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Using Project Management to Survive Personal Disaster

By: Michelle LaBrosse
Posted: September 26, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Life throws everyone curve balls. Whether the issue requires caring for someone you love or dealing with personal crises or emergencies, sometimes it can feel like life is spinning out of control.

Key questions

If you’ve been there before, or you’re there right now, here are a few ways that project management can help you to transform a disaster into a detour—just another path that you’re traveling.

How much time can you reasonably spend on your professional commitments? Assess what is realistic for you to achieve or accomplish, knowing what is on your plate professionally and personally. Look at your challenge as a project. Think about what you have to manage and how you can do what you have to do well. Sometimes you have to decide to let some of your responsibilities go or to let your career take a back seat. A good project manager knows when to delegate to other team members or to family members and friends.

How much should you disclose to your peers at work? The current culture is one of reality television programs and talk shows where people disclose the intimate details of their lives, so people often become desensitized to what is appropriate to share. If you’re going through a divorce or if a family member has passed away, you should be honest about what’s happening, but be wary of unloading on your team members. If you’re dealing with an emotionally charged situation, set time aside to attend counseling. It’s draining when people treat their co-workers as therapists.

Do you have a secession plan? Leaders know that part of their job is cultivating a culture of leadership. Part of your job is to know who will follow you, and who can fill your shoes. In an emergency situation, it’s a relief when you know there is a leader that you’ve mentored who can step in and keep your project moving without skipping a beat.

Do you have a contingency plan? Before disaster strikes, you should have a contingency plan in place. Know what you would do if you—or anyone on your team—was suddenly unavailable. Have a team structure with people who can back each other up. The power of having a team lies in the ability to build redundancy into it.

Rules to follow