This article is based on the International Project Management Presentation delivered by Judy Umlas in November, 2011.
Welcome to the Project Kick-Off Meeting of ONE of the – if not THE - most important project of your personal and professional life. –We call it Project Work Life Balance! And today we are going to initiate this project and make sure that you can achieve project success! To make the most of this presentation, it would be useful to have the printed two last slides/tables of this article in front of you, as well as something to write with.
Now, this is no ordinary project, and the purpose of our gathering together is to get you motivated to really get behind this project! To put your ALL into it! We will talk about:
- Project Scope – WHAT is Work Life Balance?
- Justification – WHY do we all need to achieve these project objectives?
- We will do a quick and helpful Work Breakdown Structure – HOW can we get there? What steps of the work must be completed in order to achieve the project objectives? I will start with some general tips to help you achieve project progress. But the real key to this success lies in a “transformative technique” that will give you the power to make dramatic and useful changes. A major “deliverable” for this project is YOUR HAPPINESS AND WELLBEING, created in a way that extends out to all of your stakeholders.
- Speaking of stakeholders, of course, we will need to do a stakeholder analysis – see WHO is involved in YOUR project. We want to figure out who is out there, influencing or impacted by the outcome. And who is the project manager of this exciting project? It can only be YOU!!! But we will probe for who else is involved – when, where, why, how. For example, if you are a mother or father, one of your stakeholders is your son or daughter. If you are a volunteer on your local Board of Education, the stakeholders include students, parents, staff and the community. Each has different interests, needs, and influence.
- And then we will complete a transition to operations – and I don’t mean down the road – I mean now! Right now! We will get to the core of this project, to ensure you can complete the steps after this meeting AND reap its benefits continuously after the project is done. We will look at how to align all Stakeholders’ expectations toward this potentially work and life altering project. So now, are you ready for some worthwhile fun? Good. Sit back, but don’t relax!!! We have work to do!
What is WLB?
Let’s talk about Project Scope. WHAT are we doing in this project? We will look at your two major “roles” – at work and in life. We are all walking a tightrope most of the time, and we feel that we are in danger of falling – it’s a seriously scary juggling act that we have to do to balance these roles.
At work, you are most likely both a supervisor and a subordinate. You are a corporate “citizen,” and may have a vision of the way things could be improved in your organization, even if it isn’t just for your department or part of your job description. One of IIL’s trainers, Frank Saladis, PMP® is an example of this. He had a vision 8 years ago of taking one day out of the year, the first Thursday in November, to acknowledge and recognize project managers for the incredible work that they do all over the globe. IIL came on board as a key sponsor of that vision, and that is why we are all here today, both learning and earning --up to 12 free PDUs in fact! Bringing this from vision to reality was Frank’s contribution as a corporate citizen.
You may also be a process owner – you work on process improvement projects, to make things easier, better and more effective.
In your personal life, you are a family member first and foremost – you have a spouse, a partner, or a roommate; you are a son or a daughter; you may have sons and daughters of your own. You may be a caretaker of elderly parents. You are a volunteer on community projects, or you are a Big Brother or Big Sister to a young boy or girl who needs an adult role model. And you are a private citizen – one with your own interests such as painting, or music.
So with all of these roles, we need to go from walking the tightrope to creating a real sense of balance. The yin/yang symbol represents that balance. The concept of yin and yang originates in ancient Chinese philosophy, and is used to describe two opposing but complementary forces found in all things throughout the universe. Yin and yang are interdependent opposites, neither of which can exist without the other. Yin and yang both consume and support each other. Sound familiar?
The complementary nature of the yin and yang symbol represents the state of balance we are seeking as part of our Project Work Life Balance, and the success we can all have.
So, now, I am about to make a very dramatic statement. Are you ready to hear it? Every role in your life needs to feed a passion of yours, or you need to stop doing it. Period. If it’s not contributing to your true passions, it is interfering with your work-life balance. We will talk more about the role of passion in all of this later.
Justification – So Why do we need Work Life Balance (WLB)?
Why don’t you go first? Why would YOU be interested in WLB? Take a moment to list your reasons. If you want to, you can stop reading this article and make some notes.
Good! Now, here are some reasons that you may or may not have thought about:
Sanity – don’t we all need that in order to be balanced in our lives!? We don’t want to feel like we are on the edge of a cliff and about to fall off.
Sense of contribution – everyone needs to feel that they are making a difference in their families, their work, in their communities. That gives us our sense of purpose, and it is necessary in order to create and maintain balance.
Serenity – that is the feeling that most of us are lacking in our busy, hectic, often unbalanced lives. We want and need that sense of calmness that lets us know that we can handle just anything that comes our way. Once we achieve balance, we have the hope of moving back into that serene place whenever we find ourselves teetering.
WLB also creates a well-spring of energy that helps us meet whatever life deals us, with the three P’s: Purpose, Poise, and Performance.
And Passion – you could call it the 4th P – is the glue that holds it all together, as we will see….
How can we achieve WLB?
So, before we use the “passion glue,” we will go through a few tried and true tips and tricks for achieving WLB. These steps are good and useful – things you know you should do, but may have forgotten in the rush of life. They are not quite the PARADIGM SHIFT that we are after – but they are a good, preliminary set of warm up exercises.
- Prioritize your tasks and responsibilities. We often do the easy things first to feel like we are accomplishing SOMETHING – ANYTHING! But use the Brian Tracey model from the book – Eat That Frog! He says that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll know it’s probably the worst thing you’ll have to do all day – the one you are most likely to procrastinate on, “but also probably the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life.” Read Dr. Harold Kerzner’s article: “The Deadliest of Project Management Sins: Procrastination” It’s a real winner.
- Time management courses can help the symptoms of work/life imbalance (but not the underlying condition that creates it). Good to do and will definitely work in small increments, for at least a while!
- Take some time just for you each day to do what you love, or what gives you a feeling of serenity: a quiet walk, meditation, a call to a dear friend across the country.
- Saying no, respectfully but firmly, is a skill we all need to develop. This approach can be tricky at work, and make you feel guilt-ridden at home, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary!
- Use your planning and scheduling Project Management (PM) skills to get things done in your life and work. And don’t forget about PM skills when parenting – they can produce great results!
How else can we achieve WLB?
Let’s ask ourselves a few questions, to see how we can make some headway in beginning the work life balance process – start jotting down answers to these questions. You know the answers – just let them rise to the surface. And here’s a potentially exciting and/or painful truth: you may need at times to say, “I cannot continue in that role anymore because it is not contributing to or representing my passions!” That could even mean a department or company or spouse change (I’m not recommending any of this, but it could be a reality for you):
Who are the people you should be spending more time with and what stands in the way? Is it your children, your children’s children, an elderly relative? What competing priorities are stopping you and causing you distress? Identifying these “competing demands” brings the needs and the obstacles up to your consciousness so that you can start the process of gaining balance.
What are the things you really want to do but can’t find the time to do, in both your personal and professional lives? I know I want to regain my fluency in the French language, and it would make me so happy to do so, since I still have very elderly and dear friends living in France. What’s your passion?
What are you procrastinating about that would have you feel empowered and excited if you did it? For me, it would be to complete my next book, on Leadership and the Power of Acknowledgment, the subject of many of the courses I teach! Then I can use this work to make an even bigger difference in the world than the original book has done. I keep waiting to get it done, and I need to JUST DO IT!!! What about you? What will be YOUR breakthrough? What are YOU passionate about?
How can we achieve WLB?
So, now, we are getting to the really powerful stuff. Everything else was helpful, can spark your passions, but now we will prepare for a total PARADIGM SHIFT!!
We will use a technique called mind mapping on a personal level, and look at your work roles, your life roles and use your PASSION as the key to the shift. We will create TRANSFORMATION of these roles, needs, and desires through that passion! The idea here is that once you have taken the more mundane steps to prioritize, and stop doing the things that don’t inspire your life, and find out what does inspire passions in life and work, you can devote more time and energy to your real and all engaging “passions.” This discovery, in turn, fuels our hearts, minds and bodies with more energy to pursue more of our passions and to reach greater heights in them.
Work toward the passion! Isn’t this fun!?
So again, we are aiming for a total PARADIGM SHIFT, not just incremental change. Passion is the key to this shift. The results of such a shift are UNPREDICTABLE and that’s what makes it so exciting! When I wrote The Power of Acknowledgment, I had no idea that tens of thousands of people would be inspired instantly and powerfully by using and experiencing this incredibly simple, yet effective tool.
Sample WLB Personal Passions Mind Map
So here is the mind mapping tool and an example of how it can be used to create the paradigm shift. We will use the mind of “yours truly” to map as an example, so you can see how the process works!
What you see are the passions I have in both the work and life arenas.I can list the actions I need to take and the people who are my stakeholders in this process.
- Publishing – authors, Frank Ryle book, social media, getting word out
- Personal Passions: loving my family
- Giving to others
- Enriching my life (languages, personal growth)
Only when we are clear about our passions, and do what it takes to realize them, can we have the paradigm shift we have been seeking.
Creating your personal passions mind map
Now it’s your turn to create your personal passions mind map. This is a whole-brained activity. It integrates the creativity of the right brain that opens the synapses, with a type of structure from the left that molds, but does not limit, AND in fact enables innovation. It is a very exciting and rewarding activity. If you would like to, you may now stop reading and fill out the three (or more) major areas of your work passions, followed by your life passions. You can draw in extra branches of the map or use a second template. Then list transformative actions – actions that will help you realize your passions -- and the people involved in each branch.
Stakeholder analysis: Who me? Who else?
And yes, this is about YOU! Let your heart “hold the pen” as you fill out the template or create your own, with more original “artwork” – we want you to create what moves, inspires, excites and enlivens you! You can create this personal mind map by filling in words or pictures that describe your own situations in each of the categories. By the way, try this technique with your project teams, too! It can work wonders in getting the team members clear, focused and inspired to think outside the box! It also acts as a team building technique to help members find common ground, start to trust each other and develop complementary approaches to project issues.
Now, if you need a little inspiration, and to get you thinking about your work and life passions, and what activities you need to take on in order to reach them, here are answers from people who responded to questions about this that we put in “Survey Monkey” and sent out to our social media sites about people’s work and life passions.
David Whelbourn, MBA and PMP®,is Director of Project Management for the New Brunswick Internal Services Agency in Canada, was one responder. So we can see him in his role here as a Program Manager, a work role. He stated that his work passions include Management of a Continuous Service Improvement transformational program. What fuels this passion is the opportunity he sees to transform an entire organization with the new capabilities delivered by the project. Wow! That is a “biggie!” Here, we see him in another work role, one of “corporate citizen;” he does these things because he feels they are important. He also has a passion, he tells us, of wanting to help new project managers see the key things they need to achieve in order to be successful, and seeing executives understand the value of project management. His personal passions are fly fishing, rugby and hiking. In his survey, he committed to focusing on all of these things by the end of this year and beyond. When he schedules his flying fishing trip, he will probably be able to prepare someone that he trusts to be “in charge” at work and – hopefully - will not take his Smart phone with him! When he is focusing on…fueling… sparking his passions, he won’t be walking the tightrope of life – he will achieve success in project work-life balance. We wish him the best of luck, as his passions are worthwhile and will make a difference.
Another respondent was Justin Laman, Co-Founder of Blueprint Pre-College Summer Program, who lists his work passions as connecting people, creating positive experiences and challenging the status quo. You can see Justin in a “corporate citizen” type of role, which could be labeled as “Chief Solution Innovator!” He says, “It is innovation that makes me passionate. The breakthrough that fuels passion is the new idea that solves two or more existing problems. These types of breakthroughs keep me coming back to the table because their occasional discovery challenges our current methodology and means there is always a better way.” Justin has the kind of passion that would benefit from the numerous webinars and virtual courses on managing innovation that he can schedule, to help him take those creative ideas and implement them in a way that actually improves business performance. His personal life passions include friends and family, gardening, and trying to fix anything that's broken, on his own first. He plans to monitor and schedule activities that support these passions -- some daily, others monthly and others yearly.
Thanks to all of our respondents – we support your focusing on YOUR passions and as a result achieving success in “Project Work Life Balance!”
Creating your personal WLB Action Plan
Now you have the opportunity to list activities that support or enhance your passions in work and life. What support do you need for each? Make sure you include what is most important and fulfilling to you! What fires you up? Sparks your passions? Remember, the key to it all is PASSION!!
Transition to operations – you mean now?
Yes, we mean now!!! Let’s do it! Let’s get a clear list of the activities and support needed, as well as the timeframe for each of your passions, both in life and in work. Include both the preliminary mundane steps AND the sparks of your passions. Once again, you may stop reading and fill the below form out! It can give you the breakthroughs you have been seeking. It just takes a small investment of your time to get rolling.
So in closing, I want to thank you for your courage, convictions and communication of your passions in taking on this worthwhile exercise. We would love to hear about YOUR breakthroughs and you can write to us at
. We will be giving prizes for those that are creative, breakthrough and truly work and life altering.
Project Work Life Balance can only achieve success if you are willing to play full out, to identify and share your passions with yourself and all of your key stakeholders.
I wish you luck in achieving success in this most important project of your life and work. Your health, happiness, wellbeing, serenity, energy and big-time results are all the payoffs. I saw an online article by writer Mike Wood that stated, “The power of passion guides us to what our hearts truly want, reveals to us the awesome experiences and feelings we all share and triggers us to understand our purpose and mission on earth. Embrace it, explore it, express it!” Then, I say, you will achieve Project Work Life Balance Success! Go for it!
© 2012 allPM.com
Judith W. Umlas is Sr. Vice President, author and leadership trainer at International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL), a global corporate training company. She is the publisher of IIL Publishing, New York, as well as the Publisher of allPM.com, the web portal for over 100,000 project managers. She is the author of the ground-breaking book, The Power of Acknowledgment (www.iil.com/poa), with an upcoming book on Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage, Motivate and Keep Your Best People, to be co-published by McGraw-Hill Professional and IIL in 2012, and The Power of Acknowledgment for Kids, to be published in 2012.