What does project management mean to me?

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Project management. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, some of the time without realising. It’s how I planned my studies. It’s how I planned my wedding. It’s how I survived relocating abroad for work, and it’s how I stayed sane moving house with a 6 month old baby. And it’s my job.

So it means a lot to me.

It’s the ability to get things done, but in the nicest possible way.

It’s understanding how to break down tasks into manageable chunks. It’s working out how to get other people to do those chunks for you, even if they have never met you before and don’t care at all about your objectives.

It’s how to deal with problems when they arise – because they always do, and how to make other people see that it isn’t the end of the world.

It’s being able to think quickly and say sorry, and most of the time, it’s about putting other people’s and company goals above your own professional ambition. But it works out well when the two things align.

I didn’t realise project management was a job, until I spent 3 months working in the Business Engineering department of American Express as part of a graduate trainee scheme. It was there that I met some wonderful people who got things done every day and helped deliver improvements and new projects.

Once I knew that I could be paid for something that I was very good at, I decided to make it my career.

The funny thing about project management is that it turns into a way of life. If you are a chaotic, flustered person in your personal life, I imagine you are probably like that at work too. If you are calm and organised, with little lists stuck all over the house, you’re probably like that at work as well. And while both of those people could be good project managers, personally, I think the latter is always going to have the edge.

But then, I’m biased, because I have little lists stuck all over the house.

The way you manage projects at work is a pretty good reflection of how you manage the rest of your life, and it doesn’t take long before Gantt charts start appearing on the fridge with key milestones marked on the family calendar.

You plan backwards from Christmas to make sure everyone gets their cards in time, even the friends in remote places overseas. And of course, you start Christmas shopping when you see the perfect gift, even if it’s July. Then you store it away neatly, marking that person off on the list with a little note of what you bought and how much it cost.

So for me, there is a cross-over between running a project and running a home. I use the same project management skills and the same people skills. I expect I’ll teach my son how to plan so that he gets his homework done on time, and I’ll do that because project management isn’t taught in enough schools, although I think it should be mandatory.

To answer the question, project management to me is a life skill. You don’t need to know how to manage time and control a budget to get through life as a success, but it has to help. But then, I don’t know any other way so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I’ve been managing projects my whole life, and I expect I’ll continue to do so.

P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management-related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Over 70 bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is here so please go and check them out!


  1. “Project management is the ability to get things done, but in the nicest possible way.” Really very important, as every project Manager tries to get the things done but many times it really matters how its done.
    – Jitesh

  2. Personally, sometimes I feel that too much control and project management at your home / personal life is not always good. Some moments call for a bit of chaos.

  3. Definitely agree with the life skill; never take a project manager to the theme park. I always get told off as before we arrive I have looked at the map and made a plan of what rides to do in what order to ensure the most efficient use of the time. Once a project manager always a project manager.

        1. Thanks, Toby! Glad you enjoyed the article. And I read yours too – the whole #pmFlashblog exercise has got me reading other sites that I wouldn’t normally have spent time on, which has been very rewarding.

  4. Excellent perspective! Having experienced parenting two sons (the youngest started at university this week), I’ve learnt that you can’t necessarily impart these skills – but your point that it should be taught is certainly true. One of mine is a natural planner, the other is in a perpetual state of chaos. Nature vs nurture?

    1. Well, I’ve got that still to learn about parenting then. I’ll share the skills – whether they sink in or not is another matter! I guess only time will tell.

  5. Never thought of it this way until your article, but, yes, project management skills have helped me survive and keep my sanity. Nicely done!

  6. You probably use a lot of common sense and pragamatism at home and that’s definitely something you need as a project manager too.

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