Embracing project management for personal wellbeing

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In my career thus far in project management I’ve been used to applying project methodologies and concepts to live projects in a corporate environment. It wasn’t something I thought about outside of work. However, it only really occurred to me that I could reap the rewards of applying such concepts to my personal life after last Christmas.

In October 2018, I was slim, athletic and raring to go at any invitation of legwork or physical activity. Within a few weeks of the New Year following Christmas, I found myself in a real pickle. The one and a half stone additional weight I was now carrying accumulated incrementally one family invite and take-out meal after another, and through the stealthy embrace of a sedentary lifestyle.

In the New Year, once the festive hoopla had subsided, I tried everything to get back in shape. Gym work, healthy eating, diet changes, you name it, but every new attempt was dogged by a feeling of impending doom, and ultimately fell flat on its face, like a failed product launch. ‘Like a failed product launch’ I thought to myself and that’s when I had a lightbulb moment. When I thought about the amount of planning which goes in to making a project successful, I began giving credence to the idea of ‘projectifying’ my efforts in wellbeing and healthy living.

Everything started falling in to place when I applied project management tools and concepts to my fitness and lifestyle regimen:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Weekly metrics including reduced waistline, changing waist-to-hip ratio, reduced weight and reduced visceral fat and percentage body fat scores.
  • Success criteria: A 32-inch waist and body-mass index in the range of 21-24.
  • Project risks and their mitigation: The risk of not resisting temptation and indulging myself at the local Tesco on my way home from work; and its mitigation, using an alternative route.
  • Project enablers: Buying a new fridge so that there was space for a weekly shop and no longer cramming food in to a communal fridge shared with flatmates, or take-aways because of the lack of food in the house.
  • Project budget: The costs of a new fridge, a gym membership, one session a week with a personal trainer and a weekly shop.

Applying even the most basic of project tools to my fitness journey quickly shed light on where I was headed and how I was going to get there. Within a matter of months, my ‘product launch’ turned into a roaring success as I monitored my KPIs and met my success criteria, all while having planned for the worst-case scenarios to ensure ‘business continuity’. I even went to the extent of creating a Project Initiation Document style paper to outline the parameters of this personal endeavour. I found this a surprisingly motivating and liberating exercise.

What I learnt from this experience was profound yet elegantly simple. Project tools and methods almost instantly brought clarity to my life by encouraging me to write down the problem and providing structure for how I was going to tackle it, for example, by creating a schedule with activities, timescales and action owners.

This also shed light on why my earlier attempts failed so badly; it became so obvious when I considered the theme of ‘why projects fail’. I had no way of measuring progress or success, and had not identified and mitigated risks or created a budget.

I would encourage anyone stumped on how to execute a transient endeavour to apply project management tools to it. Whether it’s losing weight, managing an allotment, balancing your bank account or revising for exams. Project tools and techniques can give you confidence, clarity and let’s not forget, closure (as projects stipulate the need for success criteria before being handed over). So, when you have a new task or generally find yourself faced with the vicissitudes of life, remember to keep your project tool box handy.

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Image: Inspiring/Shutterstock.com

Ali Raza

Posted by Ali Raza on 8th Jan 2020

About the Author

Ali has recently completed the Graduate Development Programme at Essentia, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London. During the programme, Ali completed the APM's Project Management Qualification and Associate Project Manager Level 4, while gaining experience in delivering capital projects for his NHS Trust.

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