PM 202: Manage Constraints

Scaling your challenges

Scaling your challenges

The last step of setting up a project management plan for your life is to manage external constraints that may affect project success. Being able to manage constraints is one of the most important skills for a project manager. It may take certain feats of organization to stand up a successful process, sure. But, I’d argue that a greater test of success is being able to sustain that momentum over the long haul. Burning the midnight oil for six months to combat recurring catastrophes is way more intensive—and glamorous—than calmly addressing daily challenges with a firm and steady hand. But your team, not to mention your health, will thank you for suppressing these cheap thrills in the long term. Your bottom line will also realize the benefits of successfully mastering a process. Once you’ve got one thing down, you can turn your attention to the next thing—like multiplying the number of projects under your purview.

So, how do you make the transition from dealing with disasters (reactively) to managing constraints (proactively)? Use the following set of questions to help guide your efforts when it comes to setting up a project management plan for your life:

  • What is the scope of each of your goals? If your goals are SMART, they should already address this question.

  • What is the schedule? When does the project start and end? Again, you should have this answer from previous steps, but it’s good to review.

  • How much can you afford to budget towards each of your goals?

  • What quality standards will you apply?

    • For example, is cheating allowed? If so, what constitutes cheating?

    • What rewards will you give yourself for making progress against your goal? How do you know if you’ve made progress in the first place?

  • Who are your stakeholders? We explored this in greater detail in the last post.

  • What risks may arise that could threaten your goals? How will you deal with them? Your weekly review retrospectives will help keep you on the lookout for potential risks, such as a busy week coming up, that may prevent you from dedicating time to your goals.

Once you’ve mapped out your constraints and your proposed mitigation plan, incorporate these guiding questions as part of your weekly review. Checking scope, schedule, cost, quality, resources, and risks weekly will help you proactively anticipate issues, plan for contingencies, and extract lessons learned.

OK, whew. Four posts later…and how does it feel to have a comprehensive PMP in place??? Pat yourself on the back for taking the time to get organized. That’s the hardest part. After the first few weeks of implementing your system and refining the process to reduce your time commitment, you’ll find yourself more focused, less stressed, and increasingly confident that you are spending your time on your top priorities. Not bad for a process that only takes 4-6 hours to set up.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, check out the post PM 101: How to Project Manage Your Life and get started today!