Project Practitioners > Project Management in Your Own Life

Project Management in Your Own Life

By Matt Glei

In many professions, applying your professional skills to your personal life doesn’t always work out as you might expect. Not all financial planning professionals become rich. Nurses and doctors are not always the healthiest people, or live the longest. Lawyers do not always stay out of trouble. In the case of project management, your skills can also be a two-edged sword.

Professionally, I have planned and executed product development projects to create new medical devices. I’ve introduced over 30 distinct products to the marketplace worldwide. Personally, I’ve used project management skills to help achieve many other goals.

I’ve always been a planner. My grandparents, who raised me, were professionals – a teacher and a civil engineer. We learned how to plan projects at a very early age, even before we learned to read. Imagine the project management skills it takes to build a dam across a small stream that lasts more than a few minutes. I was also a Boy Scout, so I quickly learned how to plan a camping trip or hike and get the activity done with a minimum of fuss. I became "Mr. Logistics."

One example: one of the challenges of living on an island is that preparing to go to the beach can be a time-consuming affair. People often load up and go to the beach, and when they get there they’ve forgotten some key item. Some of my friends made fun of me when I created a "beach module" in my garage, filling a 14-gallon plastic storage box with the items we always want to take to the beach: towels, beach mat, sun block, bug spray, etc. When it’s time to go, I merely load the box into the car and go. If we’re snorkeling, I load pre-packed bags of gear for each of us. At the beach we can put hats, etc. into the box so they don’t blow away. When we return, we wash items that need it and return them to the box for next time. It’s like our beach survival kit. Don’t have to think – just take it. It makes going to the beach happen quickly.

Another life experience most of us have, or will have, is buying a house and then making improvements in it, or to the land around it. This often requires some portfolio management, in that there are always too many projects we’d like to do in this area. I’ve found that strategic thinking and planning is extremely helpful in achieving these goals. Thinking a few years down the road allows effort and money to be applied in an effective manner, when the time is right. I’ve often found that taking adequate time to plan the stages makes the project much more successful, because you’ve had time to look at alternatives and risks. Being able to order the various phases of improvement

In our case, we bought a small house about three years ago. In the side yard was a slope that was weed-infested, but rose to the top of a ridge (1,200 feet) above our house. I began to plan all the various changes we would like in the coming years: make the outdoor lanai more like an outdoor living room, terrace the hillside so I could grow some fruit trees, with stairs so I could ascend the hill to the property line (about 30 feet above the back yard), add flower beds behind the house to grow tropical foliage and banana trees, and get water to all of those locations. Over the last three years we’ve completed all those projects – first the walls and terraces, improving the soil, planting lemon, lime, fig and coconut trees, as well as three banana trees and beautiful ginger, ti and helaconia plants. Attempting to do all this at one time would have been exhausting, both physically and financially. Keeping planning ahead of execution allowed me to slow down or speed up depending on resources and weather.

The long view makes it possible.

-- Matt Glei,

Related Links
Project management techniques work surprisingly well even for ordinary events like camping trips. We've also got templates illustrating the use of project management in planning things like holiday dinners and gift shopping. Nothing is safe! (Or perhaps everything is.)

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

You're so right about the beach box, Matt. We do that too. I got tired of hauling it all around, so we just stuck everyone's things in a bag with their name on it, and stuffed the bags in the garage. When you're heading to the beach, you grab your bag and go. A lot of lessons learned goes into that sort of pre-planning. ("Ow ow I forgot my sandals again ow ow ow ...") I'll let you know how it works on the landscaping ...

Thanks DeAnna. I also do this for other items and activities, such as sea kayaking. There was always something missing at the take-off without the kayak module. I also do sailing module and even travel module.

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