You hear the word ‘project’ several times a day. It has been used freely since the dawn of time; for instance – class project, side project, work project, home improvement project, Manhattan Project and even The Alan Parsons Project. However, not everyone knows how to successfully start and manage a project.

For this reason, I highly recommend the basic Project Management class at the iSchool (offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels), irrespective of a student’s degree program or major. While these classes are geared toward managing IT projects, there is plenty of general project management know-how that you can gain from this class, and apply it in your profession. In fact, I would go as much as to say that these classes helped me view the term “projects” and the world in a new light.


Project Management 101

Before suggesting how you can apply this discipline in your daily life, here’s some fundamental terminology for the uninitiated, courtesy of the Project Management Institute, the foremost professional organization for project management

Project: Temporary activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result.

Project Management:  Project management, is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It’s a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals — and thus, better compete in their markets.
Project management processes fall into five groups:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing
 There are ten knowledge areas of project management:


Project Management Knowledge Areas Source:

Project Management Knowledge Areas

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholders Management

These names are somewhat self-explanatory, but the example shown below will give you a better idea of what each one means.

The ten knowledge areas are applied in each of the five project processes.

The Triple Constraint
There are three constraints for any project – time (duration), cost (money), and scope (amount of work done). Change in one of these constraints will affect the others. For example, a decrease in funds (cost), means that less work gets done (scope) and also ends the project early (time).
These three constraints together affect the quality of the project/result.
The Triple Constraint Source:

The Triple Constraint

Plugging it in Everyday Life

Now that you’ve completed a crash course on the basics or project management, lets  see how it works in an actual project.


Problem: Finding a new apartment.
You need a new apartment to rent out for the next year and this isn’t going to be easy. You have your requirements and need to meet them in the best way possible. Here’s how you can use PM techniques to systemically plan and perform your apartment hunt:
Ask yourself questions and write down the answers – because proper documentation is  a prerequisite to effective project management.


Project Management Processes
  • Initiating – What exactly are you looking for? What is the expected outcome of this project?
  • Planning – What are your specific requirements? Do you have any priorities (must-have and nice-to-have)? How will you perform the search for the perfect apartment? What tools will you use? How long will you take?
  • Executing – Search for the apartment. Make calls. Browse the internet. Set up visits with landlords.
  • Monitoring and Controlling – Your search not so successful? Someone beat you to that great deal you found on OrangeHousing? You suddenly find yourself with less money and want to lower your expectations? Watch out for deficiencies and make changes as needed.
  • Closing – You have successfully found the apartment of your dreams (with a reasonable compromise between scope, cost and time). Time to mark this project as ‘done’ and celebrate.
Knowledge Areas
  • Integration – How will you integrate all the other aspects of your project? Do you document everything? Or make a mental note of whatever you think is important?
  • Scope – How much do you exactly need? Are your expectations set in stone or do you allow yourself some flexibility? For instance, do you absolutely need a hot tub in the bathroom, or leave it to chance?
  • Time – How much time can you and do you want to spend on your apartment hunt? Do you dedicate a few hours week? Do you you give yourself additional time to catch up if you fall behind your plans?
  • Cost – How much are you willing to spend on your search? Do you find driving around and spending money on gas worthwhile? Would you consider taking a couple of hours from work and forgoing some pay to look at houses?
  • Quality – Do you want a newly renovated apartment, or can do with any decent place? Do you want only the best furniture, or can compromise on that?
  • Human Resources – How do you manage the people involved in this project? Do you rope in your friends to help you? How do you keep yourself motivated to complete the search?
  • Communications -How do you plan to communicate with the other people involved in the project? Do you email landlords, or call them to express your interest in their property? If you’re friends are helping you in your apartment hunt, do you ask them to give you updates every day?
  • Risk – Always have a Plan B. What if you run out of money and have to settle for a lower quality apartment? What if the landlord double crosses you? Plan for the unexpected and know beforehand how you’re going to deal with it.
  • Procurement – How will you procure the apartment? Do you sign a lease (of course you should). Are you happy with the terms of the lease, or negotiate it?
  • Stakeholders – How do you manage the people involved in the project? Do you take your friends out to a drink to appreciate their help? Do you be extra nice  to each landlord you meet, just so that they get a good impression of you?


Image via

Image via

Project management can provide you a framework to take a structured approach to problem solving. PM concepts can be applied to just about anything, irrespective of your area of expertise. There are project managers in almost every organization, and knowledge of project management will help you work better with these people and understand your own work better.

That said, project management as a tool will help you only to an extent. It can assist you building a house, or creating a software app, but it will not help you find love, comprehend the meaning of life, or find those keys you misplaced the other night in a drunken stupor.