No one will blame you for thinking that only project managers are qualified to manage a project. That’s what the diploma on the wall is for, right?
But think about the last time you took up a task with a deadline and outcome to be achieved within a specific period. Starting to sound like a project already, doesn’t it?
It’ll surprise you to know that you’re probably applying project management to your personal life already. Be it baking a cake or running an errand, you’d rely on a checklist to make sure you’ve got everything you need before getting started. And that is a fundamental rule no project manager ever forgets, given how insufficiencies or surpluses cost you more later down the line. Let’s dive deep into examples of real life project management in the next section!
Applying project management to personal life
This question has better context once you know what a project is and why managing one matters. They are actually constrained activities undertaken to achieve a certain end-goal. The constraints of time, scope, costs, resources, and data apply just to both our personal and professional lives.
One of the examples of project management in everyday life includes buying a new car. Whether you’re an enthusiast who likes to tinker around in your garage or a strictly functional driver, the search criteria would definitely include the vehicle’s specifications, price range and the soonest it can be delivered to you.
There are many parallels running between this example and a professional project. For starters, there’s a timeline, quality check and affordability factor involved. And for another, you need to make informed decisions concerning long-term servicing, usage and any trade-off that applies down the line. Here are some more examples of the times you’ve project managed your life without consciously realizing it;
1. Group vacations
Vacationing, however brief, is a micro project in itself, given the amount of research you’d have to do beforehand. There’s no denying the costs involved, which in turn influence your decision when picking a vacation spot or getaway. It is one of the real-life examples of project management that involves a high level of responsibility, especially if you’re traveling with a group.
Based on the size of the party, each member would be tasked with an activity, such as looking up do’s and don’ts, affordable transport, lodging, food, and tourist-friendly activities. And then there’s the question of how far ahead one should plan to get great value deals, which is why many people typically look at options months before the actual date.
Not doing so can mean fewer and more expensive options that can cause you to ultimately drop the idea altogether or pay more for less. This is why a risk management framework matters, even if it sounds too extreme for a simple getaway. For instance, if you create a breakdown of tasks (similar to that of a work breakdown structure), you’ll not only simplify your research but will also have a more accurate view of what is done versus what needs doing.
Given that a project manager’s day to day activities include this as well as assessing, categorizing and resolving risks, you’re just as capable of listing down your activities and match associated costs. Not only does it eliminate the possibility of having to empty your pockets but also lets you maximize your break!
2. Planning a party
Throwing a party for your best friend or colleague at work would require a plan to be initiated in advance. This would require you to ask friends to join in on the planning so that you have an extra pair of hands to take care of things.
In a similar manner, a project manager’s daily routine too involves active communication and bringing different stakeholders up to speed on a project’s status. The difficulty they face though is that not everyone relevant would be available at the same time. Even you would have experienced the rigmarole of roping everyone in and getting them to do different things, such as booking the venue, creating party favors, deciding a menu and list of entertaining activities.
You would have observed team dynamics when people work together in a group. Some members, for example, put in more effort than the others. While this can happen for a variety of reasons, from forgetting to follow up on an action item to having too many things to a time crunch. The end result? The group becomes dysfunctional and ends up completing less work in the time given.
So if you were a project manager, what would you do to ensure everyone is doing their bit?
For starters, you’d have to confirm that there is sufficient time and effort bandwidth to get all activities in the plan done. This way, even if you hit a snag as the date nears, you have a contingency plan in place. And secondly, you have to keep an open mind to different suggestions that may turn out to be more practical, so long as the party can successfully remain under budget and within capacity.
3. Shopping for amenities
Stocking up the pantry is a real life project management example, given how it requires us to make a list of the things we need, prioritize how badly it’s needed and then set out to get it. But even then, even the best of us are guilty of getting easily distracted, ending up with shopping carts full of unnecessary purchases.
Things change, though, when guests unexpectedly arrive and you are expected to host them. You now have a time crunch and budget to stick to, which transforms your ordinary shopping experience into a project. For one, you’d need to make sure the store you go to carries the items you need and whether it falls in your price range. Purchases would need to be made in time and stocked with the help of an inventory accounting for different individual’s preferences.
This scenario is routinely encountered by a project manager too. Even after a project commences, there is every chance of scope changes requested by the client, causing the project team and their project managers to make a trade off regarding adjusted scope, extended time or compromised quality. In this way, controlling purchases is similar to scope management, where the deliverables need to be handed after revising the budget.
4. Starting a hobby
We all have a hobby, be it one that has interested us from childhood or became a recent fascination. Starting a hobby is a prime example of applying project management to your personal life, given the dedication it asks for. It requires commitment and genuine investment, as it can scale up in terms of personal time and efforts required to be put in.
Such is the dedication expected within professional projects which require niche skills. Projects progress as long as you’re able to manage the resources sitting within them with precision. Which is why a skills inventory listing skills against years helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of resources. In the professional sense, this ensures that suitably qualified resources are actively engaged. But the same concept can be applied to ease into a hobby too, especially if it aligns with your personal interest and the desire to acquire experience honing a particular craft.
A hobby, therefore, starts with matching your skills and interests. The next step in line is to seek out classes, join groups and purchase the required materials. It all lies in the planning. Moreover, hobbyists are natural born leaders as they face situations where they have to direct their energy and creativity into completing their chosen craft within time. The next time you pick up a hobby, take comfort in knowing that your organizational skills are about to rival that of a project manager!
Did this post make you realize you just walked a mile in the shoes of a project manager? If you enjoyed this and would like more, we recommend a quick read here!
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