In part 1 of this series, we talked about how easy it is to lose track of your projects and goals. Today, we’re going to answer the question: what can we do in our personal lives to stay on top of our goals and projects, and how can we make sense of all of the tasks involved?
By studying the workflows of project managers and gaining insights from how they operate day-to-day, you can leverage and apply the same strategies to simplify your personal life. One doesn’t need to have the title of Project Manager to know how to effectively knock out their to-do list. Even in the professional world, more and more people are finding themselves assuming the role of PMs without the official title. These accidental project managers are often the lifeblood of a company – especially in the realm of small business.
Among other strategies and tools in my arsenal, I’ve selected three simple and easy tips to get you started with taking control of your personal projects:
One of my worst habits I’ve been trying to overcome is the inefficient keeping of to-do lists. I’d often spend 20 minutes sitting at my desk in the morning with a cup of coffee and purge every possible task I needed to get done for the week onto a sheet of paper that would serve as my master record of tasks. Nine times out of ten, I’d end up misplacing that list within 24 hours.
I grew very accustomed to the Sisyphean process of finding myself struggling in my recollection of every item I’d written down. As I desperately tried to recreate the list I’d lost, I was always so preoccupied with worrying about having missed an item that I’d glance at the clock and realize I’d lost hours every week trying to catch up.
If you’re someone who finds themselves keeping multiple to-do lists on paper, or who has a rainbow of sticky notes reminding them to do things, you need to centralize your tasks into one space. As someone who falls victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” idiom often, keeping track of several different lists for different purposes just wasn’t working. I needed to keep everything in one place – one that I couldn’t lose – and never deviate from that system.
I’ve made religious use of the Calendar and Reminders apps on my iPhone, as well as incorporating project management software for the more complicated tasks. I no longer have to keep track of a stack of paper lists, I simply open my phone or computer and navigate to my tasks and projects and everything is where it needs to be.
Be accountable to yourself.
Procrastination is the nemesis of progress – if you find yourself making excuses about deadlines and struggling to keep ahead of what’s going on, you need to incorporate strategies to prevent this. It’s too easy to put off and forget things to stay on top of it all without rigid accountability to yourself. We all know someone who’s talked for years about finishing a basement or building a garden, but their progress on these projects have stagnated and have sat half-finished for years. Too many of these projects going at one time will make it feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole when getting minor tasks done, but in reality, this goose chase will result in barely incremental progress towards finishing your projects. Without clear visibility of what you’ve gotten done and what still needs to get done, your ability to tackle projects is only as powerful as your short-term memory.
I’ve found myself using Viewpath to visualize my progress on tasks and projects, as it allows me to know where I’m at, where I need to be, and what constraints I need to work around to get there. Leveraging visual tools like the reports and Gantt chart give me a clear view of all of these considerations – something I simply can’t do alone. Having these tools available to me allows me to be fully accountable to myself and removes a significant portion of the human error that can get in the way.
Don’t just include yourself, include those around you.
If you’re a parent, you’re likely all too familiar with the struggle of delegating chores and actually seeing them through to their completion. Even when we motivate those around us to help with things like allowances, we often find ourselves feeling like we’re nagging our spouse or other family members when they still haven’t taken out the trash, done their laundry, or put their dishes in the dishwasher.
Getting your family on the same page and working as a team doesn’t have to involve buying your whole family licenses for the business-oriented project management software you might feel accustomed to using at work – you can get a working system in place for your house that doesn’t feel superfluous or make your kids think of you as the “helicopter parent”. Implementing something as simple as a central task board can totally transform how things get done around your home.
Dividing the tasks by progress state (to do, in progress, done, etc.) on one axis and assigning roles on the other, a visual map of one’s responsibilities and progress can be available for anyone to see and modify. Anyone in the house can immediately find the status of a given task, meaning you’ll no longer have to ask, “did you do X today?” or feel like you’re nagging your family about their responsibilities.
Getting out of the mindset that project management tools and skills are reserved for the business world can serve to benefit you and your family’s personal life, without feeling like you’ve commercialized your day-to-day life or your relationship with your family. There are endless benefits that can be realized in everyday tasks and projects - you just need to start looking at things from more of a project management perspective. Rather than complicate and add stress to your life at home, leveraging the same skills and tools that project managers use every day can alleviate a lot of the stress and havoc involved in managing your personal life. Everyone, even the best of project managers, can continue developing their ability to get things done by being willing to try new methods and systems – your personal life should be no different!