Work projects can contribute immensely to our professional development, especially for those of us just starting out in our careers. In my role, many of the skills that I rely on — like communicating across teams, or setting & managing deadlines — continue to be honed by my experiences on certain projects.
Whether you’re coordinating your organization’s next event, or even guiding staff through a major data transition, there’s a lot of learning that happens when you manage any aspect of a project. So, why not apply those lessons outside of the office? (Personally, I’m most organized and productive when I’m at work. It’s my personal life that tends to be in disarray!)
Here are 10 project management skills that can help us to see results – both within and beyond the office.
1. Scoping Out A Vision.
What do we want our lives to look like? The same way we consider the goals and desired outcomes of a major project, we should think thoroughly about our own personal goals.
2. Setting Timelines.
A dream becomes a plan once a timeline is attached. Even though life hardly goes according to plan, setting targets for the things we want to accomplish only brings us closer to meeting those goals.
3. Anticipating challenges.
I’m sure you’ve had your share of curve-balls thrown at you while in the weeds of a project. Sometimes, life throws us curve-balls that are impossible to anticipate. Still, there are some things we can address, if we only consider them in advance (i.e., building a savings account to improve your financial situation, or making some life changes to improve your health).
4. Juggling Priorities.
A project can have dozens of priorities from many different stakeholders. The same is true outside of the office; we can have many personal priorities that affect various people in our lives. This often means we can’t just focus on one thing at a time; we have to figure out ways to make progress on all fronts, even if it requires shifting focus at the right moments.
5. Managing Expectations.
You may have a friend, spouse, parent or other loved one relying on you for something these days. While we do our best, we can sometimes find ourselves in situations that make it difficult to deliver on those expectations. Where possible, communicate that; it might make you feel better about the situation while helping to avoid any hurt feelings.
6. Periodically Checking In.
A project scope can change over time, and sometimes that change is crucial to its success. But the only way to identify those tweaks is to periodically check in with the teams involved, to make sure that there is consensus on what’s getting done. In life, checking in with ourselves (and occasionally others) can help us reflect in a similar way. How have your goals changed since you started this personal endeavor? Are you still working towards that end, or are you stuck? If we avoid this step, we run the risk of wasting time and misdirecting our efforts.
7. Pivoting When Needed.
When projects don’t go according to plan, we change course. Life requires that same flexibility. By learning to adapt to life’s inevitable changes, we become more resilient and effective at reaching our goals.
8. Identifying Tools To Make Life Easier.
These days, a project manager might employ any software or methodology for getting their tasks organized. Our personal lives can benefit from the same type of introspection. Identifying tools, apps and/or routines that lend to our lifestyle can help us to be more productive and relaxed! (My favorite tool these days would have to be my calendar.)
9. Charging Forward When Things Are Up In The Air.
Have you ever had a moment of uncertainty during a project, that not-knowing of where things stood and how to move forward? It’s the kind of mental state that you can either dwell in or push past. Having the umpfh and confidence to charge forward through the unknown is key to personal and professional success.
10. Seeking Input from Others.
Even if you prefer solo work over team collaboration, your creativity can function in a vacuum when you refuse to consider the opinions of others. While we shouldn’t let others dictate our lives for us, we should still recognize those moments when an outside perspective might open our eyes to something new.
There are some people for whom working comes more easily than living. That’s why it’s worth considering all of the ways that our professional talents can help us lead more fulfilling, personal lives.