Life’s a project. Where’s your plan?

I’m due to move to my new apartment this month. Been planning since January this year. The whole of February I did nothing but execute my plans, delegate, follow-up, chase, brainstorm, work on my back up plans and most importantly “felt that crunch.”

Truthfully, the project sucks big time. I’m not averse to change, but I certainly feel this as some full-time side-gig on top of my full-time job. The project has taken precedence over all the other things that I have been working on.

Moving to a new place isn’t just a matter of hiring a moving company and have them haul my stuff across the city. My place is brand new and unfurnished. I had to hire a contractor to get he furnishing bit done. And let’s not forget shopping for stuff that will fill my apartment up. (It’s not as bad as it sounds, it’s just time consuming.)

And don’t even get me started on the checklists, sub-checklists and sub-sub-sub-checklists! And it doesn’t even end there! Negotiating with contractors, vendors and wholesalers. Following up on the progress made, reaffirming the scope of work and exchanging WhatsApp messages of designs for the doors, grills and what not.

It’s exhausting.

Sure, I can involve my family members. But let me tell you, with two kids and super-excited parents — I knew better to not involve them. I wanted to get through with the project and not stay stuck with it for the next 12 months.

Perhaps later.

Nonetheless, I staunchly believe that it’s all for the greater good. I really look forward to living in a bigger space and finally having my own home office after almost six years (the previous apartment was rented… and I was way too naive to understand the importance of having my own home office).

I’m not sure how sharing this experience is going to make you an effective project manager, but a moving project like this one surely draws parallels from the discipline of Project Management. Since I focus on getting the basics right, I’ve had a few learnings that apply to almost every project — small or big.

Here you go:

Take off with a plan! No plan. No project.
Irrespective of how experienced you are. Always have a plan. If you don’t have it. Create one. There’s no way you can get around to not having a plan. All you need is a bunch of ideas, a few bullets and an ability to rearrange in the logical order of execution. That is it.

Break it down into simple steps. Don’t try to do it all!
Of course, some nerds (me) would need a proper system to do all that. But before investing (your time or money or both) in a system, start with a simple list. Scale it up as needed.

Every aspect of your life can be a project in itself. Are you a volunteer? That’s a project. Are you a father or a son? That’s a project too (if you value relationships, and in my opinion, you should). A husband or a friend? That’s a project too. Moving out? Definitely a project.

David Allen defined a project as something that needs to get done within the next few weeks or months and requires more than one action step to complete. If that’s a case, congratulations. You’ve got a project!

Celebrate small wins!
Here’s the challenge with the type-A people. They are just driven to check things off their lists. It doesn’t work that way. You have to take breaks in between. Celebrate the small wins.

Pausing to appreciate the efforts to see a project take off from ideation to completion is a game changer. Sure it calls for a time commitment and you’ve got other things to take care of, it doesn’t have to be fancy.

Write a note to your team members. Write a note to yourself (that’s what I’m going to do) if you’re all alone. Or better, pick up that phone and give them a call.

It’s worth the time you take out. And most importantly, it’s what you do as a good project manager. Keep people (and yourself) motivated.

That’s it! Fundamentals. And they rock!

PS: Here’s what I plan to get embossed on my door: Grace. Gratitude. Goodness.
PPS: Read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto for more inspiration. It changed my life.

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