Defining Your Project

There are projects and there are PROJECTS.

Let’s start with the basic definition of the word project: The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says, “A project is a planned piece of work that has a specific purpose (such as to find information or to make something new), and that usually requires a lot of time.”

Defining Your Project
Image by Katie Phillips

Business projects are a subset of the project umbrella. The business dictionary defines a (business) project as follows: … “a planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations.”

 

Trends in Projects Today

We can describe most projects today as follows: Complex. Overlapping. Time sensitive. Expensive. Multi-disciplinary. Difficult. Challenging. Misinterpreted. Misrepresented. Missing pieces. Simple projects are hard to find in business and in life. Properly managed, projects get things done.

In fact, managing projects can be learned: the Project Management Institute has designed coursework toward a PMP (Project Management Professional) designation to indicate your ability to manage a project in today’s demanding business arena. It’s a difficult certificate to achieve, but a worthy objective.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of complications and costs. I don’t care how big the project is… Knowing the audience and purpose are absolutely the most important aspect of your project. In the early phases of a software development project, for example, the team engages in an activity called “gathering requirements.” At this time, the client (be it internal or external) defines what they want the software to do once it is built. What are the outcomes they want? What should the client be able to do that they couldn’t do before? Who are they doing it for and what are their needs? The more questions you ask and answer, the closer you will come to defining your project.

There’s one more question that must be asked whether gathering requirements or simply setting goals for any project of any size. That question is: “Why?”

5-Why Analysis

Frequently used to discover ways to solve a problem, the 5-Why analysis also clarifies the project you’re creating. Why are we doing this project? Why ARE we doing this project? Why are WE doing this? Why are we doing THIS project? Stop and answer each one. And then ask one last question: Why are you here?

Once your project has been defined, you can start working. Once you know why you’re here, you can start living.

TEENY WEENYCheck out my book here:

Productive Procrastination

2013-10-15 23.56.12I like to think some procrastination is productive.  Actually, Stephen King recommends putting your manuscript away for 6 months so when you pull the dusty, overworked thing back out into the light of day, you’re looking at it with the fresh eyes. One can also call this “put-it-away-in-a-drawer” a massive homage to procrastination, but I believe Stephen King. Don’t you?

On the other hand, I see that often we do little things to procrastinate that really move ancillary projects forward. Grocery shopping in the middle of a writing project does help to gather food in the house that will sustain life. Going out to a movie almost counts. Popcorn definitely makes you think more clearly and the movie feeds your creative muse!

Seriously, taking a walk to think about one’s horribly knotty problem of the day, whether it’s solving a character’s graceful exit or having some other character perform an unplanned exit for them is often productive. Working on bills to break from an assignment is often necessary to gain distance and perspective. Plus it gets the bills paid, which is productive.

Then there’s the procrastination that accompanies your plain unfamiliarity with the task at hand. Ignorance brings us all to face to face with our favorite distractions. The learning mountain seems insurmountable. Your ability to reach ‘base camp’ appears to be impossible. The refrigerator is your best friend. TV, a temptress. Sleep, a seducer.

Ah… but there’s a cure. The only cure. Ease into it though. Promise that you have 10 minutes more to “procrastinate.” Then jump in. Start. Begin. Commence. Flail and fume and fuss all the way. But when it’s time, it’s time. Go. Do.

Voilà!

News Blues?

I know we mourn the passing of great newspapers and magazines in print. However, look at it this way… people still seek content. It’s just packaged differently.

According to data published by ZenithOptimedia this week, folks in 2014 folks were consuming media online for an average of 110 minutes a day, compared to only 60 minutes in 2010. And while total traditional media outweighs Internet media consumption, traditional media consumption is on the decline. Print take the worst hit.

Infographic: The Internet Is Gradually Replacing Traditional Media | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista.

So… where do you want your content? Online, of course. The magazines and newspapers get it. They’re all online. And they still need content. YouTube is content…someone writes the script, right?

We’re doing that. Providing content. It’s a Writing World… for writing that means business.

Life Is A LIttle Kid

You never know what will happen when you wake up in the morning. What will this day bring? If I wake up with a positive soul, will the day always bring goodness?

It’s impossible to know what will happen, but comfortable to know that I can respond to what happens in a positive manner. I’d like to believe that I could be okay with anything if my soul is happy and confident in its place.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I’d like it if the place I live every day would feel so balanced that I would not let the events of the unfolding day undo me. It’s so transitory, this life, this happiness, this state of mind. Going to work at 7 o’clock and being fired from your job at three o’clock might be a prime example of “stuff happens.” In fact, my friend did just that, and his life and his marriage and his sense of well being flew out from his neatly ordered life and smashed against the tenuous walls of sanity — and we are never sure where we really weigh in on this scale until crap like this happens — and the day he thought he was going to have changed the course of his life irreparably. It’s a crapshoot at best.

Every day can melt without incident into the next until the two by four of chance, the four by four of fate, or the four by six of catastrophe crushes our internal senses into paying attention again.

Life might say, “Look at me!” like little kids do to their moms on the playground. And perhaps Life is just a little kid, playing quietly at times, but challenging us to keep on our toes while it passes off scrapes and scratches at times, but presents us with broken legs, broken hearts and broken dreams at others. We try to keep up with the lessons our kids teach us, including the kid that is Life — and sometimes we fail.

That means learning the lesson all over again later. Life (the Life kid) is good at this. “You didn’t learn last time, so here it is again,” it seems to say.

We wake up the each morning, wondering what the Life kid will bring. You never know if you’ll be fired, be handed a divorce paper, go to the hospital, or win the happiness lottery. One day is fine and the next day is foul —like the weather in Chicago.

Dealing with whatever Life brings makes us strong, or crushes us, and while they say what you’re given makes you stronger… I don’t know about that one.

Borrow

We borrow our identities when we give in to outside approval. It’s a counter-force to innovation if we listen to the inner voice that says, “What if they don’t like it?” It squelches the courage to ship. We don’t need approval at the creative stage. In fact, we don’t need it at all unless we want to sell what we’ve made. Anyone knows that. And so we borrow the attention of anyone we can to ask for their approval. Over and over we ask “Did I get it right this time?” “Do you like this?” “Am I OKAY?”

My dog is persistent but at some point, he gives up, content to just be. He understands that after a certain point, his borrowing of my time and attention is an unacceptable imposition. Why don’t people get that?

What about the borrow “bank”?   If you borrow money, you use it, and  must pay it back. But when we borrow people’s time, we can never pay it back. Time is gone the minute it’s spent. One cannot be on “borrowed” time.” There’s no future to borrow from. It’s not here. The past has been borrowed out. No reserves fund that bank. It’s been cleaned out as it were by the ravages of time.

Is that what Shakespeare meant Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77  by “Neither photodune-1687970-precious-time-concept-clock-ma borrower nor a lender be.”? The verse continues, “For borrowing or loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” I think Polonius was really talking about money, but  the application to the idea of time is all the more appropriate. Really… don’t lend your time, and don’t ask to “borrow” it from someone else. You cannot give it back.

11 (Make That 12) Steps to Great Kids

I have two boys. Ahem. I have two sons that are now late twenties. When I wrote this missive in 2004, they were seventeen and nineteen. I had two great boys then and I have two wonderful young men for sons. It’s not blind… maybe a little prejudiced, but as I muse the truth of their good-ness, I believe that somehow, just somehow, we did something right. We are not alone, of course: we read and see and hear of good things, good people. But more often, we are bombarded with the junk about mankind that makes us feel better about ourselves, as in, “There but for the grace of God go I.” So let’s not make this about good in relative terms… Let’s just say they’re good.

We were lucky. Yes, but we did some things really right, and I will share those 10 steps with you now.

  1. Stay married.
  2. Have grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles in your midst. Let the children get to know them.
  3. One of you stay home or at least work a job that allows shorter hours and/or less stress to save mental and physical energy for your kids.
  4. Join the PTA at your kids’ schools. You’ll know what’s going on (They’re not being coy or private all the time. The kids don’t know or can’t remember —really, they don’t — by the time you see them at the end of the day.) Oh, and stay involved all the way through high school. Most parents drop out after elementary, but it’s almost more important when your kids are older!
  5. Find something that grabs their heart, mind, or body to carry them through the tough times. Being a kid is harder and harder. If they don’t have a talent, hobby or sport to start with, keep digging until you find it. Don’t give up.
  6. Make school and grades important. There is no way they’ll succeed in this world without the knowledge of how to learn. It’s not just the facts and figures that will help them: It’s knowing how to learn to learn. This one ability will serve them their whole lives long.
  7. Talk to them about sex. Really. They get exposed to it in school, but it’s somehow more important to them that you have the guts to talk to them about it. Even as young adults, they’ll appreciate your awareness that they’re tempted, but that it’s dang important not to get pregnant or make someone pregnant.
  8. Have a religion. I don’t care what. It helps them feel a connection to a higher power, and helps them develop a moral compass.
  9. Celebrate birthdays and holidays with abandon. Decorate, invite family, and have big parties. It doesn’t have to be expensive. The 99-Cent store is great. Burgers and dogs. Pizza. Home made and cheap is better. Celebrate family.
  10. Know where and who and when. It’s easier with cell phones than in the past, but don’t substitute technology for knowledge. And finally…
  11. HAVE YOUR KIDS WAKE YOU UP WHEN THEY COME HOME at night. It’s not necessary to stay awake. It is necessary to have them wake you. First, it gives them accountability; second, it’s an easy out for them to blame leaving an uncomfortable situation on their parents, and third, you can look into their eyes and see if they’re “okay.”
  12. LOVE!!!! They’ll know you love them from the other 11 steps, but don’t forget to tell them every single day.

Try to set a good example. We make mistakes, sure, but believe me, your kids know every single one of your faults. They also know when and how you’re trying to be better, that you’re trying to help them succeed, and that you’re paying attention to them. They also know when they mess up, and ours did. They were not perfect, but they didn’t make the big mistakes. We were lucky, as I said.

Two-income working parents are exhausted at the end of the day, and the kids know it. I get it. We’re all busy, but I heard one parenting specialist say, the best rule for raising good kids is “get up off the couch.” (My rule was, “Don’t sit down.”)

I know a lot of people with good kids. I know some that have kids that strayed. I’d say from my limited survey — the above formula works, with minor variances.

Good Luck!

Bonus Material — Definition of “Good kids”

  1. Good kids get relatively good grades. B’s and A’s. With the emphasis on grades, and with tutoring, mentoring, and learning schools like Sylvan and Kumon, it should be doable even for lower income folks.
  2. Good kids have something they care about besides themselves and their friends. It can be a sport or a hobby, a community group or their church. Scouting, if you can possibly sell it, leaves a huge positive mark on the kids’ souls. (Both of our kids are Eagle Scouts.)
  3. Good kids don’t drink, have sex, or smoke cigarettes, and they don’t do drugs. In our day we did some of those, but somehow, we knew where to draw the line. I’m not sure why the line is so murky these days.
  4. Good kids respect adults and the law and they respect themselves, their teachers, and their God, whoever that may be for them.
  5. Good kids care when you do well, when you’re sick, or when someone they know and love has gotten sick or has failed or died. They value life because they value themselves and their family.