What My Son Taught Me About Project Management

By on May 1, 2018

As a project manager, it is my responsibility to, well, manage projects. This means establishing a framework and process, aligning expectations across a myriad of stakeholders, preparing a timeline and budget and doing everything in my power to keep those on track. While things certainly don’t always go according to plan, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer when they do.

Let’s go back a bit to Thursday, May 12, 2016. I had just finished wrapping up my maternity leave documentation and was looking forward to one last day of work before a full three weeks off before my due date. I had much to do in that time – I had grand plans of preparing the nursery, reading the books, and getting totally prepared. Everything was right on schedule, just how I like it.

My son was born the very next day, May 13th, a Friday. I had no idea how much my life would change and how much I had to learn. From this initial schedule disruption to the many lessons learned along the way, parenthood has taught me many things. Most of which, as it turns out, apply to project management as much as parenting.

Here are just a few things:

  1. Adjust to shifts and changes quickly – I am a planner – always have been. You can’t plan what a kid will do, and it took me way too long to learn that. It is my job to adapt, mitigate risks, set boundaries, and learn something of my own in the process of adapting to the change. Being able to do this more quickly keeps things moving, keeps people engaged, and encourages confidence.
  2. Practice patience – I have always struggled with patience, but the importance of it hit me in the face when my son was born. I’ve learned that patience can encourage collaboration, creativity and ideas that have lasting positive effects, even if they weren’t planned for. In fact, some of the best things are the ones you don’t see coming.
  3. Broaden your perspective – Details absolutely matter, I am a firm believer in that. But I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as I used to. I try to look at the full scope of what something is and allow that to drive my decision. Is it bad that my son hasn’t napped for the last 4 days? Yes, but this too shall pass – and the early bedtime to make up for it has been nice!
  4. Reframe productivity – the first few months of maternity leave were HARD. Where were my to-do lists, and things I could cross off my list to know that I’d been productive? I had to re-learn that quality time, conversation, and interactions are just as productive and often, dare I say, more important than checking things off a list. I was reminded how important it is for people living and/or working together to regularly spend time bonding.

I tried to spin my maternity leave as job training, but it didn’t fly. Regardless of that, I’m happier and more focused on self-improvement in my role than I’ve ever been. I can thank my wonderful and difficult son for that.

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