Use Project Management Tools for Life

October 2, 2010

Entrepreneurial thinking is applicable in every facet of life. But, because there is the financial & passion incentive in a business, we do a decent job of stay on top of everything. However, life can be a complete mess. So what to do? My solution, is to use the same project management applications you use on a daily basis to manage your company used for your life.

What PM App for my company?

So obviously first you need to have a tool in your business to get organized there if you haven’t already. One of the most difficult aspects to choosing a tool is making sure that it is convenient. If you are in a large company, you can forget it, because more often than not you’re doing what you are told, and don’t have a choice. But, if you have a choice, you can start by thinking about how you are typically getting your tasks and projects handed to you? For most of us, it’s by e-mail. Ideally there would be an app that brings your e-mail into a project management environment, but for now it’s e-mail first, project management second. Although a startup called Tribe, founded by Shift90, is in their alpha phase with a product that can do that.

What are good project management apps out there?

So I’ve done a bunch of research as I’m sure you have in trying to discover what are the tools out there that can get you started with managing the million activities that you do. Here’s a short list of some apps that stick in my mind as useful and partially gets there.

  1. ManyMoon – By far this is my favorite project management application out there. Why? Because it has full integration into Google Apps. If you aren’t using Google Apps, is also great because it doesn’t assume that someone else that you’re collaborating with has ManyMoon. So they can just click the e-mail to interact with the task or project.
  2. OmniFocus – would be my number two choice. It’s strengths are that it has an unbelievable UI, best practices on task management based upon GTD. It also has a mobile phone application. However, it is only available for Mac, and is only for personal task management, so you can nix collaboration using the application.
  3. 5PMweb.com – is a great collaborative tool for any type of team. It’s great because it allows you to have sub-sub-sub-sub…tasks. Which is great when you’ve got to get certain things done in a sequence. I don’t like the pricing model though, because you have to pay for every single user, which prohibits collaboration for people outside the platform. It is good though for keeping a flow of discussion going. I wish it had true integration with the e-mailing functionality of Google Apps or some e-mail system. Hopefully Tribe will be able to get that one fixed up.

I’m sure there are a ton out there that you could recommend as well, and I’d be glad to listen, but I’ve personally settled on ManyMoon, because it’s free for almost every major activity you need to do and to share with other people. It also integrates with your calendar, e-mail, and contacts.

How can I use a project management application for my life?

The key to transitioning PM apps from business to life is being methodical. There are millions of projects and activities you need to do. The first thing is to download your brain into that project management application, and make sure to take notes. With ManyMoon, if I’ve got just a simple task, I’ll write that in, otherwise I’ll build projects, milestones, and tasks for each of my activities to stay on track. You probably won’t need significant collaboration requirements, so if you are by yourself and are not using a PM tool for work, I would suggest OmniFocus if you’ve got a Mac, iPad, or iPhone.

How do I approach project management for life?

There is definitely an artform for categorizing life, organizing it, prioritizing it, scheduling it, acting, evaluating, updating / completing. Or at least that’s how I like to think about it. So lets break down each section.

Categorizing

Personally I categorize my entire life into:

  1. Vision – Long long-term goals and dreams
  2. Career – what I need to do to accomplish that vision
  3. Foundation – personal activities I need to support my career.

Foundation is mostly “Life”. So what does that entail, I further categorize life into Physical, Mental, Emotional, & Spiritual.

    Organizing

    Now that I’ve categorized my life, I start focusing on organizing my projects and tasks into these categories. I do this by tagging my projects and tasks into one of the mentioned categories.

    Prioritizing (Ranking)

    The next activity is once I’ve put all my projects and tasks in the system I need to figure what to do. High, Medium, & Low is not really used properly. Prioritization to me is being able to determine what % of your time is dedicated to a type of activity. So for High priority tasks I spend 70% of a given period of time towards, such as a day, week, month, etc. Medium is about 20%, and 10% goes to Low. Then I associate different tasks and projects as high, medium, or low.

    Scheduling

    I then go into my calendar and block out these in a new Google calendar to see what I’m going to be spending my hours like in a week. I simply label blocks of time as High, Medium, or Low. So when I create a task, I put a date of when it’s due, but more importantly I assign when I’m going to be working on that specific task or project.

    Acting

    Have you ever assigned yourself a task on a specific time slot and you knew in advance that you weren’t going to be able keep your appointment to yourself? I have done it a thousand times. So how do you assign yourself tasks that you know need to get done, and be worked on, but you usually procrastinate on? Collaboration!!! When I assign myself a task that I don’t want to do, I usually work with someone else on getting it accomplished, worse case scenario, as a friend to hang out while you’re doing that task. I’m serious! I call friends just to see if they are working, to see if I can work while they are. It just keep me responsible just a little be more.

    Nothing is ever done when I want, but I need to keep on moving because there are too many other responsibilities I’ve got. So I set aside the time, then if I don’t get it done, I’ll reassign myself a new time to work on it again.

    Evaluating

    Once you make progress, you need to take a step back and evaluate. Even if it’s a small activity. Just pause for a minute, and re-look at what you’ve done to see if you are satisfied. If you’re not, got back to scheduling and acting to try another pass at the activity. Things like home improvements can be really frustrating because you are trying to finish it on a timely schedule or in a single weekend. It is ok if you don’t get it done in the first pass the way that you want. Just try again, and schedule it and forget it, till it’s time to act again.

    Updating / Completing

    It’s pretty simple, but go back to your project management tool and update any notes you need to and click complete. There’s always a great feeling that comes when you click the complete button. It’s a marker in the road of your accomplishments. If you need to create new tasks that follow it, this it the time.

    Get Going!!!

    Most important thing about getting everything moving in life stress free is simply making everything bite size and nothing that takes too long. But most important thing is to start. Good luck!

      by JP James – October 2nd, 2010

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      One Response to “Use Project Management Tools for Life”


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