Life Operating System: Project Management and Tasks
Have you ever felt like your list of things to do never ends? Do you ever ask yourself, why am I doing this? Well, you might be missing out on a basic concept of work management that is often overlooked in our personal lives: project management.
Most working adults are used to grouping activities into projects in their professional lives. Still, it rarely comes to the forefront of our minds when looking to tackle our non-work activities. Perhaps the thought is ‘not to bring my work home with me’ as if the mere utilization of a similar thought process erodes the boundaries between work and play.
Be that as it may, if you find that you are looking to manage your agendas better, you may find it an excellent exercise to structure your activities into projects and see if you achieve your goals faster!
Project Pillar of LOS by Author
“Most working adults are used to project management in their professional lives. Still, it rarely comes to the forefront of our minds when looking to tackle our non-work activities. “
Top 3 project frameworks by Author
PROJECTS SIMPLY GROUP WORK
Although I am targeting individual or family projects, business owners and teams may find helpful tips as my foundational knowledge comes from enterprise management!
There is no one-size-fits-all framework
When searching researching project management, you will find many frameworks that have evolved over the decades since the inception of project management organizations. I have had professional experience in nearly all of them and can say that there is no one-size-fits-all. Between waterfall, Prince2, Scrum, SAFe, Kanban, Lean, Critical Chain, etc., there are significant benefits to be had for your work.
In its simplest form, a project groups activities into a relative timeline and further a defined goal. This form is the understanding you should have when looking into organizing your personal life. The main difference between personal projects, like building an office desk, compared to a corporate project like implementing an accounting system, is that the stakeholder group is usually smaller and thereby the administrative requirements less.
Therefore, it is best to start with creating personal projects with the first two questions:
What is it that I want to achieve, and what OKR will it drive forward?
When would I like this to be complete or at a point of reflection?
Once you define this, the various frameworks become easier to utilize. For myself, I find that I prefer to plan in shorter increments against an ambitious goal, so my project style lends itself to Scrum, where I will create & review actions and outcomes in 2-week cycles. However, when I moved from Hong Kong to Denmark, I did that in a waterfall project management framework, given so much had to be planned with necessary government appointments and flights.
Find the proper framework that fits the project. Remember, this is your project!
Key elements to track, but do not over-engineer!
Regardless of the project management framework, I will start with these primary fields in my Life Operating System (LOS).
Time fields: When to start and when do I expect to finish/review?
Goals: What are the project’s specific goals, and what objectives does this project serve?
Other fields you can see from my Notion template here.
Notion Project Fields by Author
Notion Project Resources by Author
PLAN YOUR WORK WITH TASKS
Do not get overloaded with too much detail on tasks; they should be quick actions that take a few hours to complete, tops.
Milestones come first
Mega Desk v.1 by Author
Even in Scrum, it helps to have a few milestones. Milestones help frame increments in any project. For example, when I was building my mega desk, I put milestones for each version. Version 1 was just the basic desk assembled, and I put a 2-month horizon on it; the next version included floating monitors and was another month. Version 3-5 is a project I have not kicked off yet. ?
When running a Scrum project like launching my Coursecharter blog, I put in milestones to help calibrate my progress against what I initially thought. For example, the first milestone was to install the WordPress theme, the second milestone was the first post published, and a future example milestone is the first newsletter subscriber.
I use milestones to measure both outcomes and outputs. It depends on the project, but the first blog post is an ‘output’, while the first subscriber is an ‘outcome’ since it is a result.
“I find a good rule of thumb is to start with at least five milestones for a 6-month timeline.”
I mark a checkbox on the task as ‘Milestone’ for my current setup, and the status will show a diamond emoji!
Notion Project Timeline by Author
Tasks do not have to cover everything.
Everyone has a different memory span. Some people can memorize all the activities they have to do for a project, while some would forget their head if they were not screwed on. I fall somewhere in the middle. I add tasks very much like a product owner, just recording all my ideas and things to accomplish as tasks in the project. If it will take 2 minutes and I must do it today, I will likely not make a task. But if I want to remember to do a 2-minute task next week, then I will make a task, so I do not forget it!
As for planning, I first adopted August Bradley’s DO DATE methodology, marking the exact date I would work and complete the activity. I like this at first but realized the value of breaking down a multi-day activity into pieces that I can do in less than one day did not outweigh the extra time to create multiple tasks in my personal life. However, I always get my teams to break things down into daily activities in my professional life.
Therefore, for my LOS, I have the DO Date field as a single date or a start and end date. I have changed my formulas and views to use a separate lookup field END DATE (which takes the latest date from DO DATE). This way, I can have a single day or multi-day tasks in the same projects!
Find my formulas for tasks here.
Do not try to plan out too far.
Like I said before, I am now comfortable in a short cycle planning framework like Scrum. So, picking a few milestones and doing 2-week planning/review best fits the type of projects I do.
There is still a place for waterfall projects, but for personal and family projects, you might find Scrum a better guide to planning in shorter increments. I hope to write more about Scrum and use it outside the typical enterprise software development environment soon, so like if you would want more of that!
Try It Out For Yourself!
Pick a result you want to drive
Title your project
Set some goals
Set a timeline
Pick 5-10 milestones
Set up your first two weeks’ tasks