Five things I have learnt from project management that has helped me in my relationships

When managing projects, there are things you do that is prescribed by the methodology you follow. The methodology is there to guide you as to industry best practice. Some steps, that you would do as part of project management, translates very well to your personal life as well, and has taught me to be better at relationships.

#1 – Stick to your scope

In traditional project management, you are handed a budget and an objective, your scope for the project. One of my first projects was at a cellular phone company, who had rolled out a new countrywide network. Nobody had kept comprehensive records. “Ms. Project Manager, I want to know where my assets are and what they cost me in maintenance. Here is R5m, go make it happen.” True story.

It is a key task of the project manager to use the money wisely, and only on things towards the objective. If someone along the way ask, as during the example above: “By the way, while you are finding all the assets, please take a photo of each”, you have to consider whether this request will contribute towards your goal, will cost extra money, and should be added to your scope.

In life, in your relationship, what is your goal? What key thing do you want to achieve in your relationship? Stay together till you both die? Be happy together while you can? Have a loving, supportive relationship for as long as possible? My money is on the last one. The one you choose determines your daily actions.

When you know what your ultimate goal is, you handle the daily little niggles differently. He has left his socks on the bedroom floor again? I pick them up, get over my irritation, and later on ask him to remember to put them in the laundry hamper. I know that in the bigger goal of my relationship, this is not important.

I keep my eye on the long-term goal.

#2 – Consider your stakeholders

In project management, one of your first actions as project management is to sit down, think of what you have to achieve, and who will all be affected / impacted by the change. Those affected and impacted people become your stakeholders in the project, and in order to be successful, you have to plan for the change in each of those groups’ lives.

In family life, each member of the family is a stakeholder. Yes, even that little despot in the cradle, or the tantrum-throwing toddler, the sulky teenager, the feeble grandma. Consider all of them when you plan daily, weekend, vacation activities.

Dad likes going to museums when on holiday? Makes sure that, as well as some time in the museum, you give the toddler some time at the beach, or opportunity to swing, or whatever his favorite activity is. Consider granny’s needs to not walk too far, and the teenagers to hang out somewhere cool (perhaps later on in the day). If everyone gets a slot to do their favorite activity every day, you are bound to have a better vacation.

Consider your stakeholders, or have unhappy faces around the table every night.

#3 – Remember balance

In project management, your magic triangle is to manage time, scope and money. In the middle of the triangle, however, is quality. If your objective as reached is not of the required quality, you have failed. In the example of point 1, where you have to find all the assets, your quality will be measured on ALL the assets, but also to collect consistent data, and track movement of these assets.

In life, you should also focus on quality, and balance. It does not help you have a fantastic holiday, but the rest of the year you are completely stressed out and unable to function in your family life. It does not help that you are earning a huge salary, but you absolutely hate the work. Or you focused so hard on running that first marathon that you have been absent at the family dinner table for 5 days of the 7.

Find the balance to enjoy your life, and live it, as well as earning a living.

#4 – Plan / re-plan as many times as necessary

One of the first lessons you learn as a new project manager is that, no matter how complicated and detailed your project plan is, the MOMENT you publish it, it is out of date. Someone adds a step, or change the order in which things should happen, and all your carefully prepared charts and diagrams need to be redone.

The same in life. You thought time is right to look for a new place to stay? The economy worldwide crashes like in 2008 and suddenly you cannot sell a house for love or money. Re-plan. Adjust. Amend your actions, your lifestyle.

As many times as necessary, to reach your goals in life.

#5 – Communicate, communicate, communicate

Did you know that 90% of projects that fail, fail because of communication? And that in project management, they teach you that the number of channels of communication in your project increases exponentially when you add more people?

The same in life. What you and your partner could make decisions on when it was just the two of you, changes dramatically when there are children involved. Want to stay later at the party and have another couple of drinks? No matter how hung-over you are, someone is going to have to get up and feed the children tomorrow morning. And a toddler’s tantrum is far more ear shattering when you have a hangover, as I can attest to.

It is especially true for life goals and changes. So many couples split up because they did not communicate that their dreams and goals have changed. If you do not communicate, down to the deepest levels, you will always be caught off-guard.

At the end of the day, we all want to live happy, fulfilled lives, with our nearest and dearest. And if project managing your life adds to you reaching that goal, why not use it?

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