already half-way through and committed. And you also have an opportunity to cut or trade scope – “maybe we’ll forget about the rug and get the more expensive lights we liked.” And you can always expand from here, but at least you will be doing it with your eyes open!
How has project management helped you in your everyday life? Tell me your Everyday Project Management stories in the comments!
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